The 80th anniversary was a banner one for the Academy Awards. This is the first year in a long time—possibly ever—that I can say that I genuinely liked all five Best Picture nominees: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood, and winner No Country for Old Men.
Look at that group. There’s not a cheesy, overly sentimental biopic in the bunch. No impaired protagonists in showy roles, no bad musicals, no sequels. Instead, this is a crop of movies that dispensed with all that human-spirit-triumphs-over-adversity rubbish and gets down into the darker side of things. They all took big risks, no matter if you thought they panned out or not. Heck, Javier Bardem’s essence-of-pure-evil haircut alone was taking a big chance.
While all of these movies really went out on a limb, the Oscars themselves did not. Take, for instance, the Oscar pool I was in on Sunday—which I lost, by the way, because I put my money on the wrong Iraq war documentary. The group was included about 13 people, and we all voted unanimously for the last three categories: Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor, and No Country for Old Men for both Director and Picture. We all won, canceling out each other points and making it essential to pick the right Iraq war documentary.
The fact that we all correctly voted in lockstep for the biggest category underscores what made the 80th Oscar telecast kind of a snooze. If you love all of the movies, you have no one to root for. Couple that with an almost total lack of upsets (though Marion Cotillard’s Best Actress win was a surprise), and the only thing you have to look forward to is Oscar’s salute to binoculars and periscopes.
Not that there weren’t pleasant moments throughout the ceremony. I was personally pleased to see “Falling Slowly” take home the award for Best Song—and ecstatic to see how adorable Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are in person. It’s a pet peeve of mine when songs that do nothing but play over the credits of a movie win awards, and “Falling Slowly” works hard in Once to earns its Oscar. Plus, it’s a pretty great song, and the Oscars work hard to make sure that most of the good music in movies get disqualified (see also: Moulin Rouge‘s “Come What May,” which I’m still bitter about, and Johnny Greenwood’s amazing score for There Will Be Blood, which I will be bitter about for years to come).
I also think the key to surviving any Oscar telecast is to make sure you don’t have to watch 80 percent of it. These are the things you have to pay attention to: The clips, the nominees, the winners, and John Stewart. Everything else is filler. If you didn’t have gambling to distract you like I did, I hope you brought a crossword puzzle or a sewing project. Let me know any other Oscar-endurance strategies in the comments—and don’t say “Don’t watch,” because you know that isn’t an option. See the complete list of Oscar winners.
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