The 83rd Annual Academy Awards boasted another list of predictable winners, but for a year with ten strong Best Picture nominees, the wealth was certainly spread. The production also took some new turns by incorporating homages to past Oscar winners (In somewhat of a contradiction for “modernizing” the ceremony) and bringing in two of the youngest hosts in the history of the show, James Franco and Anne Hathaway.
The British costume drama The King’s Speech, following King George VI’s ascent to the throne while battling his stammer, capped off the ceremony and the awards season with the top honor for Best Picture, beating out the nominees 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone. The film won a total of four accolades out of its 12 (The most nominations this year) with the Best Picture award: Colin Firth for Best Actor, Tom Hooper for Best Director, and David Seidler for Best Original Screenplay.
Firth, who landed a Best Actor nod just last year for his role in A Single Man, joked in the beginning of his speech, “I believe my career just peaked,” then admitted he was “experiencing stirrings…that are threatening to transform themselves into dance moves.”
Hooper, the winner of the typical Oscar precursor the Directors Guild Award, referred to himself, Firth, and Geoffrey Rush as the “triangle of man love.” He continued, “I’m only here because of you guys, and Helena [Bonham Carter], I hope that reference doesn’t make you too jealous.”
Seidler, 73, received some of the biggest applause of the night and delivered one of the most heartfelt speeches, announcing “My father always said to me that I’d be a late-bloomer.” A still-struggling stutterer himself, one of the driving forces behind his screenplay, he concluded with a message to his fellow stutterers: “We have a voice, we have been heard.”
Though other films won the bigger awards, the surprise winner for taking home the most trophies was the summer blockbuster Inception, which took home four of its eight nominations in technical categories: Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Visual Effects. Many of the winners acknowledged their “master” (Term coined by cinematographer Wally Pfister) Christopher Nolan, who was nominated for Best Original Screenplay but notoriously snubbed as Best Director for the film.
Natalie Portman was named Best Actress for her role in Black Swan. The pregnant and emotional starlet was assisted onstage by her fiancee and Black Swan choreographer/co-star Benjamin Millepied, who she thanked for giving her “the most important role of my life.” She also acknowledged her fellow nominees, saying “I truly, sincerely wish my prize was to work with [all of you].”
The Fighter swept in supporting role categories. Supporting Actress winner Melissa Leo had her announcement dragged out by presenter, 94-year-old acting vet Kirk Douglas, whose humorous and lengthy introduction included charming words for co-host Hathaway. The visibly nervous and speechless Leo had one of the most-talked about controversies of the night, dropping the f-bomb during the live show: “When Kate [Winslet] was up here two years ago, it seemed so f***ing long.” The telecast bleeped out the obscenity and Leo covered her mouth in shock upon realizing what she had done, and apologized to the press backstage. “I had no idea,” she told them. “I apologize to anyone that they offend.…Probably a very inappropriate place to use that particular word in particular.”
Bale poked fun at Leo’s blunder, in a subtle reference to his infamous tirade on the set of 2009’s Terminator: Salvation: “I’m not going to drop the f-bomb like she did. I’ve done that plenty before.” The tearful performer also acknowledged Dicky Eklund, the former boxer and crack addict that he portrayed in The Fighter, who was sitting in the stands. “You’re the best,” Bale told Eklund before telling the audience, “He’s had a wonderful story and I can’t wait for the next chapter of his story.”
The Social Network, an early frontrunner that swept at critics awards, won three Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin), Best Score (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), and Best Editing.
The presentation of the Original Song category included short live performances of all the nominees, which included Randy Newman‘s “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3, Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore performing “I See the Light” from Tangled, Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine and A.R. Rahman performing “If I Rise” from 127 Hours, and Gwyneth Paltrow performing “Coming Home” from Country Strong. Newman’s tune from Toy Story 3, also the winner of Best Animated Feature, prevailed.
Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was a hit in visual categories, winning two Oscars for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.
The other winners included The Lost Thing for Best Animated Short; In a Better World (Denmark) for Best Foreign Language Film; The Wolfman for Best Makeup; Strangers No More for Best Documentary Short; God of Love for Best Live Action Short; and Inside Job for Best Documentary Feature.
The annual “In Memoriam” segment featured Celine Dion singing “Smile.” Other tributes included a look at the first Academy Awards from 1929 and sentimental salutes to past winners such as Gone in the Wind and Titanic for their achievements in art direction, cinematography, and more. 2010 Best Actor winner Jeff Bridges and 2010 Best Actress winner Sandra Bullock presented the awards for this year’s Best Actress and Best Actor, respectively, and publicly addressed each nominee individually in a fashion similar to presentations of the past few years.
The introduction and closing montages featuring the ten Best Picture nominees showcased each film beautifully, though the voiceover of King George VI dominating the montage shown before the announcement of the Best Picture winner may have served as a sour foreshadowing. In one of the funniest moments of the evening, autotuned clips from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Toy Story 3, The Social Network, and Eclipse were incorporated into the telecast and played out like mini-music videos, surely to become a viral Web sensation.
Franco and Hathaway’s pre-taped opening felt like an MTV Movie Awards steal, but was extremely entertaining and lovable nonetheless. Spoofing Inception and it’s dream-within-a-dream narrative, the two hosts put themselves in scenes from Black Swan (Where Hathaway played the Brown Duck and Franco left little to the imagination in a tight leotard), The Fighter, True Grit, The King’s Speech, and The Social Network, culminating with 1985’s Back to the Future and meeting Alec Baldwin, one of the co-hosts of last year’s Oscars. Though Hathaway at times was overtly enthusiastic and Franco was, well…staying James Franco (And at one point, also came out dressed as Marilyn Monroe–pink dress, makeup, and blonde wig), I thought they did a pretty good job carrying a heavy weight on their shoulders as first-time hosts. But to be honest, I’d rather see them win some Oscars before they go and host again.
The finale consisted of the fifth-grade chorus from Staten Island’s P.S.22, who Hathaway personally invited to perform months ago, singing “Over the Rainbow” as all the winners stepped out carrying their trophies. It was a sweet end to just another night in Oscar history—a night fit for a King (A few of them), a Swan Queen, and fighters. Where that spinning top never stopped spinning while the rest of the world was wired in on social networks.