So how did you fare? Did you Outguess Ebert? He wasn't alone, of course, in predicting a big night at the Oscars for The King's Speech. In the New York Times a few days ago, AO Scott put it this way: "Hitler + handicap + Shakespeare + $100 million = best picture. Unless it doesn't, of course." Oh, but it does. Besides Best Picture, it's won Best Director for Tom Hooper, Best Actor for Colin Firth and Original Screenplay for David Seidler.
These past few days and weeks, most Oscar prognosticators were viewing this race as a face-off between The King's Speech and The Social Network, which has won three statues, though they aren't quite as hefty, maybe even not quite as gold somehow: Adapted Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin), Editing (Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter), Original Score (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross). Not everyone will be pleased with how the evening's played out. At n+1, AS Hamrah, for example: "[A]s an American who recoils from monarchy I am compelled to ask, What if we solved the king's problem by cutting off his head?" On the other hand, NYT political columnist Timothy Egan's argued that "the period drama with Brits born on third base is a more compelling story of class mobility than the tale of America's young elites inventing something that changed the world." For Egan, The Social Network chronicles nothing more than "a fight among the privileged for further privilege."
As for Firth's win, Matt Zoller Seitz predicted in Salon the other day that "it'll be the Al Pacino Scent of a Woman award for career achievement. 'Here you go. We love you, we always have loved you, we're sorry you didn't get one of these sooner.' Yes, Firth was good in this; he's almost always good. But he showed us more unexpected shadings, and was flat-out livelier and more memorable, in so many other theatrical films, most of which weren't nominated for squat, starting back 20 years ago in Apartment Zero and Valmont and continuing on up through Girl with a Pearl Earring and A Single Man." Which prompts Andrew O'Hehir to defend this particular performance: "Firth enacts the way all that historical stress works itself out in one human being's body and mind."
And Seidler? Christopher Hitchens has been picking a fight with him for weeks and, as of Monday at least, will not be letting up anytime soon: "Ever since I, and one or two others, published some criticisms of The King's Speech, there has been a lovely value-for-money response of outraged ego." By the way, you'll find links to Seidler's screenplay and all the others nominated right here.
Natalie Portman's won Best Actress; Slate's Dana Stevens would have preferred Annette Bening, "turning on a dime from imperious to petty to fragile to droll [in The Kids Are All Right]. Compare that library of human emotions to Natalie Portman's two hours of frantic wide-eyed scampering in Black Swan."
A couple of weeks ago, Ed Gonzalez called the winners in both Supporting Role categories at the House Next Door: "Christian Bale, for eating, regurgitating, then shooting up The Fighter's scenery, has lapped up nearly every supporting actor accolade since the start of the awards season. Oscar loves a showboater, and unlike his co-star Melissa Leo, Bale seems to have kept the drama on screen." Sheila O'Malley for Fandor: "As Patricia Neal and Gena Rowlands had done before her, Leo has the capacity to crack open a character's inner life like very few actresses working today. She is in this job for the mess, for the unresolved issues of her characters, and this has led her through an unconventional and unglamorous path. Now that she's flush with critical acclaim and Hollywood awards, she needs more than ever to keep taking risks and stay on the edge."
Among the other winners of the evening are Inside Job (Best Documentary), Toy Story 3 (Animated Feature) and In a Better World (Foreign Language). Alice in Wonderland is evidently nice to look at (Art Direction, Costume Design), while Inception's scored Best Cinematography for Wally Pfister, Visual Effects and Sound Editing and Mixing. Here's the full list of nominees and winners.
Updates: "The most satisfying part of the The King's Speech victory is David Seidler's Oscar for best screenplay," argues the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "Oscar night is generally a display of younger or middle-youth faces looking stunned, euphoric, unable quite to believe their luck (because of course luck plays its part). Seidler's was different. He is a man in his 70s whose writing has emerged from a lived experience. The movie world now knows how he originally approached the Queen Mother decades ago and asked for Clarence House's help in writing the screenplay; she asked him to wait until she was dead and Mr Seidler decently obliged. I very much suspect that the Queen Mother had no great interest in helping out filmmakers with their lèse majesté schemes and was effectively asking him to wait until both she and Mr Seidler were dead: that is, drop dead and stop making impertinent requests. Well, the author behaved impeccably and has been karmically rewarded, and I think Helena Bonham Carter's portrayal of the then Queen Elizabeth's haughty tendencies was shrewdly judged."
Tom Shone is "happy to limp away from a truly graceless telecast, my identity as a filmgoer, plus my griping capacity, both renewed and replenished."
"The story goes that when DW Griffith released The Struggle in 1931, a number of critics refused to review it out of respect for his former accomplishments. And so it goes with Kirk Douglas at last night's Oscars. The Siren closed her eyes, and thought of Colonel Dax."
"So complete was Franco's desistance from the co-hosting project that there was speculation around the Web as to whether he might have been partaking of a little of the Pineapple Express backstage," notes Slate's Dana Stevens. "All I know is that at some point during what must have been a long, tedious and stressful night, Franco clearly decided, 'I'm never doing this again, so it doesn't matter what anyone thinks.' Unfortunately instead of loosening him up, this realization, herb-assisted or no, shut him down. He was like a one-term president dedicated to governing on the platform of Who Gives A Crap."
