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Crystal saves lackluster Oscar broadcast

By Matt Goudreau
On February 28, 2012

Oscar season is my favorite time of year, as the finest films are theatrically released and I finally get to see if the buzz is worthwhile. The only thing more prestigious than these critically hailed films is the award ceremony in which they are honored: The Oscars. 

Now, the 84th Annual Academy Awards have come and gone and like most Oscar telecasts, it was predictable but entertaining. I sat down and watched the telecast without bias, but was left disappointed and somewhat flustered about some of the choices Academy voters made.

When the show opened with a montage of host Billy Crystal in scenes from the year's nominated films for Best Picture, I felt like this would be a worthwhile ceremony. These homages are repeated constantly, but Crystal kept it fresh and entertaining. I was with it until Justin Bieber walked into frame, at which point I rolled my eyes and said, "Why?" Sure the joke was mildly amusing, but didn't seem necessary for the show considering Bieber is far from an actor.

Following this montage, the show officially began with a monologue and show tune from Crystal, accompanied with a kiss to George Clooney. Although far from the strangest moment in Oscar history, the kiss caught me off guard, which is something the majority of the award presentations have failed to do.

Throughout the night, the presenters kept the show light and entertaining. Highlights from these included Emma Stone's banter with Ben Stiller and the always in-character Robert Downey Jr. mocking the documentary style of filmmaking with Gwyneth Paltrow in an "Iron Man" reunion.  However, I was flushed with nostalgia when the Muppets made an appearance during the ceremony. Even more hysterical to me was Ms. Piggy's feelings about Steven Spielberg, which made me smile in agreement.

Speaking of the awards, they were incredibly predictable for the most part. Frontrunners for Best Picture including "Hugo" and "The Artist" walked away with five awards each. By the middle of the show, it became incredibly obvious it would be a two-film race, as "Hugo" began sweeping the technical awards such as visual effects and sound editing. It was my pick for the best film of the year amongst the nominees, so you could imagine I was disappointed when Scorsese was once again robbed of a best director award. I was even more frustrated when "Hugo" lost Best Picture to "The Artist," once again showing how stuck up the voters are.

While I appreciate and respect "The Artist" for its artistic (no pun intended) and technical merit, I felt it was a gimmick designed specifically to garner awards. Since it is a silent picture, it automatically received praise by voters.

Despite "Hugo" having the advantage in imagination and being fantasy driven, I found it more compelling both visually and story-wise. I felt like I was a kid watching this amazing film. With "The Artist," I found the story rather predictable and lacking shock value or any real engaging plot twists. The performances were solid, but I honestly did not see anything Oscar-worthy.

For me, this emphasizes the bias Oscar voters have, choosing technical filmmaking over the truly best and most engaging film, much like the "Titanic" over "L.A. Confidential" choice in 1997.

"The Artist" had even more success, taking home the best actor trophy for lead Jean Dujardin. Once again, I disagreed with the choice. While I recognize the difficulty of acting in a silent film, I would have given the award to George Clooney, who gave one of his finest performances as a conflicted father and husband in "The Descendants." Not only did I find it a better film, but his performance resonated with me more so that Dujardin's. Part of being a talented actor is showing emotion not just with your facial expressions, but how you deliver dialogue. Clooney delivered a more complete performance, which is why I felt disheartened when he lost.

Speaking of acting robberies, the biggest surprise for me was the Academy giving Meryl Streep another Oscar for best actress. I thought her performance in "The Iron Lady" was more an imitation, not a complete portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. I was even more taken aback with her speech, which sounded incredibly cocky and reeked of arrogance. I think she realized she had this in the bag and wanted to act like she was not expecting it.  I would have given this award to Michelle Williams, for her flawless portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in "My Week With Marilyn." Unlike Streep, Williams embodied the personality and thinking of Monroe.

Aside from those huge misfires, I have no complaints about the other winners. Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer took home well deserved supporting Oscars and I was overjoyed to see "Rango" win best animated film. So, at the end of the telecast, I had mixed feelings.

The top awards were misdirected but the technical and supporting awards mostly went to the right winners. One exception in the technical department was "The Iron Lady" taking best makeup over "Harry Potter." Sure, the makeup artists did a good job making Streep look twenty years younger, but that certainly shouldn't trump the varied and incredibly detailed work done on numerous characters in the climatic fantasy epic.

At the end of the day, this Oscar telecast came off as predictable and occasionally shocking, but entertaining nevertheless.

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