OSCAR RECAP: The annual bash proves watchable, but somewhat dull

Meryl Streep wins the Oscar for Best Actress in 'The Iron Lady' — Photo courtesy of Matt Brown / AMPAS

The 84th Academy Awards has come and gone, and now the question is whether the memories will linger. The ceremony featured some small surprises and a few touching acceptance speeches, but it mostly was business as usual for the Oscars.

Host Billy Crystal performed his usual montage and medley, although he seemed rushed with nine Best Picture nominations. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a movie many thought didn’t deserve the nomination, only received a couple of words about “Tom Hanks being a memory.”

The comedy was clean and mediocre, reminding viewers they may have landed in the Borscht Belt rather than Hollywood, Calif. It’s much better to have Crystal and his one-liners than some other choices (I’m looking at you James Franco and Anne Hathaway), but it seems like this one ranks on the lower end for the comedian’s Oscar appearances.

Hugo somewhat unexpectedly pulled out to an early lead, winning for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. In the back of my mind, I was thinking that if it won Best Original Score, it was going to beat The Artist for the top prize. A silent movie relies heavily on its score, and The Artist had a beautiful arrangement. It turns out that Hugo lost Best Original Score and went on to lose the top award as well.

By the end of the night, the scorecard tallied both movies with five trophies a piece. In addition to Best Picture and Best Original Score, The Artist won for Best Costume Design, Best Actor (Jean Dujardin) and Best Director (Michel Hazanivicius). Hugo also won for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing. Dujardin’s win meant George Clooney went home empty handed, although he could console himself with his already-won Oscar from Syriana.

Host Billy Crystal — Photo courtesy of AMPAS

The only other multiple winner for the night was The Iron Lady, which took home Best Makeup Design (expected) and Best Actress for Meryl Streep (a small upset over The Help’s Viola Davis). This is the millionth nomination for Streep and third win, a fact we were constantly reminded of the entire night. Although there seems to be no other actress in the modern era who deserves equal admiration. Streep took to the microphone and delivered one of the better speeches of the night.

Christopher Plummer won Best Supporting Actor for Beginners, and the 82-year-old offered the best thank-yous of any other winner. He was organized, thoughtful, funny and brief. Octavia Spencer took home the only statue for The Help, and she received a well-deserved standing ovation for the historic win.

Woody Allen, a no-show, won Best Original Screenplay for Midnight in Paris, while Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash won Best Adapted Screenplay for The Descendants.

A Separation (Best Foreign Language Film), Rango (Best Animated Film), The Muppets (Best Original Song), Undefeated (Best Documentary Feature) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Best Film Editing) rounded out the other categories.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, Saving Face and The Shore won the short subject awards.

Regrettably, The Tree of Life finished the night with zero wins.

The highlight of the night had to be the original Cirque du Soleil performance, which utilized the voluminous space of the Kodak Theatre to great effect. It was the only time during the three-hour ceremony that there was a real sense of energy in the air.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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