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“Argo” for Best Picture and Other Highlights of the Oscars

February 25, 2013

By John C.

Jennifer Lawrence - 85th Oscars

Jennifer Lawrence

The 85th Academy Awards were handed out last night at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, a ceremony that culminated with the excellent Argo winning Best Picture.  Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence were some of the best dressed, and I was ultimately happy with who took home the awards.  The show was hosted by Seth MacFarlane, who has already received the mixed reviews that he joked about throughout the telecast.

I actually liked Seth MacFarlane’s opening sequence, a playful and irreverent comedy routine that included a couple of classy musical numbers and even prompted a laugh from Tommy Lee Jones.  The host got in a couple of amusing and sometimes completely tasteless jokes throughout the show, delivering every one of them with a knowing grin on his face, and even calling out the ones that he knew weren’t going to be well received.

“This is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman who’s been subjected to unthinkable violence,” Seth MacFarlane said of Best Picture nominee Django Unchained, “or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie.”  He was joined by Captain Kirk (William Shatner) who appeared on a video screen claiming to have travelled back in time, telling the host that “your jokes are tasteless and inappropriate, and everyone ends up hating you.”  Even though he didn’t land every joke and some of them were met with groans, the self awareness of Seth MacFarlane’s humour and a few moments of hilarious lunacy, including a parody of Flight with sock puppets, kept things fun.  You guys have made some beautiful, inspiring movies,” he said to all of the nominees.  “I made Ted,” he added with a laugh.

Christoph Waltz - 85th Oscars

Christoph Waltz

The first award of the night was for Best Supporting Actor, and it went to Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained.  He was a deserving winner in a field of excellent nominees, accepting the award with more than a little surprise.  “We participated in a hero’s journey, the hero here being Quentin (Tarantino),” Christoph Waltz said in appreciation of his director.  “You scaled the mountain, because you’re not afraid of it.  You slay the dragon, because you’re not afraid of it, and you cross through fire because it’s worth it.”

Later on, Anne Hathaway took home Best Supporting Actress for Les Misérables, and her powerful performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” is what won her the award.  “It came true,” she said to her Oscar upon being handed the trophy.  The actress went on to close her speech by saying “here’s hoping that someday, in the not-too-distant future, the misfortunes of Fantine will only be found in stories and never more in real life,” a reference to the tragic poverty of her character.

Best Live Action Short went to Curfew, and Inocente won Best Documentary Short.  Best Animated Short went to John Kahrs for his groundbreaking black and white film Paperman, the first of two big moments for Disney.  Best Animated Feature went to the Pixar film Brave, and director Mark Andrews accepted the trophy wearing a kilt.  The phenomenal Searching for Sugar Man was the deserving winner of Best Documentary, and Best Foreign Language went to Michael Haneke for his powerful Austrian film Amour.

Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway

Best Cinematography went to the beautifully shot Life of Pi, the first win of the night for the film that would go on to pick up four awards, more than any other nominee this year.  Best Visual Effects also deservingly went to the visually stunning film, an award that belongs to a 450 pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.  The effects team behind the production got played off the stage by the Jaws music, a strangely irreverent touch throughout the night.

The deserving winner of Best Costume Design was Anna Karenina, an award that goes to the gorgeous dresses Keira Knightley wears in the film.  Best Makeup and Hairstyling went to Les Misérables, a good choice for the impressive work done on the actors.  Best Film Editing went to Argo, marking the first win of the night for the Best Picture frontrunner.  The well deserved recipient of Best Production Design was Lincoln, the first of only two awards for the film that led with a total of twelve nominations.

Even the more technical categories provided some moments of excitement and surprise to the night.  Best Sound Mixing went to Les Misérables, as Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall shared in a rarely seen tie for Best Sound Editing.  But all three films were deserving winners of the two important sound awards.  The categories were presented by Mark Wahlberg and Ted, an amusing intro that saw Seth MacFarlane’s talking teddy bear up on stage, presented with all of his inappropriate adorability in a moment of digital trickery.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep

Daniel Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep

Some of the biggest highlights of the night were the musical performances, including an enjoyable tribute to fifty years of James Bond, that concluded with Shirley Bassey getting a much deserved standing ovation for her strong performance of “Goldfinger.”  The In Memoriam sequence was a touching segment of the show, that culminated with Barbara Streisand’s beautiful performance of “The Way We Were,” in honour of the late Marvin Hamlisch.

