OSCARS: The Good, The Bad And The Uggie — Hammond Analysis

In the end it was mostly predictable. The only stunning surprise of the 84th Annual Academy Awards was that somehow The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo came out of nowhere to win the Best Film Editing award, something no pundit I know of saw coming. But it served to stop the early momentum of Hugowhich at one point was leading front-runner The Artist  5 awards to 1. Was Harvey Weinstein nervous that there could be an upset brewing over his heavily favored film? No. When I caught up with him at the Governors Ball, he said he was just enjoying the show and not keeping tabs. Eventually Artist caught up and won all the big ones — the Oscars everyone was predicting including Best Picture, Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius and Best Actor for Jean Dujardin in addition to music and costumes. I am told The Weinstein Company plans to expand the little-film-that-could to 2000 screens by next weekend in what should be a real test of Oscar’s drawing power at the boxoffice. So far after a little over three months the film has just grossed over $30 million domestically. Weinstein will hope to double that with an Oscar bounce.

Among those congratulating Weinstein was Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux, who proudly championed the film at last May’s fest, even switching it from out of competition to a competition slot, where it won the first Best Actor prize of Dujardin’s remarkable run. When I ran into him at the Governors Ball, Dujardin told me the Oscar had put him in “a very happy place”. I told Fremaux that based on the stellar showing of Cannes titles like Artist, Midnight In Paris and  The Tree Of Life in this year’s Oscar race, he had a lot of pressure to repeat the performance. Cannes proved itself to be a formidable start to awards season with a lot of major players. And what a season for Hazanavicius, who has pulled off the unprecedented grand slam of winning Best Director prizes from the Oscars, the BAFTAs, the French Cesar Awards and the DGA. It’s hard to imagine how someone else with ever be able to pull that off again. Among those he thanked in his speech was Uggie, the scene-stealing Jack Russell Terrier who turned up onstage after Best Picture was announced and had a nice bit with Crystal earlier. He should be thanking this dog. He’s getting more talk-show bookings than any of the film’s stars.

It was a big night for Harvey, further evidence of a major comeback (after last year’s The King’s Speech win) and a return to the Oscar dominance he enjoyed all those years in a remarkable run at Miramax. And it wasn’t just the dominance in major categories of The Artist, the black-and-white silent film that became the first non-talkie to win the top Oscar since Wings in 1927-28 — Oscar’s first year.  He also grabbed two Oscars for the Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady including a first Best Actress win in nearly three decades for Meryl Streep. Weinstein had been campaigning hard for this one, reminding voters on a daily basis that the 17-time nominee hadn’t won an Oscar in 29 years. It was a relentless campaign theme that obviously paid off for the now three-time Oscar winner. At the ball, Weinstein admitted they really wanted this one and got it with the help good old-fashioned hardcore campaigning that included Streep’s rare participation in select Q&As and interviews such as 60 Minutes.

When I caught up with her, also at the Governors Ball, Streep was ebullient and clearly excited about having a third Oscar, especially considering the competition including her Doubt co-star Viola Davis. “There were so many great performances this year. I think maybe they should expand the category. Maybe there should be 10 nominees (instead of five),” she told me, adding it was nice to get this towards the “end of her career”. Hardly. Streep will be working with Weinstein again in the film adaptation of the Tony-winning play August: Osage County, which is scheduled to roll in the fall co-starring Julia Roberts. At the Governors Ball Davis put on a game face but was clearly disappointed to lose Best Actress for The Help. But it was always going to be an extremely tight race and the two had seesawed back and forth at precursor shows.  I thought Davis might eek it out, but it wasn’t to be.

