A world of "Hurt"
Sunday night (and Monday morning, if you live in the Eastern time zone), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences handed out its Oscar awards for the 82nd time, and Metacritic's highest-scoring film of 2009 -- The Hurt Locker -- was honored as the top film of the year.
In a moment, we'll reveal how accurate the experts -- and Metacritic users -- were in making their predictions, and we'll also sample the critical reaction to the broadcast itself, and the performance of hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in particular. But first, let's look at the evening's winners and losers.
The winners... and the surprises
Out of The Hurt Locker's year-leading six wins, the one for Kathryn Bigelow as best director was the most expected, as well as the most groundbreaking -- Bigelow is the first woman to win that award. The film's wins for best picture, editing, and -- to a lesser extent -- best original screenplay (which a number of experts had going to Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds) were also anticipated by many experts, though the wins for the two sound categories were by no means a sure thing.
Avatar's total of three victories is lower than what was forecasted by many prognosticators and hoped for by many fans; while the film was virtually guaranteed to win the art direction and visual effects awards, many experts figured that Avatar would also collect several additional awards, technical or otherwise. The single other trophy the film earned -- for cinematography -- actually wasn't a lock going in, since The Hurt Locker's Barry Ackroyd was also a frontrunner.
One of the few surprises of the evening was Geoffrey Fletcher's victory for his Precious screenplay. The award for adapted screenplay was widely expected to go to Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for their work adapting Walter Kirn's novel into the film Up in the Air. Instead, that George Clooney dramedy -- once pegged as a major Oscar contender -- went home empty-handed.
The other major surprise was in a relatively minor category. Most experts had "A Matter of Loaf and Death," the latest Wallace and Gromit animated short from previous Oscar-winner Nick Park, taking home this year's trophy; instead, the award went to the more cutting-edge "Logorama" by French design collective H5.
Listed below are this year's winners in each of the 24 categories.
|Best Picture||The Hurt Locker|
|Director||Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker|
|Lead Actress||Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side|
|Lead Actor||Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart|
|Supporting Actress||Mo’Nique, Precious|
|Supporting Actor||Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds|
|Original Screenplay||Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker|
|Adapted Screenplay||Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious|
|Documentary Feature||The Cove|
|Documentary Short||Music by Prudence|
|Foreign-Language Feature||El Secreto de Sus Ojos (The Secret In Their Eyes) (Argentina)|
|Live-Action Short||The New Tenants|
|Original Score||Michael Giacchino, Up|
|Original Song||Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett, "The Weary Kind," Crazy Heart|
|Art Direction||Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg and Kim Sinclair, Avatar|
|Cinematography||Mauro Fiore, Avatar|
|Costume Design||Sandy Powell, The Young Victoria|
|Film Editing||Chris Innis and Bob Murawski, The Hurt Locker|
|Makeup||Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow, Star Trek|
|Sound Editing||Paul N.J. Ottosson , The Hurt Locker|
|Sound Mixing||Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett, The Hurt Locker|
|Visual Effects||Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones, Avatar|
How accurate were the predictions?
While we certainly didn't tabulate the predictions of every "expert" on the web, we sorted through enough guesses to know that nobody had all 24 races accurately pegged. Writing for the website In Contention, Guy Lodge performed better than the other experts we tracked, with correct picks in 20 out of 24 races. His colleague Kristopher Tapley was not far behind, with 19 accurate predictions -- a number matched by several other pundits. Metacritic users, however, fared less well, forecasting just 14 of the 24 categories correctly. But there were several experts who performed even more poorly than Metacritic users, including Rolling Stone's Peter Travers, who had only 11 correct selections.
|Expert||Site/Publication||Correct Picks (out of 24 possible)|
|Guy Lodge||In Contention||20 (83%)|
|Dave Karger||Entertainment Weekly||19 (79%)|
|Kristopher Tapley||In Contention||19 (79%)|
|Lane Brown||Vulture (New York)||19 (79%)|
|Steve Pond||The Wrap||19 (79%)|
|Sasha Stone||Awards Daily||19 (79%)|
|Peter Knegt||indieWIRE||18 (75%)|
|Metacritic User Poll||
How was the telecast?
