[Commentary added during/after the 2010 Oscars]
2009 was a breakthrough year for excellence in animated features, with instant classics like Up, Coraline & The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It was a pretty good year for live-action movies, but not a great year for live-action movies.
The biggest disappointment for me was that the three best acting performances of 2009, Viggo Mortensen in The Road, Sam Rockwell in Moon & Sharlto Copley in District 9 were all ignored (not only by the Oscars, but by most of the awards). Two of the movies had major distribution problems, thanks to inept marketing by The Weinstein Company & Sony respectively. However, all three performances suffered from the problem of "excellent acting while in a science fiction movie."
Traditionally, performances in science fiction & fantasy movies were often laughable so awards never took performances in SF movies seriously. But even though that's been changing over the last thirty years, excellent performances in SF/fantasy movies still get overlooked. I thought this attitude might change after 2004, when the Screen Actors Guild awards The Return of the King the best acting ensemble awards, but old attitudes die hard.
While it was fun to see Avatar on a big screen, & while it looked great, I like a little more depth from a movie considered the best film of the year. Avatar is a technical treat; Cameron's team even figured out how to do 3-D the right way (which, reviews suggest, Tim Burton botched for Alice in Wonderland). However, the script is on the lame side, & while Sigourney Weaver is wonderful (as usual) the rest of the cast couldn't keep up with her.
The Hurt Locker, ironically, was quite a lot like The Road - in many ways, it didn't have a plot. It simply followed a few characters over time in a ruined environment (in much the same way The Road followed Father & Boy across a ruined geography). The characters in The Hurt Locker were, generally, in a more powerful position than the characters in The Road. However, the lead characters in both had the problem of death lurking around every corner. I liked The Hurt Locker very much, & hope Kathryn Bigelow wins Best Director. My gut reaction is that she will win the Best Director Oscar & Avatar may take the Best Picture Oscar.
I've been watching the Oscars every year for 40 years. While I like the selection of hosts this year (Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin), I don't like the addition of five "Best Picture" nominees. This isn't 1939 - there were hardly five movies good enough to be nominated for "Best Picture" last year in the first place. I will note what I haven't seen & will go ahead with my predictions anyway. For many years, I've been hedging my bets with a "will win" (WW) & "should win" (SW) before the Oscars actually start!
[Very nice opening, especially having each Best Actor/Actress nominee appear onstage for some applause, and the surprise appearance of Neil Patrick Harris to sing an opening number. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin have been OK - the teasing of Meryl Streep was particularly funny given they were all in It's Complicated. The people who edited the Best Picture clips have selected the right bits from each movie. It's not easy - the Oscar telecast has blown that some years.]
[The 2010 Oscars ran just over 3 1/2 hours, which is pretty typical of Oscar telecasts. The co-hosts disappeared for a long time during the show, which was just as well. The main screw-ups were the wretched dance number under the original scores and rushing Tom Hanks at the end. I was sorry that Up in the Air didn't win anything.]
[Snarky but good live blog of the Oscar telecast by Gregory Ellwood at Hitflix.]
[Many thanks to Neil Gaiman for taking the time to Tweet from the inside of the Oscars.]
OK, I'll stop complaining about who wasn't nominated. Both Colin Firth and Jeremy Renner gave brilliant preformances. Of the nominees, Firth was the best, giving an amazingly tight, heartbreaking performance in A Single Man. George Clooney was good, but seemed to be playing a character awfully close to himself. However, Jeff Bridges is reportedly very good in Crazy Heart. He was so owed for past movies, so this is his "make-up" year.
[Nice touch to have a former co-star talk a little about the nominated actors. Didn't that happen last year too? Colin Farrell's introduction of Jeremy Renner was particularly a hoot!]
[I loved Jeff Bridges in Starman and The Fisher King, but people who love The Big Lebowski keep saying he was nominated for "The Dude."]
Stanley Tucci gave a great performance in Julie & Julie...but was nominated for The Lovely Bones. Matt Doman gave an underated performance in The Informant...but was nominated for Invictus (loved Damon's self-deprecating comments the other night on Letterman. When asked, "So, will you win the Oscar?" Damon smiled and said, "Hell no!" But he'll go and enjoy the parties). Christopher Plummer was very good as the dying Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station. But, I know Christoph Waltz will win because he was terrific (and very multi-lingual in IB), he's won everything else, and Inglorious Basterds probably deserves one Oscar.
I've seen most of these performances. Loved Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan (who, as Doctor Who devotees remember, played Sally Sparrow on the classic "Blink" episode), and Helen Mulligan in their respective performances. Great work by all. Haven't seen Precious, but Gabourey Sidibe is impressive. I generally like Sandra Bullock but found the trailers/ads for The Blind Side wildly irritating so I haven't seen the movie. I really would like to see Streep win, who is so owed by Oscar for her work. She hasn't won an Oscar in nearly 30 years. However, it's likely that Sandra Bullock will win.
Liked the Up in the Air women very much; both gave exellent performances. I haven't seen Precious, but it's clear Mo'Nique has a lock on this award for giving one of the most terrifying performances of recent years.
