An Analysis – Oscar Night Wrap-Up

Ah, Oscar night! The most exciting night of the year for me and my fellow Oscar-watchers, where our emotions run wild over things we have no control over, and maybe in the long run do not matter that much. But this is our night. And what a night it wasnot that the show or the winners were really all that exciting. The show moved at a very languid pace with way too many musical moments that just felt tacked on. Why did we need the Chicago or Dreamgirls songs? Even when it was a song that fit with the evening, like Adele’s “Skyfall,” the instrumentals were playing over her voice too much, and it seemed to happen a lot throughout the show, as if the orchestra was just a bit too loud.

Seth MacFarlane was actually pretty funny, but as even he said, he was no Tina Fey or Amy Poehler. He had some nice quips throughout the show and was better than a lot of the hosts we have had recently, though his opening monologue went way too long with the jokes about changing his future. Some better pacing may have helped there, if it had been done throughout the evening instead of just all in one take. Plus, the dancing moments that were meant to be classy after the skits were pretty, but made the opening that much longer and added little. Besides MacFarlane himself, a lot of the presenters’ jokes were really flat. Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy seemed to get confused and just kept going but talking softer, and The Avengers cast seemed to be missing their cues.

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Getting into the awards themselves, there weren’t a lot that really excited me, but there were a few intense moments. Christoph Waltz taking Supporting Actor, even knowing the category would probably be an out-there choice, took me by surprise, and not in a great way. He was better than frontrunner Tommy Lee Jones, but it still felt like an odd win. Brave sneaking in a Best Animated Feature win despite not having the same love the other Pixar movies have had among audiences and critics (and me) made for a surprising but disappointing win.

We went through some predictable wins, with Anne Hathaway in Supporting Actress, and Life of Pi winning Visual Effects and Cinematography. As they went through the craft wins, it was refreshing to hear the nice short speeches in these supposed lesser categories, with emotional talk of their craft and art and the people who have supported them. Yet these were the ones played off by the overbearing Jaws theme, which seemed intrusive at best and insulting at worst.

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Things got a bit better with Sound Editing’s tie for Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall, both deserving wins. The Song category, where they had already played some of the nominees and then played clips at the end, seemed oddly structured, but it did lead to Adele winning for her beautiful “Skyfall.”

Then there was Ang Lee’s Best Director win. Oh, the agony of seeing that boring film rewarded for supposedly being well put-together and well told. It felt insulting to all the other nominees that were so much more deserving.

When it seemed all hope was lost, Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress, and the evening was saved, at least for me. Here is where I knew the contender I wanted had a chance to win, and though this was such a great line-up of actresses, within that second of her win the night turned around and everything felt good. Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor (and gave a great speech) and Argo won Best Picture like we knew it would (but with a weird appearance from Michelle Obama, which seemed more like a political ad). And the night ended.

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This is the emotional roller coaster this show puts us through every year. We all have the moments that make us cringe, make us shocked, and then make us overjoyed, when what we think was truly the best of the year is acknowledged. Then we get back up and look ahead to the next year and start all over again.

What is “best” is always in the eye of the beholder, and this year was no different. I know many who cringed when Lawrence won, and who celebrated Ang Lee’s win. The one thing we share is the desire for art to be rewarded, and, for better or worse, the Oscars have become the main outlet for this to be shown. Is the show always great? No. Do they get it right? Most often not. But I will be here next year all the same, rooting for my winners, and if I’m lucky I’ll get that really happy moment of knowing something great was rewarded.


Benjamin is a film connoisseur and Oscar watcher who lives in Minneapolis and, when not reviewing movies, works at the Hennepin County Library.

You can reach Benjamin via email or on twitter

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