By Tressa Eckermann, Senior Staff Writer
“All of us are mesmerized by the magic of movies,” legendary actor Morgan Freeman said at the beginning of the 84th Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night.
After the apocalyptic terror of James Franco and Anne Hathaway’s pairing last year, a trained monkey would have been a step up as host. Producers had Billy Crystal—a legend in his own right—return for his ninth gig as host. Crystal will always be reliable, with the right mix of self-deprecation, harmless snark and true wit.
He opened the show with his now famous bit of inserting himself in films. This year it was, among others, “The Artist,” “The Descendants” (in which he shared a kiss with George Clooney), “Moneyball,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.”
He brought out witty one-liners like, “We’re here at the beautiful Chapter 11 theater” and “The movies have always been there—to make us laugh, to cry and to text.”
The theater was designed to look like movie palaces of Old Hollywood and the entire show was dedicated to the magic of films and the impact that they have on all of us. Switching up the order this year, they began with cinematography and art direction, which both went to Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo.” Costume Designer (“The Artist”), Makeup (“The Iron Lady”) and Best Foreign Language film (“A Separation”), all came before the first acting award of the night, Best Supporting Actress.
No surprise, that award went to Octavia Spencer for her stirring performance in an otherwise bland film, “The Help.” Film Editing (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), Sound Editing (“Hugo”), and Sound Mixing (“Hugo” again), led into Best Animated Feature which went to the highly original “Rango,” directed by Gore Verbinski.
Legendary actor Christopher Plummer continued his award season run, winning Best Supporting Actor for “Beginners.” Much like Spencer, it wasn’t a surprising win. He gave a charming and elegant speech. Although he’s very deserving, it would have been nice to see equally legendary actors like Nick Nolte or Kenneth Branagh win.
Omaha native Alexander Payne and his writing partners Nat Faxon and Jim Rash won Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Descendants.” It’s painful, though, to see the best film of the year, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” lose in one of the three categories in which it was nominated.
It really was a night dominated by legends. Woody Allen beat the favorite, Michel Hazanavicius, winning Best Original Screenplay for his film, “Midnight in Paris.”
Best Director wasn’t a surprise. Hazanavicius won for the beautiful “The Artist.” Best Actor was always going to be a race between George Clooney in “The Descendants” and Jean Dujardin in “The Artist,” but recently Dujardin pulled ahead and became the favorite.
When Dujardin’s name was called, it wasn’t much of a surprise. He was very deserving, yes, but that didn’t stop my heart from breaking when I watched Gary Oldman lose. Oldman, who has been acting for more than 30 years, is one of the most respected actors of his generation and received his first nomination for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” I guess we’ll have to wait another 30 years before he’s even nominated again.
The second to last award of the night, Best Actress, was perhaps the most unpredictable of the night with three possible front runners: Meryl Steep, Michelle Williams and Viola Davis. It was Streep, though, who broke a 29-year losing streak when she won for her performance as Margret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” She also gave the best speech of the night.
Again, it was no surprise when Best Picture was announced. “The Artist,” an exceptional movie honoring Old Hollywood, won. It seemed like a particularly fitting win given the theme of the night, honoring the films that affect our lives.