This is the strongest category of the Oscars. While I haven't seen The Book of Kells, all of the other animated features are well-written, designed and have great voice casting. The first half of Up is one of the best movies of recent years (and then, sadly, it almost devolves into a pretty standard Disney movie with too much focus on talking animals. villains and chase scenes, but its greatness never completely goes away). Coraline is creepy and very stylized. Fantasic Mr. Fox also is just a blast, and seeing "furry" stop motion was fun (first time that's been done in years). While Princess and the Frog is the most pedestrian of the group, its recreation of New Orleans is terrific. Up was a complete lock for its Oscar from the time the lovely Ellie showed up on the screen.
[Nice bit that Pete Docter's wife name is Ellie...]
I'm not "anti" Avatar for all the awards it will probably win. The Art Direction was great.
Probably a movie about a fashion designer will win the Oscar for Costume Design...
[The costumes for The Young Victoria were sumptuous, and the winner gave an excellent speech.]
Tricky category. Jason Reitman is an amazingly sure-footed young director. Up in the Air is only his third movie (after the underwatched Thank-You for Smoking and the fun Juno), and Up in the Air works very well. Could be very emblamtic of the trend for making good movies over great movies. James Cameron is good at making huge spectacles, but his movies lack any depth. I haven't seen Precious, but Lee Daniels has clearly cast it very well, given the difficulties of casting the two lead roles. But, I hope Kathryn Bigelow wins for The Hurt Locker.
[YAYAYAYAAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYA!!!!!! Just saw The Hurt Locker the night before the Oscars, and I'm sorry I'd waited for so long.]
I'm unsure about this category, but I believe I've heard The Cove is very good.
[I never would have dreamt to have heard the phrases "Oscar winner" and "Fisher Stevens" in the same sentence! Remember when he used to be a comic actor and Michelle Pfeiffer's boyfriend?]
I'm unfamiliar with this category as usual, but it probably will be the documentary on China's earthquake (any information of which is being blocked by Chinese media).
The editing in Avatar was very good in places, but, is true in so many Cameron movies, it ran about 20 minutes long. Ditto District 9. The editing of Inglorious Basterds has started off very well, but I just don't trust Tarrantino. Of these movies, the editing in The Hurt Locker was the best.
Hard to tell on this one, but The White Ribbon has gotten excellent reviews.
[Great joke by the Argentinian film maker who said "I'm glad Nav'ii wasn't considered a foreign language" after his film won.]
This could just be a no award. It won't, I guess. I'm not familiar with Il Divo, Young Victoria had some pretty good wig and beard work, but it'll probably just be Star Trek.
Most memorable music of the year - Up. Should win and has an excellent chance to win. Avatar had too many overtones of Titanic in most of its score.
[While I didn't see Sherlock Holmes, the musical excerpts remind me that I liked much of what I'd heard from it. Ditto The Fantastic Mr. Fox. OTOH, while I liked The Hurt Locker, the music was only so-so. Up did have the best music, and the composer, Micheal Giacchino, has been writing the atmospheric music for Lost and for almost anything JJ Abrams has been involved with over the last few years.]
[On the Oscar show, I HATED the dance act to the music. It was wildly wrong for Hurt Locker in particular. Would have been better to see a few more scenes from the nominated movies instead.]
Only decent song in the list was "The Weary Kind" (I haven't heard "Loin de Paneme" however).
I'm delighted to observe that four of the ten movies are speculative fiction of various kinds (straight SF - Avatar, District 9, fantasy - Up, alternate history - Inglorious Basterds). Five of these really shouldn't be on this list, especially not District 9, An Education (both of which are brilliant in places and were enjoyable flicks), The Blind Side or A Serious Man. I prefer the more traditional five nominees over this ham-fisted marketing stunt of ten best picture nominees. I think The Hurt Locker should win, but I still have a bad feeling that Avatar will win. Sad. Much as I'd love to see a science fiction movie win a Best Picture Oscar, I want it to be for a good science fiction movie, not a well-produced video game.
I saw should clips of these on CBS Sunday Morning and thought they all looked interesting. So while I didn't see all of them, I think I would have liked the clever "The Lady and the Reaper" best of all. "A Matter of Loaf & Death" is a Wallace and Grommit and it looks good, too.
No idea - these are W-A-guesses.
The use of sound was extremely well-done in Up; would be nice to see a totally-animated feature win this award. Avatar might get this though.
[The mixing for Star Trek was especially bad - I saw it in two theaters and everything was just way too loud and obnoxious. Kind of a good sign that Avatar isn't walking away with all the techie awards though.]
This is probably the Up in the Air. consolation prize. It's a mostly lovely script with fine characterizations. However, both District 9 and An Education were smart.
The first half of Up is one of the best scripts I've seen for a movie in a long time. Just like Hollywood tends to avoid awarding SF movies, they tend to avoid giving awards to animated fatures as well. I liked more of Inglorious Basterds than I expected to. The Hurt Locker script was pretty good, and I expect it to win, especially if Bigelow wins Best Director.