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Oscars 2011: Where Did those Good Times Go?

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Best Supporting Actress Winner Melissa LeoThe 2011 Oscars have come and gone. Awards were given out, speeches were had and deserving films were seemingly snubbed while others surprised us with the awards that they were given. This year marked the first time I watched the Oscars in full, and the question is: did it give me a reason to watch again next year?

The hosts for the show were James Franco (nominated for 127 Hours) and Anne Hathaway. Before the show began they played a video montage of mini-spoofs featuring scenes from all the big films of the past year, with Inception featuring prominently.  Seeing Morgan Freeman make an appearance was a treat, but the whole sequence felt like something you’d expect from the VMA’s or the Teen Choice Awards. This may have been an attempt to help the Oscars reach out to a younger audience by taking a cue from award shows geared toward younger audiences. The segment wasn’t bad, but it didn’t feel like it belonged.

Of the two hosts’ performances, Anne Hathaway seemed to actually enjoy her role. James Franco on the other hand seemed to be detached and act like he didn’t want to be there. (As my fiancé and I watched it together, she pointed out James’s lack of enthusiasm before I did, and even then I passed it off as just “his normal personality”).  When I think back to his performance in Pineapple Express, however, I realized he’s fully capable of showing a lighter side, something being the host of the Oscars would require.  He just didn’t show it on this night and it was obvious that Anne Hathaway had to carry their segments together.

The evening followed a format you’d expect. The first portion of the show was devoted to the technical awards and best animated feature. As expected Inception did well, bringing home awards for “best sound mixing” and visual effects. The big surprise of these early awards was The Social Network winning “Best Sound Editing.” Seeing Toy Story 3 win Best Animated Feature was nice and showed just how enduring the franchise has been over the last 15 plus years. The Wolfman came out of nowhere to win the award for Best Make-up. That it was nominated for anything was a shock, considering the mostly bad reception it earned from critics. Alice in Wonderland also did well in earning Best Art Direction and Costume Design. In the writing categories, The Social Network won Best Adapted Screenplay, while The King’s Speech took home Best Original Screenplay.

The short film and documentary categories did little to pique my interest and having Oprah exude self-importance and lecture the audience did little to help. I’m sure Strangers No More was a fine documentary, as was Inside Job, but documentaries seem to lack a strong publicity engine to propel them forward into the mainstream. As such, I paid little interest to this part of the show.

Hosts James Franco and Anne HathawaySprinkled in between the awards were the usual nods to classic films of the past and an appearance by Kirk Douglas, who showed genuine joy at being there. Celine Dion also sang a moving tribute to the actresses and actors who had passed away in the previous year. These segments were nice, but were rather lengthy and slowed the pace of the show down much more than it needed to be.

Best Supporting Actor and Actress went to Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in The Fighter, but as expected the awards for Best Actor, Actress, Director, and Picture are a cornerstone for any serious award show. Natalie Portman showed how much she has grown as an actress and won the award for Best Actress in a leading role with Black Swan, while Colin Firth and Tom Hopper gave The King’s Speech awards for Best Actor and Director respectively. The King’s Speech also won the award for Best Picture, capping off what was a productive night for the film.

I will admit, that both my fiancé and I loved Inception and were a little disappointed when it didn’t clean house. Some awards I expected, but there were noticeable snubs. Leonardo DiCaprio not even receiving a nomination for Inception or Shrek Forever After being left out of the animated feature categories was also surprising.  There were nice moments sprinkled throughout the show, but as a whole I was very underwhelmed. Where were those memorable Oscar moments, I found myself wondering. Like James Franco’s apathetic hosting implied, he didn’t really want the job; and in turn, it felt like I had to watch the Oscars rather than enjoy them. Hopefully, next year the selection of nominees and host(s) will make me want to watch it.

–Stephen Wells is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our new City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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