by Jim Ridley
From Scene staff writer Ron Wynn:
It took almost three and a half hours, but history was finally made at the 82nd annual Oscar Awards Sunday evening on WKRN-Channel 2. Kathryn Bigelow smashed the embargo on women winning the Best Director honor. Her award was one of six the indie drama The Hurt Locker grabbed, including the coveted Best Picture trophy.
Hopefully, the honor will be significant in another way, namely helping eliminate or at least minimize marketing concerns being the dominant factor in filmmaking. As Bigelow and other Hurt Locker winners continually remarked, it was made without the input of focus groups or consultants. Instead, it represented its creative team's final product, a practice that decades ago was basically how most movies were made.
In the current era of remakes and sequels, The Hurt Locker's victory is one for creative freedom and directorial vision -- a rare occasion of the Academy's tastes synching up with the highbrow voters in the annual Film Comment critics' poll. But even Bigelow's win wasn't a surprise on a night that sorely lacked spark and drama.
There weren't any upset victors -- something that doesn't invalidate anyone's success, but reinforces the process's predictability. Certainly it was great to see a longtime actor's actor such as Jeff Bridges, whose first nomination came in 1971, finally break through with his Best Actor nod for the country-music drama Crazy Heart. Christoph Waltz fully deserved his Best Supporting Actor win for his suave, ruthless Nazi in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, even if his role could have easily been bumped up to the lead actors' category.
Likewise, it was good to see Mo'Nique, hardly the "typical" Hollywood leading lady, nab Supporting Actress honors for Precious. Let's also hope her comments about the Academy honoring "the process and not the politics" are actually true and prove the case in future years.
Only time will tell whether the decision to expand the Best Picture category to 10 nominees results in improved ratings. But what the results show is that Academy members value technique and message over popularity and commercial impact. That puts them at odds with the network and its advertisers, who clearly care more about audience numbers and demographic breakdowns.
That dichotomy is also reflected in Academy programming decisions that include eliminating from the telecast performances of the Best Song nominations, and giving awards for such categories as sound mixing, makeup and cinematography on air, rather than off-camera. It's also why the Oscars will seldom end in less than three hours, because the Academy wants everyone to get their moment in the spotlight.
Everyone, that is, except the four Governor's Award winners: Roger Corman, Lauren Bacall, cinematographer Gordon Willis and producer/studio exec John Calley. Though each screen legend deserved an on-air tribute, their honors were relegated to a chintzy collective segment, while valuable broadcast time was squandered on embarrassments such as a generic horror-movie montage and an excruciating interpretive dance. This was arguably the night's biggest stumble. Which would you rather watch: highlights from the career of genre-movie guru Corman, or a breakdancing suicide bomber detonating himself to The Hurt Locker's nominated score?
Despite the show's occasional gaffes, however, and its lack of upsets and stretches of tedium, the Oscars mainly rewarded artistic excellence this year rather than record profits and blockbuster draws. In this era of celebrity overexposure and movie marketing on steroids, that's something worth celebrating.
A full list of the winners:
Best Motion Picture of the Year
Winner: The Hurt Locker (2008) - Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro
Best Achievement in Directing
Winner: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (2008)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Winner: Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side (2009)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Winner: Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart (2009)
Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Winner: El secreto de sus ojos (2009) (Argentina)
Best Achievement in Editing
Winner: The Hurt Locker (2008) - Bob Murawski, Chris Innis
Best Documentary, Features
Winner: The Cove (2009) - Louie Psihoyos, Fisher Stevens
Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Winner: Avatar (2009) - Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andy Jones
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
Winner: Up (2009) - Michael Giacchino
Best Achievement in Cinematography
Winner: Avatar (2009) - Mauro Fiore
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Winner: The Hurt Locker (2008) - Paul N.J. Ottosson, Ray Beckett
Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Winner: The Hurt Locker (2008) - Paul N.J. Ottosson
Best Achievement in Costume Design
Winner: The Young Victoria (2009) - Sandy Powell
Best Achievement in Art Direction
Winner: Avatar (2009) - Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Kim Sinclair
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Winner: Mo'Nique for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009)
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Winner: Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009) - Geoffrey Fletcher
Best Achievement in Makeup
Winner: Star Trek (2009) - Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, Joel Harlow
Best Short Film, Live Action
Winner: "The New Tenants" (2009) - Joachim Back, Tivi Magnusson
Best Documentary, Short Subjects
Winner: "Music by Prudence" (2010) - Roger Ross Williams, Elinor Burkett
Best Short Film, Animated
Winner: "Logorama" (2009) - Nicolas Schmerkin
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Winner: The Hurt Locker (2008) - Mark Boal
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
Winner: Crazy Heart (2009) - T-Bone Burnett, Ryan Bingham ("The Weary Kind")
Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
Winner: Up (2009) - Pete Docter
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Winner: Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds (2009)