The Oscars play it safe: A Recap of the 84th Academy Awards

“Old” was the theme of the 84th annual Academy Awards this year, honouring veteran actors and actresses while paying tribute to retro Hollywood.

But with host Billy Crystal coming back for a ninth time,  the awards played it safe and as a result, fell short.

Starting off with a wet kiss with George Clooney in the opening video montage, Crystal sang a musical number honouring the nominees which was catchy at first, but got tiring towards the end.

With corny puns including the year’s Best Picture nominees such as: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, that’s how my relatives are watching,” and “So tonight, just call me War Horse,” the awards ceremony was very average despite the occasional funny remark.

As predicted, Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist took home the Academy’s top prize of Best Picture, repeating its winning streak along the awards circuit.  A silent, black and white tribute to old Hollywood, the film also swept up accolades for director, actor, costume design and original score.

But the silent film wasn’t the only movie that stocked up.  Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, another homage to cinema, also took home five trophies for art direction, cinematography, sound mixing, sound editing and visual effects.

Though it wasn’t all predictable at the awards ceremony. Neck and neck with fellow nominee George Clooney, who was nominated for his touching performance in The Descendants,  Jean Dujardin prevailed at the very end to win Best Actor.

“I love your country!” exclaimed Dujardin as he accepted his Oscar for his portrayal of egotistical actor George Valentin in The Artist.  “If George Valentin could speak, he would say…Formidable! Merci beaucoup!”

In the race for Best Actress, Meryl Streep was in close competition with Viola Davis, who played maid Aibileen Clark in The Help.  Streep, who portrayed British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, eventually went on to win.

“Oh my God! Come on!” Streep said in disbelief as she accepted her third Oscar, last winning in 1983 for Sophie’s Choice.

“When they called my name I had this feeling I could hear America going ‘Oh no! Why her again? But… whatever.”

It was also a particularly sweet night for Canada. Toronto native Christopher Plummer took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Beginners, making him the oldest Academy Award winner to date at 82.

“You’ve only two years older than me darling, where have you been all my life?” Plummer said to his statuette. “When I first emerged from my mother’s womb, I was already rehearsing my Academy-thank you speech.”

Octavia Spencer on the other hand, won Best Supporting Actress for her work in The Help.

Thanking her hometown state of Alabama, Spencer was speechless and in tears as she was given a standing ovation.

“Thank you Academy for putting me with the hottest guy in the room,” she said, referring to her golden trophy as she accepted her award.

But aside from the sweet victories won by filmmakers around the world, as expected, the red carpet was as vapid as ever.

With the usual nail-biting question of “Who designed your gown?!”, interviewers were left praising celebrities for their valiant efforts:  enduring the pain of having to wear heels all night long.

Perhaps the most interesting pre-show event was Sacha Baron Cohen, trotting onto the red carpet as General Aldeen, the leader of the fictional country Wadiya.  There to promote his new film The Dictator, Cohen was also clutching an urn claiming to hold the ashes of Kim Jong-Il.

“I’m wearing John Galliano but (the) socks are from K-Mart,” Cohen quipped in an interview with Ryan Seacrest.  “As Saddam Hussein once said to me ‘Socks are socks, don’t waste money.’”

But in an accidental moment that seemed all too rehearsed, Cohen poured the ashy contents of the urn all over Seacrest’s tuxedo.

And as excitement goes, it’s sad to say that was pretty much as far as it went.

With this year’s mediocre short list of best picture nominees which neglected the year’s most critically acclaimed films such as Shame, Drive, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo among others, it was pretty obvious The Artist was going to take home the big prize.

Winning  for its unique and charming qualities, no one came close to the silent film honouring old Hollywood, maybe aside from the stunningly filmed Hugo, which also paid homage to old cinema.

Add that with host Crystal that neither pleased or displeased, the Oscars this year was passable, but not amazing.

Perhaps, it may be time for Crystal to pass the hosting torch to someone else.

(A revised version of this was published in the March 2012 issue of the Ryerson Free Press)

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