There was also plenty of powerful singing throughout a special tribute to Chicago, Dreamgirls and Les Misérables, a musical sequence that saw actors from those three films perform.  I also enjoyed Norah Jones singing “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from Ted, a nominee in the Best Song category that never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Adele delivered a stunning performance of “Skyfall,” another true highlight of the night.  The immensely likeable singer went on to win Best Song for the excellent James Bond theme, delivering as warm and gracious a speech as we have come to expect.  Best Original Score went to Mychael Danna for his beautiful music behind Life of Pi, and Canada cheered for the homegrown composer.

Ang Lee

Ang Lee

Best Adapted Screenplay went to Chris Terrio for Argo, describing the film in a way that was appreciative of everyone involved in the true story.  “Fifteen years ago, you were up here with the first screenplay you got made,” he said to Ben Affleck who first won for Good Will Hunting in 1997, “and now you made this film that brought me up here.  It’s a gift and I can never repay it.”

The award was followed by Quentin Tarantino winning Best Original Screenplay for Django Unchained.  “If people know about my movie thirty or fifty years from now, it’s going to be because of the characters I created,” Quentin Tarantino said during his breathlessly awesome acceptance speech, as he went on to praise all of the “fantastic” nominees and declare that this will be the “writer’s year.”  Both writers delivered two of my favourite speeches of the night, and the awards were well deserved on both accounts.

Then came the four big awards that everyone was waiting for, starting with Ang Lee winning Best Director for Life of Pi, in an incredibly tight race that included the shocking omission of Ben Affleck for Argo.  “Thank you movie god,” Ang Lee said in one of the most quotable moments of the night after being handed the trophy.  The director thanked his Canadian crew for their work on the film, referencing that this award is shared by “all three thousand, everybody who worked with me on Life of Pi.”

Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck

Best Actress was another highly competitive category, and Jennifer Lawrence won for her brilliant performance in Silver Linings Playbook.  The young actress tripped on her way up to the stage, prompting a standing ovation.  “You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell and that’s really embarrassing,” she said at the beginning of her wonderful and funny speech, “but thank you – this is nuts!”  To the young woman I met in line for Silver Linings Playbook that Sunday morning at TIFF who said Jennifer Lawrence would go all the way to the Oscars, I applaud you.

The next award was for Best Actor, and it went to Daniel Day-Lewis for his mesmerizing performance as the 16th President in Lincoln. “I really don’t know how any of this happened,” he said while graciously accepting the trophy, before adding “I do know that I’ve received more than my fair share of fortune in my life.”  He was the frontrunner and he deserved the award, his third Oscar for Best Actor after winning for There Will Be Blood in 2007 and My Left Foot in 1989.

At the end of the evening, Argo was awarded the trophy for Best Picture in a field of nine strong films, an award presented via satellite by First Lady Michelle Obama.  The win prompted a standing ovation for Ben Affleck as he took to the stage with the cast and crew, including producer George Clooney.  Ben Affleck thanked Canada as he proudly raised his golden statue in the air, with a speech that quickly turned into one of the most memorable moments of the night.  “It doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life, because that’s going to happen,” he said at the end of his wonderful and inspirational acceptance.  “All that matters is that you gotta get up.”

This was the conclusion of an Oscar ceremony that provided a few surprises along with the expected but equally deserving winners, a mildly overlong but generally entertaining show that was highlighted by some memorable musical numbers.  But regardless of what you thought about the telecast, what will be remembered are the numerous films that were honoured, from the performances of Christoph Waltz, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence and Daniel Day-Lewis, to Life of Pi and Argo.

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