Slumdog Millionaire, Ledger and new formats highlight 81st Oscars

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The best movie of 2008 won the Academy Award for best picture en route to a sweeping performance which saw the film win eight total awards including director, screenplay, score and editing.

It was certainly made a lot easier when the Academy chose not to nominate the other contenders for best picture like Revolutionary Road and Defiance. Instead they opted for overrated films like Milk and Frost/Nixon. But that’s neither here nor there now, just let’s hope that they get it right next year.

Slumdog Millionaire triumphed Sunday night on a re-vamped Academy Awards show on a night that went down with very little surprise aside from the re-vamping that is.

Highlights of the show included a change to the way they introduced the five actors competing in the four acting categories. Instead of the classic (and after five other award shows often overdone) clip of the nominees best work in his/her film, they went to a very nicely done piece where five former winners gave a nice tribute to each nominee. The nominees all seemed genuinely touched by their words and it was better than seeing the same clip over and over as you ultimately do during awards season.

Other highlights were Ben Stiller’s award-worthy performance mocking Joaquin Phoenix, Tina Fey/Steve Martin’s presentation, seeing Natalie Portman, and seeing Will Smith.

As for Heath Ledger winning just the second posthumous award ever given out by the Academy, not only was it most deserving but completely justified. Did anybody else find themselves almost on-edge when the supporting actor award came up? As the clips of previous winners scrolled through I couldn’t help but think of Heath Ledger and what we’re all going to miss now that he’s gone. I think everyone in the Kodak theatre knew that Ledger was winning that award — even down to Seymour Phillip Hoffman (good job Alan Arkin) — so the mood was pretty anticipatory. It was ultimately well-done, although I wish they would’ve shown Ledger’s performance as the joker briefly before the family got up to accept just as a tribute to him. After all, he certainly deserved it for that amazing performance.

At the very least, it was good to see the producers pan to his peers who were all teary-eyed (Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Sean Penn among others).

The ordered segments of the show by movie-making process was also good and the clip montages were grouped nicely and kept on the short side. I honestly don’t know why people gripe about the clip montages when the Academy Awards is all about honoring movies and the people that are involved with making them. Anyone who likes movies should love to watch the clips of the best in the year and in the past. I know I do.

There were also several lowlights however and highest among those was the predictability of this year’s show. We all knew ‘Slumdog’ was going to take the top honor (and therefore the others it was voted for), that Kate Winslet was going to win for best actress (well deserved by the way) finally and Heath Ledger was going to get a posthumous award. Great. But I think the Oscars is best served when there’s a bit more debate and unpredictability going into the night.

Other lowlights included Hugh Jackman’s hosting; Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood and Denzel Washington all being no-shows; and listening to Queen Latifa sing.

It wasn’t so much that Jackman was bad in his debut hosting performance, actually he was rather good. It was more what they had him doing. When I watch the Oscars I want a host who livens up the show with good comedy. Over the past years Billy Crystal and Jon Stewart have been great at this and more recently Ellen Degeneres. This year though, we were subjected to song and dance numbers from Jackman that were more annoying than entertaining.

With the award show over, I find myself happy that ‘Slumdog’ reigned supreme, glad that Winslet finally got the honor she more than deserves, sad that DiCaprio was relegated to his couch because the Academy overlooked him once again and slightly angered by Sean Penn’s win over Mickey Rourke even though I completely expected the robbery.

Last observation but certainly not the least has do with best looking women of the night. My top five:

  1. Vanessa Hudgens
  2. Natalie Portman
  3. Freida Pinto
  4. Meryl Streep’s daughter and….
  5. Angelina Jolie

All I can say is Vanessa Hudgens is one fine young lady.

Well that’s a wrap. Here’s to a better 2010 show *raises glass and drinks*.

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