Best Picture “Argo” wins 3 Academy Awards (also Adapted Screenplay and Film Editing), a surprise to some considering the PR push for “Lincoln” reverence and sanctimony. Ultimately, “Argo” stole the night’s thunder winning 3 Academy Awards instead of the predicted 2. Had the directors’ branch did their job in the first place, Ben Affleck might very well have been up there accepting at the podium for his film about a CIA evacuation of trapped Embassy workers in Iran circa 1979. The film blends history, humor, Hollywood wink-wink, Affleck in a beard and also the dry wit comedy team of Alan Arkin and John Goodman (the byplay of those two is why I think it won Adapted Screenplay).
My favorite film of the year “Life of Pi” won 4 Oscars (the night’s highest tally), subduing hype favorite “Lincoln.” The Academy had more brains than I thought for giving Ang Lee the award for Best Director, who seamed visual effects and a broadband of vivid colors to make a truly beautiful and majestic film. Also it’s a film that can better society with all its positive messages and life affirmations. Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” remains, uh, educational but it is a dispassionate and stuffy history piece and not a film you can eternally love. I’m happy about its’ limit of 2 wins.
Then there is “Django Unchained” which won 2. My upset prediction of the night was for John Gatins to win Best Original Screenplay for “Flight.” But Tarantino won even though, as many brilliant flashes as it had, I don’t think it’s his tightest script. Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor for speaking Tarantino’s tongue-twisters. But I think Samuel L. Jackson got robbed from the same film, as an Uncle Tom slave who found his niche of power in a rich white man’s household, for it is he you will be haunted by for years to come.
The documentary branch (“Sugar Man”!!!!!), the foreign film and animated branch (“Brave”!!!) did their respective duties. Yes, the five exclamation points (akin to star rating) is intentional for “Sugar Man” and the three exclamation points is intentional for “Brave.” Also, when it came to Best Foreign Film, Michael Haneke won deservedly this time.
In my own Oscar pool, I got best costume design wrong – something that will piss me off… nah, I’m not pissed. I won the pool. But I’m still shocked by the “Anna Karenina” solo win. It only proves that when you put Keira Knightley in an old-world costume picture, you have a good shot at winning. “Les Miserables” won enough awards anyway with 3, including Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress. Look at this desolate and slim-pickings category, there was nobody else to give it to. I would have at least chosen Helen Hunt myself.
Best this, best that. How about best speeches? I’d say Best Actor Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln”) for his humor buoyed by grace, Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Lining’s Playbook”) for her beauty, spontaneity, lovely-klutziness and genuine gratitude, and “Argo” producers Grant Heslov and Ben Affleck accepting Best Picture because they had something thoughtful to say about the production and the process of bringing a true story to the screen.
Now is any Oscar host (since the early 1990’s Billy Crystal) ever, at any year, outrageously hysterical and nimbly entertaining? Seth MacFarlane (“Ted,” TV’s “Family Guy”) is a real wild card who works the line between taboo-smashing jokes and just plain tasteless jokes. I loved his opening joke: “Welcome to the Oscars. The quest to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh begins now.” And how about the gutsy stand-up sling about the auditorium’s women looking so beautiful they should thank the flu a week ago for their weight loss – that’s a gut punch if I ever heard one, but I laughed because it’s hush-hush, don’t tell it true. No Oscar host ever catches fire the entire night anymore, because Oscar producers just want the damn thing to end on time now. I wish the Oscar show went back to a time when they would let a host unleash for the full telecast, jokes at any time and at any disposal. But if you need an example of MacFarlane wit, it’s his nod to Affleck that also sums up the Best Director snub:
“‘Argo’ tells the previously classified story about an American hostage rescue in post-revolutionary Iran. The story was so top secret that the film’s director is unknown to the Academy.”