Did you guess it all right? Parvathi Nayar captures the highpoints of the 83rd Oscar ceremony
And the Oscar goes to… Christopher Nolan. Well, of course, it didn't, not the least, because he wasn't even nominated for Best Director, though “Inception” did get a Best Picture nomination. At least Nolan did get mentioned by the second winner of the night (or morning, if you're talking Chennai-time), in the 83rd Oscars, hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco in a bid to lighten up the Oscars and, as they quipped, get a younger demographic interested in the Awards.
And what of the winning film itself, picked from the 248 that qualified for the 2011 Best Picture Award (they needed to have opened by December 31, 2010, run for over seven consecutive days, and be longer than 40 minutes)? Originally, “The Social Network” was considered the frontrunner, reinforced by its win at the Golden Globes. “Inception” had as much chance of winning as the proverbial snowflake in hell, being a rare animal — a brainy blockbuster; the Academy is notoriously leery about mega-hits that aren't sentimental or epic.
The magic factor
However, it was “The King's Speech” that gathered incredible momentum (and 12 nominations) by Oscar time, unexpectedly winning best picture at the Producers Guild of America as well. The movie, apart from quality, also had a key magic factor behind it — The Weinstein Company, famous for the persistent and canny marketing of their films to gain Oscar wins.
Few, then, could have been surprised when “The King's Speech” walked away with the statuette. But one of the very few “surprises” of the evening was its director Tom Hooper winning for directing — the general prediction had been for a “split verdict” between royalty and his subjects, i.e. that the Best Director would go to David Fincher.
Like the punchline of jokes that actually work, the Oscars are all about timing; there's a sense that someone's “time” has come to win the Award, rather than the role/movie in question necessarily being the best. So Al Pacino may have won for “Scent of a Woman” rather than his “Godfather” roles, while Martin Scorsese won for “The Departed”, not “Taxi Driver” or “Raging Bull”. But there was a sense that their “Oscar time” had come — and so it was with the two main acting awards this year.
Cynics will carp that Firth's role was in the kind of historical drama the Academy adores, that he plays a crowd-pleasing royal, and — the clincher — one with a handicap. All true, but that shouldn't take the shine off an acclaimed performance that deservedly won. If “The Queen” marked Helen Mirren's triumph, surely, it was time for a king to win in the royal Oscar stakes. Just as the filmic year 2009 felt like Jeff Bridges', 2010 did feel like Colin Firth's.
And Natalie Portman's; suddenly she is everywhere, creating box office buzz with Ashton Kutcher (despite “No Strings Attached” being rather haphazardly strung together) and critical buzz with “Black Swan”. The newly anorexic-looking version of Portman in “Black Swan” seemed too frail to even hold the 34cm high, 8.5 lb golden Oscar statuette — but it was a glowing, very pregnant Portman who stepped up to receive the award.
Market and mind share
“Toy Story 3”, unsurprisingly won the Best Animated film — but the cool thing was that it was also nominated in the Best Picture category, a sign of how much market and mind share animated films are getting these days.
Despite the favourites eventually triumphing, screenplays felt like tightly contested categories. Opening up the awards, the winners for Original and Adapted screenplays, David Seidler (“The King's Speech”) and Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”) were first time nominees and winners. As was Christian Bale (Supporting Actor) and Tom Hooper; the other acting award-winner Melissa Leo (Supporting Actress, “The Fighter”) had been nominated before in 2008 for “Frozen River”.
Among the technical awards, the showy — in the nicest sense of the word — work done in Tim Burton's “Alice In Wonderland” was an obvious win for art direction and costumes. But in what is becoming a hotly contested category with the increasing hold of technology over the movies — i.e. Visual Effects — “Inception” beat “Alice” and the other creators of other wonderlands. That aforementioned second winner who thanked Nolan, incidentally, was also in the technical awards arena, Wally Pfister for cinematography for “Inception” (that went on to win four of its eight nominations).
We had a special interest in the musical categories with A. R. Rahman's ‘If I Rise' from “127 Hours” nominated for Best Song, and the maestro nominated — again — for Original Score for the same film. Unfortunately, he didn't win, but it was fun nevertheless to see him up on the Kodak stage again, for the performance of ‘If I Rise'.
So that was the Oscars, where fabulous gowns were worn, mothers — and grandmothers —thanked, and the “f” word used on stage by a later apologetic Melissa Leo. Love it, hate it, think it's irrelevant, still, if the movies matter, you've got to admit as Tom Hanks, the first presenter of the evening said, “there's nothing like it”.