On a night that paid homage to the films of the past, it was fitting to see “The Artist,” a stunning love letter to the early years of film, come out on top with five Academy Awards, including best picture. The French film also took home top honors for director Michel Hazanavicius and lead actor Jean Dujardin, as well as awards for costume design and Ludovic Bource’s score.
Tying “The Artist” for the most awards of the night was “Hugo,” another love letter to cinema’s infancy. Martin Scorsese’s tribute to the great film pioneer Georges Melies nearly swept the technical categories, picking up trophies for art design, cinematography, sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects.
The biggest surprise of the night had to be Meryl Streep’s win in the best actress category for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” which also won the award for best makeup. It was Streep’s third Oscar win, and first since 1983 for “Sophie’s Choice.” Many had thought Viola Davis was the surefire winner for her powerful role in “The Help,” but all was not lost.
Other than that minor variable, the night played out as expected. Davis’ castmate, Octavia Spencer took home the best supporting actress statuette for her role as Minny Jackson, a boisterous and strong-willed African-American maid. As for the male equivalent, the 82-year-old Christopher Plummer became the oldest person ever to win an acting Oscar. Plummer came away way with the best supporting actor award for his role as an elderly man dying of cancer, who after the death of his wife announces to his son that he is gay.
First-time nominee Gore Verbinski, mostly known for his live-action directorial work on the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, took home the best animated feature award for his directorial duties on “Rango.”
The Iranian film “A Separation,” written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, received the award for best foreign film, the first time a film from that country has ever come away a winner. Farhadi used the opportunity to proudly offer the award to the people of his country and those around the world “who respect all cultures and despise hostility and resentment.”
Now, we move on to the writing categories. Woody Allen won best original screenplay for “Midnight in Paris.” It was Allen’s third win in that category and fourth overall. It was also his first win in 25 years. Best adapted screenplay was awarded to Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash for their work on “The Descendants.” It marked Payne’s second win in that category, having won in 2005 for “Sideways,” and first nomination and win for Faxon and Rash.
On the music side of things, best original song went to Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie for “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets.”
As for the show itself, Billy Crystal who has not hosted since 2004 did everything that was expected. The show started off with a video-sketch of him being tortured and urged to return as the Oscar host. Afterward, Crystal was onstage welcoming us to the show, before abruptly segueing into his usual comical song-and-dance routine. However, the funniest gag of the night came not from the host, but from Robert Downey Jr., who came onstage with a faux documentary crew, before presenting the award for best documentary film with Gwyneth Paltrow, joking that it has to be “on Netflix by midnight.”
I’m putting the Academy on notice and declaring that Downey Jr. should host the 85th annual Academy Awards. Help me get a movement going to make this happen!
Visit Oscars.org for the complete list of winners.
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