Weinstein cornered me just before the ceremony to ask why I was so confident in predicting their company’s Best Documentary nominee underdog , Undefeated as the winner in that category.  I gave him my reasons and after its surprise victory he said ,  “You were right . You called that one”. Saturday night when I ran into them at the Weinstein’s pre-Oscar Soho House party I had told the three filmmakers (T.J.Martin, Dan Lindsay and RIchard Middlemas)  nominated that I thought they would win despite pundits predictions they wouldn’t. It’s a powerful film about an all black high school football team but there were complaints from other Documentary campaigners that the Weinsteins sent out the DVD screener of it to all Academy members even though to be able to vote you have to prove you have seen all five films in theatres. Whatever the tactic, it worked and Weinstein hopes the Oscar win will increase the middling business the film has done since its February 17th release.

Meanwhile Hugo producer Graham King wasn’t disappointed the Martin Scorsese-directed film-about-film did not go all the way , especially after winning 5 big early techincal awards. He said that is the same number their The Aviator got too before losing to Million Dollar Baby. It’s not a bad haul and GK films also scored the Best Animated Feature Oscar for Rango.  King was in a good mood when I saw him after at the Governors Ball, happy his Hugo had tied the Artist for most Oscars of the night.

Mostly it was all a very predictable ceremony but I thought a good one, at least from the vantage point of the first Mezzanine where the Cirque Du Soleil number looked simply spectacular and the ambience of the setting of an old movie palace was pitch perfect, right down to traditional-looking movie  ushers handing out popcorn and candy during commercial breaks. Nice touch. Billy Crystal didn’t always land his schtick but he got off some good zingers and the opening film sequence and song  was a winner in the room. He makes this gig work about as well as anyone can. There were a lot of jokes about the old age of many in the Academy which couldn’t have pleased Acad officials who are still trying to prove they can be young and hip. He also was funny after Academy President Tom Sherak’s dryly-delivered speech. “Thanks  Tom for whipping this crowd into a frenzy,”  Crystal joked.

The show flowed nicely and got off just seven minutes over the alloted three hours according to producer/director Don Mischer in our conversation at the Governor’s Ball. He was cautiously optimistic that the response would be good when reviews roll in Monday  but not counting on it, especially after last year when the show was lambasted in the press. Critics do love to pounce on the Oscars. I pointed out one trade paper actually ran a formal online review of the first 30 minutes of the show while it was still going on. “That’s just evidence that we are now judged minute by minute. Times have changed,” Mischer said — and not necessarily for the better.  But maybe that is the lure and power of the Oscars that media types feel they have to jump the gun and be there first. He can take solace in the fact that most of the people at the Governors Ball seemed very enthused by the breezy Oscar show, one of the all-time shortest (at least in the modern era) at three hours and seven minutes according to Mischer. That could help the ratings but it is still expected to come in on the low side due to the fact that the movies nominated this year were not big blockbusters that can bring in an audience. Foreign Language Film presenter Sandra Bullock told me she thought the whole show was really great, a sentiment I heard more than once at the nicely appointed Governors Ball where Tony Bennett entertained.  Usually it is a quick stop and then off to Vanity Fair and other parties , but this year (eschewing the formal sit-down dinner routine) it was still going well past 11pm with nominees like Streep and Dujardin still there.  Streep later made it to the packed Weinstein’s after party at Mondrian’s Sky Bar where the celebration continued for TWC.

Among the highlights of the show were the standing ovations for Supporting Actress winner Octavia Spencer  and Supporting Actor winner Christopher Plummer who wryly noted that at age 82 he was only two years younger than Oscar himself (and now the oldest performer to ever win).  As she was leaving the Ball I walked down the stairs with Spencer and asked how she felt about the whole night. “It’s crazy town, it’s crazy town,” is all she could say at that point sounding a little shell shocked and loopy. Her earlier emotional acceptance scored big points as did  many of the speeches, particularly those of Streep, Dujardin, Foreign Language winner Asaghi Farhadi, Live Action Short Subject winner Terry George and the Live Action Documentary short winners for the harrowing Saving Face. It was also nice to see full-on glamour return to the show thanks to presenters like Angelina Jolie who had a whole lotta leg going on  and the teaming of Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez.

