It's that time of the year again where Hollywood basks in all of its splendor and awards itself for a year well done. The Kodak Theater was filled to the brim with stars and fans alike, as everyone waited with baited breath to see how many people the night's brash host, Chris Rock, would piss off. While we might not have that tally for a few weeks, we do have the tally of the big winners of the night, so I'm here to hash it all up and try to make some sense of it. In some cases, the key word there is "try." But before we get to the actual gold men that were handed out, I've got a few "awards" to dole out on the night as a whole.
BEST FORMAT CHANGE
I really liked that, for some of the awards, they had all of the nominees already onstage, to minimalize the dramatic "walking of the aisle" that many make. It was nice just having everyone up there, and then the winner just steps forward like they won the Miss America contest. I think they should've done this for everyone, though, yes, even the big stars. We don't need to see who everyone hugs and high-fives on their way to get the gold man, no matter how much they pull in a picture. They have everyone up on stage so everyone at least feels like a winner already, and I think this should've been used more often. Instead of cutting people's speeches off, they just cut off the walk, which is just as long in some cases, so they should just run with that next year.
WORST FORMAT CHANGE
I just hated the awards they gave in the aisle. As if this ceremony isn't elitest enough, they had some of the less popular awards given out right in the aisle they were all seated in. So, when they won, they went straight to a mic right in the middle of the aisle. They don't even get to be on the big stage in front of all of their peers. They're just in the middle of the aisle. It seemed like they did this just to show off more of the lavish Kodak Theater, but who really cares. Get everyone on stage and let all the winners get to bask in the spotlight equally.
This one goes to Pierce Brosnan's Best Costume Design, with some animated help from Edna Mode, the "costume designer" in The Incredibles. This was a funny little presentation that added some flavor to an award that most people would be making a bathroom run. It was a nice surprise, and Brosnan and his animated cohort pulled it off splendidly.
Robin Williams, hands down. Every time this guy grabs a mic in front of any camera, it's just this big jumble of hacked up stand-up that is so loud and stupid I reach for the Mute button almost every time he speaks. Have you ever heard of subtle humor, you dolt? He just keeps going on and on, getting fewer laughs every time. Just let the stand-up go, give out the damn award and shut the hell up.
I'm giving an Dishonorable Mention here to Sean Penn. Sean, you are, in my mind, one of the best actors of all time...but you need to loosen up, man. I heard about that little letter you wrote to the South Park boys about their depiction of you in Team America: World Police, and at the Oscars you just had to make a point about who Jude Law is. Rock was making a joke, and not all jokes were meant to harm. And it the joke was on point too, since Law was in 6 frickin movies last year. You're an amazing actor, Sean, but damn. Take a Prozac, for Christ's sake, and just take it easy.
There are many other facets of last nights ceremony that I could pick apart. I could talk about the albino-ness of Renee Zelwegger and the saint who designed Salma Hayek's dress all day long, but we should just look at the actual award winners instead. So, lets take a look at the big categories here: Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Picture. Ready, break!
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - Winner: Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry and Pierre Bismuth for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Academy likes to redeem past wrongs, and they fixed a BIG one in this category, finally giving an Oscar to the visionary screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. Gondry and Bismuth only received "story" credits for the script. Kaufman was nominated for Being John Malkovich (and lost to American Beauty) and for Adaptation (and lost to The Pianist). He was robbed in both instances, because these are two of the most original films ever! I'm glad the Academy FINALLY recognized the sheer genius of Kaufman.
These screenplay awards are rarely awarded to the "best" screenplay, but awarded to pictures that the Academy knows will lose out for Best Picture, but they want to award them somehow, hence the screenplay award. In the past few years, I've been on the verge of starting a riot I was so mad at some selections (Gosford Park over Memento or Lost in Translation over...well any other movie because that was a horrible script!). This year, the actual best script got its due, and I just hope that this is not a one-time occurance.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY - Winner: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for Sideways
Remember what I said about the Academy doling out a screenplay award to the movie they thought doesn't have a chance for Best Picture? Well, here you go. Sideways was a wonderful script, and I don't really have a huge problem with it winning here. This was actually what I expected, but I thought that they should've given it to Million Dollar Baby, which is just a phenomenal script.
Paul Haggis' script is wonderfully structured, with great characters, dialogue and an simply amazing ending. I'm not taking anything away from Sideways at all, because that was actually my choice for Best Picture...before I finally got to see Million Dollar Baby. But Payne and Taylor have been robbed here before, when their dark comedy Election lost to Cider House Rules and Haggis had never been nominated before. Still, the Academy seems to keep posing the same question with the screenwriting awards: Which is better, a screenplay Oscar or the satisfaction of writing the movie that won Best Picture?