This year's Academy Awards broadcast was short on surprises and long on, well, length, running over a half hour past its scheduled end point. That running time, and the overall pacing of the telecast, drew criticism, though the portion of the ceremony that drew the most fire from reviewers was the presentation of the original score nominees via interpretive dance routines that had little, if anything, to do with the movies the scores came from. (Commenters on the internet, however, seem most concerned with the omission of Farrah Fawcett from the annual "In Memoriam" clip reel.)
The mid-show tribute to late director John Hughes, on the other hand, was a bit more successful in the eyes of most critics, and reviewers liked hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin individually, even if they didn't always enjoy the material they were given -- or their chemistry. What else did reviewers like or dislike? Let's check what a few of them are writing the morning after the broadcast.
Well, it turns out that most reviewers disliked the program. For example, Daniel Fienberg writes in HitFix:
Nobody can accuse Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman, this year's producers, of not trying new things, with the problem being that every new thing they tried stood out like "The Blind Side" in the 10-film Best Picture race.
Star-Ledger critic Alan Sepinwall writes that the broadcast "wasn't very good," and calls out Hamish Hamilton for his basically incompetent direction. Of the hosts, he adds:
Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin weren't terrible hosts, but nor were they particularly memorable. These are two of the funniest men on the planet, but they seemed uncomfortable swapping generic one-liners in the opening monologue, then vanished for long stretches of the show.
Time's James Poniewozik agrees with Sepinwall about virtually everything, writing that "despite some attempts at freshening it up, it was also not very good in pretty much exactly the ways that we're used to old-fashioned Oscarcasts being not very good." Poniewozik also cites the "confused or tacky directing choices," and finds that having two hosts "added up to something less than the sum of their parts."
In TV Squad, Danny Gallagher points to the "sheer number of technical errors, gaffs, boo-boos, mistakes and just flat out screw-ups" that marred this year's telecast, and adds that the ceremony further suffered from being "over-scripted." Mary McNamara, in the Los Angeles Times, also blames the show's staging, and concludes:
This year's Oscars seemed to suffer from a crisis of confidence. Although studded with entertaining and emotional moments, it just never seemed to get going.
Not every critic is quite so negative. The Washington Post's Hank Stuever calls the broadcast "Quick-paced, businesslike (and only a teensy bit boring) ... it moved along with precision and smart decisions." And while Maureen Ryan, in the Chicago Tribune, notes that sharing the hosting duties "never seemed to come all that naturally" to Martin and Baldwin, she adds, "The broadcast as a whole had a bit more vim and sparkle than it has in past years."
USA Today's Robert Bianco falls somewhere in the middle, noting that "the show seemed to whipsaw between good and bad ideas." He concludes:
The upshot Sunday on ABC was a show that felt a little busier, a lot longer, and at times maybe marginally fresher, but only in those moments where producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman didn't give themselves over to camp excess.
Matthew Gilbert, in the Boston Globe, also finds the broadcast "a real mixed bag," but has generally high praise for the hosts:
Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin were a dynamic duo ... The material wasn’t brilliant ... but the delivery was expert and warmly conversational, like one of those old-school comedy teams.
While some critics like the new presentation of the acting nominees, in which a colleague spoke on behalf of each one individually, David Bianculli finds the segment "also a bit creepy, like somewhat of a funeral." The Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik agrees, calling the tributes "absolute goop." Of the broadcast as a whole, Zurawik called it "a mess" and "one of the most misguided Oscar telecasts" he has ever seen.
Out of all the presenters, the pairing of Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. drew the most praise (on the flip side was Twilight's Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner's lackluster introduction to the pointless "horror" film montage), while Mo'Nique and Sandra Bullock were responsible for the most memorable acceptance speeches of the night -- well, the ones that were memorable in a good way. (The Kanye West-esque moment during the speech for Music by Prudence's documentary short victory was memorable for a different reason.) However, critics as a group are not fond of the shorter time limits for acceptance speeches this year, and would rather find other aspects of the broadcast to trim back instead.
Early overnight ratings for the telecast, by the way, are up by about 20% compared to last year's show. This increase was expected, due to the popularity of some of the nominated films (Avatar, for example) and the fact that other awards shows over the past few months also saw ratings increases. A more accurate ratings assessment should be announced later Monday afternoon.
What do you think?
Were you happy with the Academy's selections? Did you like the broadcast, and Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin as hosts? Let us know in the comments section below.