Another class act of the night was Best Actor nominee Gary Oldman who got up during the commercial break after losing Best Actor to Dujardin and sought out each of the other nominees to presumably commiserate or console them. Whatever the purpose it was a nice thing to do for George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Demian Bichir who were locked in a tight race.  As for Dujardin he charmingly nailed his acceptance speech opening with the line, “I love your  country”. Indeed he should since he was snubbed by his own country Friday night at the Cesar awards where he was passed over for another , Omar Sy in the Best Actor competition despite the sweep of The Artist.

And clearly this country loves Dujardin and his movie, or at least Academy members do. Now if it can just translate that love into boxoffice gold it could mean the silent era is baaaaack.

  1. I thought the show was good, not great, but what Oscar show is going to please the critics? Billy was a good host, he moved it along. He knew his mark.
    I loved the focus group skit….more more! Thought Cirque was awesome, but what did it add to the show? Thought AJ’s leg was an attempt to get some movie work because she’s a little thin with nothing on the board – imdb.com.
    Thought Stiller and Emma made a good couple on stage – that woman is so funny!
    There were some nice touches.
    Glad that Streep won — finally, so now maybe the Oscars will STOP noming her. I knew Viola wouldn’t win because it was an ensemble movie. And Oscar wouldn’t give TWO black women the statue, regardless of race relations.

    1. AJ begins filming a movie in March in London, she has all the work she wants. She has not filmed in 2 years becasue she made her film and worked on it and wanted to stay home with her kids for the most part.

      Enjoyed the Oscar show for the first time in years, Billy C did better than most and showed how it should be done.

      Wanted Meryl or Viola so happy with those results.

    2. What a dumb comment. What about 2001 when Halle ‘Black’ Berry and Denzel ‘Black’ Washington won both the main acting categories? Why couldn’t two black actresses win awards in the same year? Why point the finger and cry ‘racism’ with such flimsy knowledge, ‘Sally’? If you’re feeling wronged or short-changed in life, go do something about it, instead of vomiting-forth ill-informed, division-encouraging garbage.

      1. Jon, I agree. If Streep hadn’t been in the race this year transforming into a historical figure (and in the middle of a 29-year Oscar drought), the Academy would have indeed given it to both Viola and Octavia. They love their milestones.

        Jemma if you wanna be pissed off, consider Hattie McDaniel won in 1940 for playing a chubby maid, and Octavia won in 2012 for the same role.

        Now that’s progress.

  2. I really couldn’t tell you what I thought of this year’s show considering how much of it was muddled due to terrible sound! Was that on all the feeds? Just international? Crystal’s opening song was unintelligible. How was this allowed to happen? I’ve had better sound on my vacation videos.

    1. Nope… it was that way here too. I couldn’t understand much of anything of Billy’s opening number, and the lady who voice-overed while winners were approaching the stage was completely over-run by the music and the crowd noise. And then the feedback when people were at the mics was bad. Clearly a much more enjoyable night for those able to be there in person.

    2. The SOUND WAS AWFUL. Whoever was in charge should be drummed out of the union and blacklisted. Seriously. How do run the biggest awards show in the world from Hollywood, CA (presumably w/ the top craftspeople in the world) and have a weird hissing feedback noise under the main mic all night? Disgraceful.

      Also the mix was rotten during Crystal’s opening. The band completely drowned out his lyrics.

  3. It was the first Oscars in a long time that was entertaining and enjoyable, even if it was not exactly a nail-biter. Billy Crystal was predictably solid and delivered the goods – an especially refreshing change after last year’s embarrassing catastrophe helmed by James Franco and Anne Hathaway. That effort to bring in the “young and hip” demographic was a disaster. Glad to see the old folks still had it in them to deliver a respectable – and respectful – show. I’m sure Elizabeth Taylor was smiling down, pleased.

