Every Oscar ceremony usually has its share of snubs and surprises. “Crash” wins best picture in a huge upset. Alan Arkin unexpectedly beats Eddie Murphy after Murphy took home virtually every other supporting actor award. Bjork shows up wearing a dress that looks like a dead swan.
But the 2010 Academy Awards proved to be one of the more predictable awards shows in the past several years.
Whether or not the best picture winner was an upset depends on who you ask. It seemed as if every other day people changed their minds about whether “The Hurt Locker” or “Avatar” was the frontrunner. But despite “Avatar’s” box office dominance and Golden Globes win, “The Hurt Locker” racked up critics awards, the Writer’s Guild award and the Director’s Guild award. Its strong awards season performance translated into a best picture win, making it the lowest grossing best picture winner of all time.
All four acting races ended as expected – Jeff Bridges won for “Crazy Heart,” Sandra Bullock for “The Blind Side,” Christoph Waltz for “Inglourious Basterds” and Mo’Nique for “Precious.” Bridges and Bullock will also likely gain additional buzz for having two of the most engaging acceptance speeches of the night.
As most people predicted, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the best director prize for “The Hurt Locker.” She was visibly moved, completely deserving and very gracious, even after presenter Barbra Streisand drew out the announcement of her victory a few beats too long.
Mark Boal of “The Hurt Locker” edged out Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” for best original screenplay, which “Locker’s” Writer’s Guild victory indicated would be the likely outcome.
The only real upset in the major eight categories was the loss of Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner’s “Up in the Air” in the best adapted screenplay category. “Precious” scribe Geoffrey Fletcher walked away with the award. Fletcher’s “Precious” script was incredible, but a win for the equally deserving “Up in the Air” seemed like a lock. As a result, that film left the ceremony empty handed.
Another surprise was an “Avatar” victory in the best cinematography category. Since most of “Avatar” was computer generated, this seemed like the one category James Cameron’s juggernaut was sure to lose. But in the end, the sci-fi extravaganza beat the more deserving “The Hurt Locker” and “Inglourious Basterds.”
Overall, the telecast itself was relatively successful. It opened with an awkward presentation of the best actor and actress nominees lined up onstage, but a surprise musical number from Neil Patrick Harris, who makes any awards show better, saved the day.
Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin did a fantastic job as hosts. They had great chemistry and played well off of each other, keeping their jokes fast-paced and consistently funny. They were onscreen just enough to lift viewers’ spirits when things started to lag, rather than overstaying their hosting welcome like Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes. Their loving prods at the stars in the audience were amusing, and a well-timed “Paranormal Activity” spoof garnered lots of laughs.
A tribute to late filmmaker John Hughes (of “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller” fame) was beautiful and moving, but the omission of Farrah Fawcett from the larger in memoriam segment was a huge error on the Academy’s part.
The show missed the mark during an unnecessary tribute to horror films and during a brief repeat of last year’s disastrous presenting style. Prior to a presenter awarding the winner of the best actor and actress categories, five additional presenters took the stage and spoke for what seemed like hours about the achievements of each nominee.
But despite the broadcast’s missteps, this year’s Oscars reminded viewers that 2009 brought us some pretty incredible movies.
The complete list of winners
Best Picture: “The Hurt Locker”
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, “Precious”
Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, “The Hurt Locker”
Best Adapted Screenplay: Geoffrey Fletcher, “Precious”
Best Foreign Language Film: “El Secreto de Sus Ojos” (Argentina)
Best Animated Film: “Up”
Best Documentary: “The Cove”
Best Editing: “The Hurt Locker”
Best Visual Effects: “Avatar”
Best Original Song: “The Weary Kind,” “Crazy Heart”
Best Score: “Up”
Best Cinematography: “Avatar”
Best Sound Mixing: “The Hurt Locker”
Best Sound Editing: “The Hurt Locker”
Best Costume Design: “The Young Victoria”
Best Art Direction: “Avatar”
Best Makeup: “Star Trek”
Best Live-Action Short: “The New Tenants”
Best Documentary Short: “Music by Prudence”
Best Animated Short: “Logorama”
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Follow Alexa Milan on Twitter at http://twitter.com/alexamilan.