About Last Night…

“The Dictator” spilled ashes on Ryan, Angelina showed us ‘alotta leg, Esperanza sang a moving tribute, and Cirque du Soleil did their swinging thing. Yes, this year’s Oscar ceremony, produced by Brian Grazer, seemed quite staged and a little scarce on laughs, but it was often an evening of touching nostalgia for the movies – supported by a traditional hosting job by Billy Crystal, a superbly old-fashioned set, clips of celebrities expressing their mad movie love, and five awards apiece for two films that purely represented that love, The Artist and Hugo.

So yes, Best Picture went predictably to the silent French film, which happened to be the first winner shot entirely in Los Angeles. The Artist, while not likely the best film of the year, was certainly deserving of the award, preserving memory of a great era and the relevance it has to even the current film industry. Meanwhile, Jean Dujardin justly became the first Frenchman to win Best Actor, jumping to stage with glee and announcing “I love your country!” The night was filled with such smile-inducing moments, including Octavia Spencer‘s tearful acceptance of her Best Supporting Actress statuette for the The Help.

Although Viola Davis did not win Best Actress, which would have made the pair the first two African-American women to be awarded in the same year, Meryl Streep did obtain her third Oscar for The Iron Lady, giving a quite elegant speech, beat only by Christopher Plummer in his Supporting Actor win for Beginners. The 82-year-old is now the oldest winner in Oscar history, staring down at his first award exclaiming – “where have you been all my life?” Of course, Artist director Michel Hazanavicius was also victorious, screenplay awards given to Alexander Payne and company for The Descendants, and Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris, his most commercially successful film. As in most cases, Woody failed to show, as did Tree of Life auteur Terrence Malick. Cinematography was about all the most enthralling arthouse film of the year had going for it, but of course, it went to the winner of most of the evening’s technical awards, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.

In addition to its superb camerawork, Hugo, the most visually impressive film in quite a while, was also honored in Art Direction, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects. On that auditory note, Ludovic Bource’s score for The Artist was awarded, Flight of the Conchords’ Brett McKenzie also taking home a statuette for Best Song, ‘Man or Muppet’ from The Muppets. Predictably so, Rango also won Best Animated Feature, and in the Foreign Language category, A Separation, which was considered by many critics to be the best film of the year, taking home an Oscar for its home country of Iran. Undefeated, a moving high school football doc, also took home the award for Documentary Feature, somehow standing out amongst a year of fabulous non-fiction films.

One of the biggest surprises of the night was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo winning Best Editing, not only because the cutting style of David Fincher’s film was relatively uninteresting and all too reminiscent of The Social Network, but also because it ran against The Artist, whose characteristic silent editing style would seem hard for the Academy to ignore. The film did win Best Costume Design, however, The Iron Lady also being awarded for Best Makeup, due to its quite prolific transformation of Meryl Streep into Margaret Thatcher.

Overall, it was quite an old-fashioned night, something we’re not quite used to seeing when the Academy shoots for younger demographics. There were surprises, gossip, and plenty of predictably historic wins. As always, Billy was enjoyable, and when quite a few happy Frenchman stormed the stage (and one very excited Jack Russell Terrier), I believe many of us were left fairly satisfied. The Oscars only come once a year. But great films constantly surround us, even if they are over 80 years in the making.

Best actor winner Jean Dujardin of France carries Uggie the dog after ''The Artist'' won the Oscar for Best Picture at the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, February 26, 2012.  REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

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