Sunday's 84th Academy Awards ceremony (which we live-blogged!) has come to an end. And while plenty happened, there are really only ten things you need to know about the ceremony to hold your own during today's water cooler conversation. Here they are.
While we're happy for both Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer — both good actors who did good work in good roles — their wins were so inevitable that they felt like afterthoughts. And they exemplified two different but oddly similar tropes in Academy voting. Spencer got the borderline offensive standing ovation that awards show audiences seem hellbent on giving to black people who they're congratulating themselves for liking, and Christopher Plummer had the dubious honor of winning the you-might-be-dead-soon old guy award. Again, both were deserving, but their wins were marred by lack of surprise and uncomfortable Academy politics.
Chris Rock Makes a Case for Another Hosting Gig
In a blunt, hilarious mini-routine done while presenting the Best Animated Feature category, 2005 Oscars host Chris Rock mocked the mind-boggling paychecks of celebrity voiceover actors and did a good bit of (likely accidental) campaigning for a future return hosting gig. Rock was biting but not mean, smart and self-aware but not condescending. The Oscars are a cheesefest, and someone who can cut that cheese (heh) is always welcome.
Billy Crystal's Regression
While on the topic of cheesy hosts, good grief wasn't Billy Crystal a snore? Aside from a few decent jokes ("Chapter 11 Theater" comes to mind), the nine-time Oscars host was as old and familiar and ultimately bland as a regular order at Katz's. Crystal's nü-Borscht-Belt shtick worked well on the Oscars back when irony hadn't yet made all our funny bones hard and brittle, but in these whiz-moving times, his creaky non-antics seemed tame and, worst of all, halfhearted. No one's saying that Billy Crystal isn't a funny guy, or that he's not one of the Academy Awards' best-ever hosts, but this year he brought B material to a show that needed a higher grade.
Emma Stone Goes Big for Laughs
That said, there were a few genuinely funny moments throughout the night. One in particular being Emma Stone's cute routine in which she fantasized about doing something big for her first-ever presenting gig. Ben Stiller was a game (and tiny! so tiny!) foil in the Best Visual Effects sketch, while Stone proved herself both a zestily confident young performer and a very, very tall woman. (Compared to Stiller, at least. Positively miniature, that one!)
Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell, Of Course
While on the topic of funny presenters, comedy friends Ferrell and Galifianakis did a solid bit while presenting Best Original Song that had them ascending from the orchestra pit banging symbols in Brad and Angelina's faces, and then dropping them awkwardly on stage in the lead-up to reading the winner's name. It was a good, prolonged bit that deftly covered up for the fact that, for the first time in a long while, there were no Best Song performances.
A Sweet Father/Daughter Moment
As he accepted his prize for Best Live Action Short, Irish director Terry George thanked his daughter, the film's producer Oorlagh George, saying that he was happy he didn't "have to wait for the wedding" to tell his daughter how proud of her he was. It was a sweet, small, human moment in an awards show that can oftentimes seem big and, to us commonfolk at least, completely impersonal. Well done, you two.
The Artist Dominates
Its wins for Best Actor, Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Score, and Best Costume Design aside, Harvey Weinstein's big French baby The Artist was dominant tonight in that it seemed to inform the entire show's aesthetic. An art deco set served as the background for all the action, black and white-ish title cards announced all the nominees, and at one point 1920s cigarette girls streamed through the audience to give the audience members
delicious, delicious smokes popcorn. This was a throwback-styled Oscars and we've The Artist to thank (or blame) for that. Hollywood and the Academy loved this damn movie, and that showed in nearly every production choice tonight.
We were all hoping for it, but alas there was no appearance from The Artist's sprightly little Jack Russell terrier Uggie until the very end of the show. But don't worry, Billy Crystal made up for lil' Uggie's absence with several labored War Horse jokes. Feh. Aren't you so glad that the year of the movie animals is over? (And yet, no We Bought a Zoo gags tonight! An easy opportunity, missed.)
During Natalie Portman's presentation of the Best Actor trophy, in which she sang each nominated actors' praises, costar Berenice Bejo could be seen whispering French translation into eventual winner Jean Dujardin's ear and it was very cute. French people!
Meryl F-cking Streep
Well, after a thirty-year drought that saw some eleventy billion unfulfilled nominations, the queen of acting Meryl Streep collected her third trophy (putting her in striking distance of Katharine Hepburn's record four wins), besting her friend and recently believed favorite Viola Davis. Streep's acceptance speech was typically funny, breezy, but grateful as she somewhat breathlessly (is it an act at this point? Is she the adult Taylor Swift of faux-shocked awards winning?) accepted the award and, rather movingly we daresay, thanked her husband Don Gummer first. We were rooting for Viola, just because she seems cool, but it's hard to argue with La Streep getting golden things.