    1. Couldn’t disagree more. Crystal looked ridiculously over-botoxed and has lost all sense of comic timing. He was clearly upstaged by presenters Rock, Ferrel/Zachgalifianakis, Bullock and many others. Compared to last year? Sure, this show was better. But what is that saying?

      1. Chris Rock’s material and delivery were spot-on. He has a knack for keeping his head together and nailing his lines all the while making you laugh at his subtly humorous facial expressions.

    2. It was just bad TV and proves, once again, that celebs are incapable of creative banter without it being scripted first. JLo and Cameron Diaz turned their backs to the crowd and thought it was hilarious – but it was just weird. Melissa McCarthy embarrassed herself once again, if that is possible. The girls from ‘Bridesmaids’ compared ‘Short Films’ to the size of a penis – yeah, really classy there. I don’t know if the shtick was written for them or not but it was plain silly.

      And then the 500 close-ups of George Clooney – geez. Nicki got it just right.

  4. Nikki made a comment about the Artist not making money, but it was produced for about $15Mil, right? And it’s made $75Mil worldwide. Maybe 5-10Mil for promo? That’s pretty good in my opinion. And I loved the movie, I loved the concept. It held my interest. But I didn’t see much more than three of the nom’d movies this year, I thought it was a weak year. I’m not a Harry Potter-Transporter type movie goer. Leave that to the young folk. But I did see Moneyball (loved it, should have won something), The Help (loved it), and The Artist (loved it).

    1. A true disgrace that they didn’t devote a special segment to the spectacular 8-film Harry Potter series, which has now come to an end. This is especially puzzling since the “theme” of this broadcast was supposedly to inspire people to go to theaters to see movies. Nothing has been more successful as filling those seats than the HP flicks.

  5. I watched the first live hour before going out for the day (in Australia) and left feeling it seemed tired and old, poor Billy Crystal and I wasn’t interested in the rest of the show. However, as evening rolled around, 84th Oscar was rerun and I sat down at the point I left earlier and enjoyed the final couple of hours. I guess I’m just a sucker for the movies (though I now watch 99.9% of them at home).

  6. Are you serious? Everyone at the Governor’s Ball thought the show was GOOD? What kind of bubble are they living in? This show was, as always, a televisual abomination. Just mind-numbingly uninteresting and boring.

    1. This.

      Billy Crystal reminded me of that old uncle whose interminable jokes you’re forced to endure at family reunions.

      The awards themselves were predictable, and the field of contenders seemed uninspired.

      The whole thing felt like it was designed by a bunch of 80-year-olds who think a) that people still go gaga over the “glamour” of movie stars, and b) that this is the f*king Nobel Prize ceremony, celebrating achievements by great contributors to the human race, rather than an industry award ceremony for partyboys and businessmen who concoct popular entertainments.

  7. Dreadfully disappointed the Viola Davis did not win. Here’s hoping that a film adaptaion of “Fences” finally happens very soon and Ms. Davis gets her well earned statue for the lead performance in that. Are you listening Denzel Washington, Spike Lee and Harvey Weinstein?

    Over all a somewhat boring show(we need less comedy bits, 1939 focus group, and No to circus acts) that was cheered by Crystal’s Best Pic song and a few good jokes, Chris Rock, wins for Ms. Spencer, Mr. Plummer, Midnight in Paris, Jean Dejardin, The Artist and the appearence of Uggie!

    1. Streep’s third win will not preclude the Academy from nominated her. Now they’ll want her to have a fourth so she can tie Hepburn.

      As for Davis, I was fit to be tied that she lost — but fingers crossed for a future win for “Fences”.

  8. I disagree on the ladies you mention bringing glamour to the show.
    Jolie looked like a skeleton and flashing that leg was ridiculous and campy and definitely not glamorous.
    Jennifer Lopez had the most ironic line of the evening… a woman’s dress should be…”loose enough to show she’s a lady.” Saying this in a dress that was beyond tight, and which many say was showing a little too much areola, was an embarrassment to both her and the show.
    If this is glamour, I think Liz is spinning right now.

