, first things first: Slumdog Millionaire! It was unstoppable. And when it won Best Editing, I knew it would win everything else. Actually, two months ago, we all knew it would win. Which is a little strange, don’t you think? And though I liked Slumdog Millionaire, it certainly was not the best film of 2008. I think that this Best Picture win will go down in the pantheon on the level of 2005’s Crash, 2002’s Chicago, or 2001’s A Beautiful Mind—that is, nice films that became buzz films that, a few years later, people forgot about. These are not films that will be taught in film school in decades to come. I wasn’t totally sold on any of the Best Picture nominees being the “best film of 2008,” though I think Benjamin Button deserved it the most. Too bad The Dark Knight wasn’t even nominated. Alas. At least Heath Ledger won.
The show itself was pretty entertaining—maybe a six on a 10 scale. Hugh Jackman’s opening song number and monologue was pretty funny—I loved the part where he made fun of Mickey Rourke’s tendency to gratuitously brush his hand through his hair. The whole “cutting back due to the recession” was cute, but didn’t really translate to that ridiculous stage design. All in all, the Oscars seemed as elaborate and overwrought as ever. Though where was Jack Nicholson? It didn’t feel the same without him.
Anyway, here are some random superlatives that I jotted down during and after the show:
Loveliest acceptance speech: Kate Winslet. And, wow, did she look beautiful.
Most predictable acceptance speech: Sean Penn. Playing a gay hero (and playing it very well) made him Hollywood’s favorite this year. And his speech gave predictable political props to the whole gay marriage thing.
Biggest disappointment: Mickey Rourke not winning best actor. His acceptance speech would have been amazing, and his performance totally deserved the award. I hope the guy has a chance at it again sometime.
Best red carpet moment: Brad and Angelina avoiding talking to Ryan Seacrest once again. Actually, Brad said a few passing words to Seacrest, though he clearly was in a hurry to move on. Angelina avoided him altogether. Apparently the Brangie-Seacrest feud which started at the 2007 Golden Globes continues …
Favorite presenter pairing: Steve Martin and Tina Fey presenting the screenwriting awards. Brilliant. Why doesn’t Fey host the thing next year?
Gimmick that I ended up really liking: The five legendary actors paying homage to the nominees in each of the four acting categories. However, Nicole Kidman talking up the merits of Angelina Jolie felt a little like Radiohead singing the praises of Miley Cyrus.
Funny but could have been funnier presenter banter: Jack Black and Jennifer Aniston. It might have been interesting to have thrown Angelina Jolie up there with them.
Most needless montage: The “Romance Montage.” Though it was a nice chance to plug the song “Lovers in Japan” by Coldplay. (And incidentally, Coldplay also got some play during the Jerry Lewis tribute—this time “Viva la Vida”).
Best “knew that was gonna be referenced” joke: Joaquin Phoenix’ YouTube sensation from Letterman. Stiller nailed it.
Best non-live comedy element: The Pineapple Express short film with Seth Rogan, James Franco and (of all people) Janusz Kaminski. Perfect intro for the best live action short award.
Most moving moment: Heath Ledger winning the award for Best Supporting Actor, and his family accepting it on his behalf. I would have liked to have seen little Matilda, though.
The Roberto Benigni award for “wild European moment” goes to: Man on Wire’s Philippe Petit, who made a coin disappear, balanced the Oscar on his chin and thanked everyone for “believing in magic.”
Least deserving “on the coattails of Slumdog sweep” award: Best Sound Mixing. There’s no way Slumdog Millionaire had the best sound mixing of any film last year. But whatever.
Most overhyped but disappointing musical number: The “musical is back” song and dance routine. Not that impressive. And does ABC/Disney really need to plug its High School Musical stars anymore?
Best response to Peter Gabriel refusing to perform his nominated song, “Down to Earth”: Not giving him the Oscar. But I thought John Legend did the song justice—even in only 65 seconds.
Best “Let’s make Mel Gibson mad” moment: Inserting his very masculine Braveheart battle speech into a montage of scenes from the gay-themed Milk.
Best “tangentially related to Oscar night” moment: The Jonas Brothers being interviewed about promise rings on the Barbara Walters special. They are the most powerful evangelicals in show business, and earn more money for Hollywood than half the films nominated for the Oscars.