Sunday, February 26, 2012

L'Academie Aimes les Francais

On the 84th Academy Awards this evening, there were a few surprises, but it was mostly predictable. Nine films were up for Best Motion Picture this year and the momentum was on the tribute to silent (and black & white) films, The Artist. The only film that I saw and liked on the list was Midnight In Paris, but I knew it wouldn't win because it did not win the other awards (Screen Actors Guild, Director's Guild, Golden Globes, BAFTA). It rightfully won Best Original Screenplay for Woody Allen.

Prior to the Awards, I guessed that Christopher Plummer would win his first Oscar (at the age of 82) for Best Supporting Actor, playing Ewan MacGregor's father in Beginners. The Academy loves giving I.O.U. Oscars to veterans who've been passed over for more notable roles. Also, the Academy loves it when actors take a risk, such as playing someone with a disability of some kind or playing gay, which Plummer did for this role. He was a shoo-in. So, no surprise.

For Best Supporting Actress, two actresses from The Help were nominated, but I figured that the Academy would go for the African American actress, Octavia. In the history of Oscar, African American actresses have a good chance winning in the Supporting Actress category, but to date, Halle Berry remains the only African American actress to win Best Actress (the role was for Monster's Ball, which was an awful, awful movie and not Halle Berry's best role. However, she has a habit of picking crappy movies, just like she chooses her men: no sense for what's quality). I thought for sure that this might be the year where Viola Davis would win Best Actress for her role in The Help. This was one of Oscar's two true horse races this year. Meryl Streep is the most nominated actress in history (something like her 17th nomination) and if there's anything the Academy loves, it's playing a real person, particularly an English person. Helen Mirren won in 2007 for playing Queen Elizabeth II. Last year, Colin Firth won Best Actor for his portrayal of the stuttering King George VI. So, Meryl Streep was the shoo-in for her version of Margaret Thatcher. The Academy seems to prefer actors who play real historical figures rather than fictional characters. However, there was a possibility that Viola Davis might win, simply because if you can count on anything, it's that Meryl Streep will be nominated again. In her speech, Streep said that she was certain that this would be her last Oscar (it's her third. Katherine Hepburn has four and it's a record that I doubt the Academy will be willing to break).

For Best Actor, I thought this was the category that would likely have a surprise. The "moneyball" was on George Clooney to win for his role in The Descendants. However, I believed that Oscar voters might go for French actor Jean Dujardin over Clooney because Clooney has been nominated several times before (and won Best Supporting Actor for Syriana) and will likely continue to be nominated in the future, whereas this may be Dujardin's only chance to win, so why not give this award to him? This is what happened in 1999, when Italian Roberto Benigni shocked the audience when he won Best Actor for his comedic performance in the Holocaust film Life is Beautiful. Have we heard of him since?

The Artist won 5 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It was a big night for France as Dujardin became the first French actor to win Best Actor. He gave a great speech and I was glad to see France rule these Awards. Dujardin appears to have a fun personality and he looked familiar to me, so I looked him up on Imdb.com and saw that I have seen one of his movies before. He played the Bondesque star in the French spy film OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (which was a popular film at the PIFF several years ago). I loved that movie and did not realize that a sequel was made, featuring Rio de Janeiro. I'll have to check it out. Dujardin is definitely an actor to watch out for in the future. I was also stunned to learn that he's 6 months younger than me. It always freaks me out when I discover someone famous to be around the same age as me, because I thought he was older than me. Had we gone to school together, we would've been in the same grade level. Weird. At any rate, it was good to see him honoured this year. Hopefully, it will expand his career. I had no intention of seeing The Artist, but now I probably will when it makes it to second run theaters in Portland.

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