At Vulture, Willa Paskin and Kyle Buchanan compile two lists, "What Worked and What Didn't," while at Movieline, Christopher Rosen lists "five reasons why we should never speak of the 83rd annual Academy Awards again."
"Film lovers can love film without taking this annual pummeling from this serially abuser," advises Edward Copeland.
Viewing (2'28"). Fun parody: "The President's Speech."
For "many tech enthusiasts," writes John Hudson, introducing a roundup for the Atlantic Wire, The Social Network "was a celebration of the nerd anti-hero, an underrepresented character in Hollywood. The disappointment over the film's lackluster performance is reverberating across tech blog comment boards this afternoon." Blogging elsewhere for the Atlantic, Derek Thompson notes that "The Social Network might have slain a less savvy wunderkind. Instead, Zuckerberg emerged from the movie's opening weekends as the 'boy-king of new capitalism' — uber-nerd, inventor, philanthropist, and his generation's greatest entrepreneur… The film built a chopping block to cut down the young mogul and Zuckerberg used it as a platform. Rather than destroy him, the fictional biopic has strangely cast into relief all the ways in which he is totally not an 'asshole.' He's become a star, from Oprah's stage to Obama's table, from the streets of Egypt to the corner offices of Goldman Sachs." Charting the film's "Journey to the Oscars" at Mashable, Brenna Ehrlich reminds us that "the movie was once a veritable joke. We've been following the 'Facebook Movie' for years now, all culminating in tonight's festivities. Which is why we're taking a look back now at its genesis." And at McSweeney's, Seth Reiss has the full, unedited text of the poster.
The New Yorker's Richard Brody notes that Black Swan cost $13 million and but has already crossed the $100 million mark at the box office. The Fighter cost $25 million and has earned $90 million. "The takeaway? It's good for actors to get involved with artistically ambitious directors on projects that don't, on the face of it, look like conventionally commercial productions. So those such as Mark Harris — who, in his lament in GQ titled 'The Day the Movies Died,' worries about the 'decades-long marginalization of the very notion of creative ambition by the studios' — are just wrong: ambitious, audacious, original, and personal movies made on a (relatively) low budget are already attracting some of the best talent in the house. When, as now, the rewards for working on such films (financial and professional as well as artistic) are potentially so great, even more Hollywood people will clamor to do so. The artists won't let the studios determine the entire course of their professional lives, and the studios will get involved with these films because it's often in their best interest. And as for 'the stuff in the middle' that Harris frets about — well, that's The King's Speech, and it's doing just fine, alas."
Update, 3/1: "On Oscar night this year, rather than celebrating the imagination and innovation we saw on the big screen in 2010, audiences were assaulted by a non-stop barrage of ravenous, clumsy egos, from the two bumbling hosts, whose inflated notions of themselves were at odds with each other (and with entertaining the folks at home) to a few key presenters and recipients." At Movie City News, Heather Havrilesky surveys the "over-the-top ego antics."
Updates, 3/2: "The Oscars might be an orgy of self-congratulation, and as absurd and amusing as ever," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "Yet they also make visible some of the changes rocking the movies and the news media… Americans don't love movies as they once did, but they, and the news media, still dig the Oscars and all they offer: the glamour, the history, the bigger-than-life spectacle and the rest. The industry understands this, and, at last, so do I."
For the New York Review of Books, Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, who won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in 2005 for their work on Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, discuss the Oscars — and awards season in general. McMurtry: "The capitol of tedium was the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards ceremony. Because it wasn't televised, it was interminable." Ossana: "Five and a half hours sitting at a table, listening to every journalist in Los Angeles who had ever written a film review." McMurtry: "Most of them were obviously hacks." Ossana: "You're a tough audience; many of them were smart and funny." McMurtry: "There was nothing remotely tasty to eat, but that didn't stop James Schamus, the head of Focus Features, from eating both his and my dinners. I thought the night would never end."
Update, 3/5: Scott Foundas retraces his personal history with the Oscars and then adds, "In the days leading up to Oscar, two critics not generally thought of as awards hawks, David Thomson and Karina Longworth, offered two of the more thoughtful explanations as to why The King's Speech would carry the day, and I will here offer yet one more: The King's Speech is, at its core, a movie about acting, as King George V himself comments to his stammering son in one key scene. It is about how the advent of radio turned politicians into performers, and it is above all about how an amateur Australian actor, Lionel Logue, coaches King George VI towards the great performance of his career. That surely makes The King's Speech one of the most flattering portraits of the acting profession ever recorded on film, and we must never forget that the largest voting block of the Academy are actors. By comparison, The Social Network, while not expressly a film about acting, is very much a study in narcissism, unchecked ambition and betrayal — in short, the very lingua franca of working one's way to the top of the Hollywood food chain. In the case of Fincher v. Hooper, the reasoning is simpler. Like such perennial Oscar bridesmaids as Alfred Hitchcock (who never won) and Stanley Kubrick (honored only for visual effects), Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese (both passed over for decades, until they have become certified éminences grises), Fincher's talent is so prodigious, his mastery over both the art and commerce of making movies so total, that he quite frankly scares people. Nor does he seem particularly keen on awards, which may scare some people even more."
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