  9. The show was fine. Billy Crystal seems to have entered into Bob Hope territory: he’s not really funny but he’s enjoyable to watch and does the show justice. I am somewhat unclear about what Nikki and all of the comments at snarkfest want the Oscars to be. Its the Oscars, they are what they are. This show was fine if not overly exciting. My guess is that a few movies will see some additional business out of this, which has always been the point.

  10. I tapped TATTOO for Film Editing early on, in spite of the odds makers. It was a successful film even though it didn’t rack up the nominations, so I was confident it would be recognized in some capacity—and their track record was proven. Congrats to all the winners. Now, let’s get Hugh Jackman back for the hosting duties in 2013.

  11. Clearly, Billy Crystal is the best pro among the predictable Oscars hosts the Academy can hope for, but it was either the mike or a sore throat and it looks like the three-hour takes a toll on him. Perhaps the day Clooney settles down he could be a magnificent, more charming, less entertaining host, but it’s not in the cards. Ellen would be a logical heir, but the right-wing will make a target of her, unfortunately. Chris Rock is promising but we know he can get Ricky-Gervais-ed if in there for the long run. The probable best bet, for Crystal and/or the Oscars, is to let him grandfather the show but with less face time upfront, and change the format and instead have more stand-ups/movie stars like Rock sprinkled throughout to help lighten the load. Other than that, second best would be a team, like Martin-Baldwin which I thought worked perfectly and should be allowed another go at it.

    1. Agreed that the most successful hosts since the last time Crystal was in there was the Steve Martin & Alec Baldwin pairing.
      Not surprising really great writing and instincts in both; Premiere SNL hosts and performers too.

      With a wicked insight into the film business that decades of experience provide. They are both insiders and outsiders at the same time.

  12. I am sorry but I may have watched another awards show. Unless it got better past the first half hour, after when I switched off as it was cringy. No-one in the audience seemed amused either when Billy started singing. It wasn’t a good ceremony, Pete, there was just too much alcohol at the Governor’s Ball.

  13. hey mike, not sure why you’re saying the editing award is a surprise. angus wall has been nominated the last three years in a row, i believe, and has now won the last two times.

  14. I’m so disappointed and just unhappy that viola davis did not win because out of all the performances she gave the most emotional punch and she was robbed for her equally superb performance in doubt — Meryl is a superb actress but her performance was not that great in a movie that was much worse, she was so much better in doubt and julie and julia — but i’m happy that finally won but I wish that it didn’t come at the expense of Viola Davis. It’s just compounded by the fact that Viola may not get another shot at best actress given the material she might be given in the future, but I REALLY hope that is not the case. Viola is such a phenomenal actress.

    jean dujardin over george clooney and demian bechir? Don’t get me started. The academy is not interested in powerful performances or complex movies or maybe they truly are just under the spell of Harvey.

  15. The show came off very needy.

    Ironic that Crystal seemed to be trying a bit too hard to capture “the old magic” because the whole tone of the ceremony felt like that. Especially the filmed pieces, both serious and funny.

  16. Not sure why no pundit predicted Dragon Tattoo for Editing — not that it didn’t deserve it since it did (2.5 hours flew by with that one), but out of the nominees it was the only one that was clearly and visibly edited as opposed to any of the other options. Like the Bourne Ultimatum, the Best Picture nomination might be crucial with the Editing nomination but not as far as the win goes.

  17. Just like political campaigns the Awards season is far too long…as is the Oscar show.

    It is what it is, and it will remain the same give or take 5 million viewers either way.

    As a previous AMPAS employee once said some 10 years ago. “We are the Academy, and after 75 plus years…it is almost impossible to get one new fucking idea through this building.”

