Oscar night always captures millions of imaginations worldwide with its classic blend of the Hollywood royalty, glimpses of movie-making magic and the ceaseless speculation on who would win the most coveted crowns. This year, on a grey Sunday evening in Los Angeles, the 82nd Academy Awards did not disappoint.
With a riveting showdown building between a goliath feel-good blockbuster and a relatively unknown new entrant on a controversial subject, audiences were kept guessing until the very end about whether Avatar or The Hurt Locker would win in the Best Film and Best Director categories. The fact that they were respectively directed by James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, who used to be married to each other, only heightened the sense of a movie-like plot within the Oscars.
And the day belonged to The Hurt Locker, which swept the coveted prize of Best Picture. It was also a double triumph for Kathryn Bigelow who became the first woman to be awarded Best Director. She dedicated her victory to men and women in uniform the world over. The Hurt Locker snatched up six awards in total, a tidy sum for a film made on a budget of $11 million, compared to Avatar's nearly $400 million. Avatar won three academy awards this evening.
In an unusual shift from previous years, the number of films nominated for the Best Picture award was increased from five to 10. The last time 10 films were nominated was back in 1943, when Casablanca won. “After more than six decades, the Academy is returning to some of its earlier roots, when a wider field competed for the top award of the year,” said Sid Ganis, president of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
In an equally polarised competition for the Best Actress award, newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, who was highly acclaimed for her role in Precious, as a poor, abused African American struggling against the odds in New York, was pitched against stalwarts of Hollywood like Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren and Sandra Bullock. Bullock, who was nominated for her Sarah-Palin-esque soccer-mom performance in The Blind Side went on to win the award. However another star of Precious, Mo'Nique, walked away with the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award.
Among the men, Jeff Bridges struck gold in the Best Actor category, beating out some impressive rivals such as George Clooney, Morgan Freeman, Colin Firth and Jeremy Rener. Bridges, who is from a lineage of actors, said, “Thank you Mum and Dad, for turning me on to such a groovy profession.” Christoph Waltz took home the Best Actor in a Supporting Role award for Inglourious Basterds, a quirky and violent rewriting of World War II by Quentin Tarantino.
But as always, the glitter of Oscar night was about so much more than just the top awards. The Academy cinematically remembered its knights who had fallen during the course of the year, including Patrick Swayze, David Carradine, Ron Silver, Brittany Murphy, Michael Jackson and Natasha Richardson. And of course Hollywood wouldn't be Hollywood without the usual dose of tomfoolery – ably provided this time by hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, and Ben Stiller who turned up as a blue Naavi warrior (from Avatar). Presenting the award for best make-up, he said, “After I announce the winner I will try to stand as far away as possible so as not to demean their moment of triumph.”