Despite an apparently huge effort to appeal to a younger demographic, the 83rd Academy Awards managed to fall flat. This year’s Oscars came across as scripted and unsurprising, with very few upsets and only one F-bomb (dropped by Melissa Leo when she won Best Supporting Actress in one of the few startling turns of the night.)
The key youth viewership was a constant source of comment during the show; host Anne Hathaway quipped to cohost James Franco during the opening monologue, “You look very appealing to a younger demographic as well.” But if green co-hosts Hathaway and Franco wanted to prove they have the chops to take the stage all night, their first move shouldn’t have been to introduce their family members in the audience.
The Oscars split their focus this year between appealing to the YouTube generation with bad auto-tuned movie spoofs and pandering to old Hollywood nostalgia. The result was a somewhat schizophrenic look at the films this year, complete with a visit from hologram-Bob Hope!
Hathaway’s seven costume changes, taken from the Valentino archive collection, included a classic scarlet gown, which she wore on the red carpet, a white jewel-encrusted flowy number, a shiny grey gown worn mid-show, a crazy silver gown covered in tassles, a maroon and silver slinky dress, and, my personal favourite, a royal blue shiny off-the-shoulder sculpted creation that looked kind of like a collage of recycling bags. Hathaway saved her worst dress for her equally awful stilted closing monologue: a long sleeved high necked jewel encrusted black mesh monstrosity.
Perhaps the worst part of the 83rd Oscars was the utter predictability of the major awards. Everyone knew Natalie Portman was going to win Best Actress in a Leading Role for her dark turn in Black Swan, and she did. Everyone knew Toy Story 3 was going to beat out How To Train Your Dragon for Best Animated Film, and, surprise, surprise, it did! Inception won Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Cinematography, which was well deserved, and the only upset people were probably Harry Potter fans who felt robbed for the Visual Effects nod.
The King’s Speech landed far from the sweep it could have had, but it definitely did not fare poorly. The humble hit with the compelling story won Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and propelled Colin Firth toward his first gold statue for his portrayal of the titular royal. The King’s Speech was also involved in the biggest un-surprise of the night (that’s right, there were so few surprises, we are ranking the lack of surprise). The entirety of the King’s speech itself was played over the montage of Best Picture Nominees, stripping the awards show of any element of surprise it could have had, and completely railroading the moment of suspense when the little card is pulled from the envelope. Needless to say, The King’s Speech won Best Picture, grass is green, and the sky is blue. No surprises here.
So what was new this year? Celine Dion sang a lovely rendition of “Smile” over the In Memoriam slideshow (which snubbed Corey Haim), in a successful attempt to quell uneven and awkward applause for dead folks who may have been more famous than other dead folks. The presenters for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock, respectively) addressed the nominees directly in the audience before showing their clip, which I felt was a nice personal touch, but it went on a little long. And in a rare refreshing moment, adorably young and fluffy-headed New York University grad Luke Matheny won Best Short Film for God Of Love. He was so excited that I almost started to care about the bloated awards show.