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Winner: Cate Blanchett for The Aviator
I was surprised to see many pre-Oscar predictions in this category picking Virginia Madsen for her endearing performance in Sideways. I loved Madsen's performance, but I was convinced that Blanchett would take this award home. She was remarkable as the great Katherine Hepburn here, and I thought she was a lock for this award. Again, this is another case of awarding a past nominee over a first-timer, with the assumption that the first-timer is good enough to get back to the ceremony later in their career, and can be rewarded at another date. I'm not a big fan of this kind of logic, because I just think they should avoid this kind of thinking and just go with who was the best in that particular year, sans politics or other considerations. This time around, though, Blanchett was indeed the best, and I'm sure we'll see Madsen again, so it worked out...this time.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - Winner: Morgan Freeman for Million Dollar Baby
In this category, however I'm not so sure it worked out. I thought this should've gone to Thomas Haden Church, for his phenomenal performance in Sideways. Freeman has been long overdue for an Oscar, this is true, but, again, it should be for the best performance of THAT YEAR, and the best supporting actor, this year, was Thomas Haden Church. I loved Freeman in Baby, and I guess I don't fault the Academy a whole lot for this choice, because Baby was so amazing and Freeman delivered probably his best performance since The Shawshank Redemption. If it was an Al Pacino sort of thing, who won his only Oscar for Scent of a Woman and not for some of his best roles ever, it would be a different story. I just think that for this year, Church deserved it just a little more than Freeman.
BEST ACTRESS - Winner: Hillary Swank for Million Dollar Baby
This was no surprise to me, but some weren't sure that the Academy would give her 2 Best Actress awards in 5 years. Some were thinking that maybe Annette Benning would win her rematch with Swank from 5 years ago when she was nominated for eventual Best Picture winner American Beauty. Swank pulled it off though, and this win puts Swank in some elite company. The main factor here was the other candidates starred in movies that weren't seen much at all. It would've been cool to see Kate Winslet, a 4-time Oscar nominee, pull off the upset and win for her quirky performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, because I thought she had the best chance of taking down Swank. But, in the end the boxer Swank pulled off another knockout with the win and her heartfelt speech.
BEST ACTOR - Winner: Jamie Foxx for Ray
This was the biggest no-brainer of the night. I think Foxx himself was the only one in the world that was surprised that he won. Foxx had a wonderful year overall, doubling up with a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Collateral, but he was just off the chart in his amazing performance as the icon Ray Charles. What's so amazing here is the incredibly tough competition he was up against here and there was STILL no doubt that he was taking away his first Oscar here. Jamie Foxx is here to stay, people, and with his talent and keen eye for sharp material to act in, I would count on seeing Foxx at the Kodak Theater again. And with his wonderful award speech, I think that is something the Oscar producers will look forward to as well.
BEST DIRECTOR - Winner: Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby
And everyone thought it was going to be Marty's year. Hell, the first half of the night seemed like a tribute to Marty as the 5 Oscar winners for The Aviator all paid homage to the legendary director. This is one race where I would like to see the actual vote, and how close it came, because I bet it was a razor-thin margin that Clint won by. If I had a vote here, I would've voted for both of them, because they both directed their pictures marvelously. Did Marty get robbed? Maybe a little bit, but the real larceny was when his Raging Bull lost to Robert Redford's Ordinary People in 1981. The Academy had been redeeming people all night, except for the one they owed the most to, and that's a shame. Clint's direction was surely Oscar-worthy, but Marty deserved it this year.
BEST PICTURE - Winner: Million Dollar Baby
It was a great field this year, and every picture up for the coveted award surely deserved to be there, which I can't say for last year, and the horrid picks of Seabiscuit and the highly overrated Lost in Translation. If this was a year without this year's winner, this field would be wide open, but they just didn't have a chance against one of the best films of all time, Million Dollar Baby. This movie has every single quality that people go to the movies for, and evey aspect is magnified to the highest possible calliber. There is not a single weak frame in this film, and it's one of the most powerful movies you will ever see. My hat goes off to everyone involved in the making of this film, which will go down as a timeless classic.
Well, that's the big night that was the Oscars of 2005. Chris rocked us, Million Dollar Baby wowed us and Salma... well she wowed us too. Take care, folks and always remember: if it looks like a good time, sounds like a good time and feels like a good time...it probably isn't free.