    And so it has been and so it shall be.

    On the other hand, it is still the ‘best of breed’ without exception!

  18. Hawkins, you are what’s wrong with society today. Explain how they were trying to re-capture the past by having Billy Crystal on? I was surprised it was as entertaining as it was, with the change in host and producer so soon before the show. You’re making stuff up because that’s how you feel. It’s pathetic. How is a show needy? Ugh.

  19. Loved the show. No sappy music numbers, no embarassing dance routines. The thing that would make it better?

    The participants COULD look like they were having fun! Maybe next year, ushers could pass out wine and cocktails with that popcorn.

    And is there ANYbody out there who needed to hear a speech from Tom I-can’t-seem-to-make-a-smart-decision Sherak?

  20. Biggest mistake by Academy was recent decision to nominate 9 pictures for award. Not only did it make Crystal’s opening song appear muddled, there had always been symmetry to the 5 of prior years. Now Meryl Streep is calling for 10 Best Actor nominations. That woould really ruin the show. Sometimes Academy, less is more.

  21. in reply to Sally in Chicago regarding Angelina Jolie looking a little thin and showing leg to try get work since she has nothing going on according to IMDB, that is a lie. One, any one in the movie business in the know knows that studios do not even rely solely on IMDB for data for certain reasons, and that another source is used. Two, the last time I checked my IMDB service-a minute ago- Angelina has 7 projects in the works over the next two and half years. That is hardly someone ‘trying to get work with no work.’ Third, Angelina and her husband are a powerhouse and they do not need to ‘look for work,’ they create their own work, because they are producers. And lastly, Angelina is healthy and well. Some people actually are thin and stay that way. – Bruce From Chicago, Working in L.A.

    1. I agree Angie and Brad are powerhouses and that being said, Angelina’s behavior was not campy enough to read as a deliberate exploitation and not natural enough. It was aberrant and distracting. There is something odd in a bad way about her always needing to tell us she is going home to “sleep” with Brad. I mean really. She is way too self conscious and aware of herself for the powerhouse that she is something just ain’t right there. Insecurity just reeks with her. There are not enough countries for her to save to erase what is on her soul. Not enough children to adopt. There is a darkness there.

  22. I thought Billy Crystal was fine – a few good lines but the whole act seemed a bit stale. I think his Oscar hosting days are over.

    Highlights – The Christopher Guest mockumentary, the Billy Crystal opening film clips bit – although it may be time to retire the Sammy Davis Jr impersonation, Christopher Plummer’s classy acceptance speech, Woody Allen’s best screenplay award, Chris Rock, Esperanza Spaulding’s lovely version of “What A Wonderful World”, Emma Stone, Ellen’s JCP commercials (and when a commercial is one of the highlights you know that the Oscar show itself a bit wanting), and Meryl’s best actress award (although Viola Davis was also terrific in The Help.

    Disappointments – “Take Shelter” and “Drive” not getting best picture nominations, The Artist winning best picture ( a very good but somewhat overpraised film), The talking head actor interviews telling us how wonderful movies are, Billy’s musical rundown of the nominated films (not particularly clever this year), John Travolta telling Oprah that in addition to her Oscar for humanitarian work he would give her one for her acting. Did he see Beloved?, and some rather lame presentation humor from Robert Downey Jr and Will Ferrell.

  23. Fine & boring show. Could have done without every single one of the skits – it boggles my mind that producers add all those things in and then claim they are in such a time crunch and, oh yay, we cam in at only 7 minutes over! Get rid of them. Not a single one was either funny or enlightening, and they just waste time.

    I did really like the interstitials going to commercial with actors talking about the movies and their favorite things and how they approach them (Reese talking about Overboard was just awesome). THOSE were interesting and something I would love to see again next year.

  24. What I will remember most: The pleasant surprise of a very handsome Robert Richardson. Wow. Who knew. He should be in front of the camera too.

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