Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

In retrospect, the show kind of sucked. The presentation, that is. The hosts? Mildly amusing. Presenters like Ben Stiller and the pairing of Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. were far more inspired. I loved the opening number with Neil Patrick Harris (making me hope he hosts one year), while the interpretive dance during the Best Original Score presentation was, well, let’s just say cringe-worthy. (Flashbacks to a similar moment when “Saving Private Ryan” was nominated didn’t help.)

It didn’t really help that much of the winners were practically inevitable. And Tom Hanks’ abrupt announcing of Best Picture seemed to be a producer’s ploy to get the film done at midnight instead of prolonging the pain of the ceremony any more. Hey Academy, talk to me. I can think of a few time-cutting measures. Let’s get on to a breakdown.

The Good:
1. The Acting Wins. Though Sandra Bullock was not my first choice, for the longevity of her career, and the type of performances she delivers at her best (of which “The Blind Side” was certainly one), she is just as worthy as Jeff Bridges, Christoph Waltz, and Mo’Nique, who had the best line of any speech when she thanked the Academy for going with “performance over politics.” All four speeches- even the rambling Bridges- were well worth the wait. All four performances deserved it.

2. Kathryn Bigelow. Even though the “Hurt Locker” director had been a virtual lock for the award since January, she seemed truly grateful for the honor of the being the first woman to win for Best Director. What’s unique about Bigelow is that she specializes in films that people don’t associate with female directors, as has been evident with the likes of “Strange Days,” “K:19- The Widowmaker,” “Near Dark,” “Blue Steel,” “Point Break,” and now “The Hurt Locker.” Yes, Nancy Myers (who directed co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin in the hit “It’s Complicated”) has made more money for sticking with romantic comedies, and “The Hurt Locker” became the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner of the modern age, but I wouldn’t want to see her do anything else, and she’s shown herself the type of filmmaker not interested in big box-office so much as bold storytelling. We need more like her making movies like that.

3. The Music Winners. Michael Giacchino won the first of what I think will be several Oscars for the Pixar classic “Up” (hey, instead of trying to dance to this, how about just showing that silent prologue to show how important this score was to the film?), and then gave a speech about persevering creatively even when the support isn’t there. I’ll admit I needed to hear that after a day of filming on “Baron Wasteland” fell-through. And while the live performances of the Best Original Song nominees were gone, I actually preferred the choice to see clips from their use in the film much more. That made “The Weary Kind’s” win for “Crazy Heart” all the more deserving. That song is a classic evocation of the film’s themes. I haven’t been able to stop listening to it since I bought it.

The Bad:
1. The 10-film Best Picture Category. This was a mixed blessing for me. On the one hand, I love it for being a more honest representation of the film year (with blockbusters like “Avatar” and “Up” mixing it up with surprises like “District 9” and “The Blind Side,” and indie faves like “An Education” and “A Serious Man”). On the other hand, it also means that trying to spread the wealth around isn’t as possible, with “An Education,” “A Serious Man,” “District 9,” and most surprisingly, one-time frontrunner “Up in the Air” going home empty-handed.

2. Cutting off “The Cove” Speeches. When such an important issue like the slaughter of dolphins is something that needs to be addressed, and the Oscar telecast is a great place to address it, only to have the film’s deserving director cut off for fear of too-political a speech, it rings hollow. Bad Academy!

The Surprising:
1. “Up in the Air”. Jason Reitman’s dramatic comedy went home empty-handed after “Precious” surprisingly won Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s pretty disappointing actually; I think it’s his best film yet.

Viva La Resistance!

Brian Skutle
www.sonic-cinema.com
www.myspace.com/brianskutle
www.myspace.com/cinemanouveau

2009 Oscar Winners
Best Picture: “The Hurt Locker”
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, “Precious”
Best Original Screenplay: “The Hurt Locker” (Mark Boal)
Best Adapted Screenplay: “Precious” (Geoffrey Fletcher)
Best Original Score: “Up” (Michael Giacchino)
Best Original Song: “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart” (T-Bone Burnett & Ryan Bingham)
Best Animated Feature: “Up”
Best Foreign Language Film: “El secreto de sus ojos” (Argentina)
Best Documentary Feature: “The Cove”
Best Visual Effects: “Avatar”
Best Sound: “The Hurt Locker”
Best Sound Editing: “The Hurt Locker”
Best Cinematography: “Avatar”
Best Film Editing: “The Hurt Locker”
Best Art Direction: “Avatar”
Best Makeup: “Star Trek”
Best Costume Design: “The Young Victoria”
Best Short Film- Live Action: “The New Tenants”
Best Short Film- Animated: “Logorama”
Best Documentary Short Subject: “Music by Prudence”
Honorary Oscars: Lauren Bacall (Actress, “The Big Sleep”), Roger Corman (Writer-Director, “The Masque of the Red Death”), Gordon Willis (Cinematographer, “The Godfather”)

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