The 84th Academy Awards have wrapped up in the US with almost no surprises – as predicted, black and white French silent film The Artist has swept the board, picking up five of the eleven awards it was nominated for, while Martin Scorsese’s homage to early film Hugo was showered with praise, also taking home five statuettes.
Erstwhile host Billy Crystal was called in to replace Eddie Murphy when he dropped out after his producing partner, Brett Ratner, was let go from the Oscars (this was due to a scandal surrounding a gay slur Ratner made during a screening of his film Tower Heist, which also starred Murphy). Crystal opened the awards with his usual song and dance extravaganza, paying homage to all the biggest movies of the year.
The Artist netted many of the most coveted awards this year: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Costume Design. As the cast and crew (along with Uggie the dog) took to the stage to accept the award for Best Film, director Michel Hazanavicius thanked his wife and leading lady Berenice Bejo (who missed out on the Best Actress Oscar) saying ‘You inspired this movie. You are the soul of this movie.’ When accepting his award for Best Director, Hazanavicius gave special thanks to Uggie the dog, saying ‘Uggie doesn’t care, he doesn’t understand maybe. He’s not that good.’
Hugo was honoured in almost every technical category available, including Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects, prompting speculation that perhaps the film would have done even better if it hadn’t had the bad luck to be pitted against The Artist this year.
Meryl Streep was awarded the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the Iron Lady (she had already won both a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for the role). Streep was presented with her award by Colin Firth, who also presented her BAFTA this year, and this time she managed to keep both her shoes on as she ascended the stage. Jean Dujardin of The Artist once again beat off all competition, including George Clooney and Brad Pitt, to grab the award for Best Actor. Like Streep, he was awarded a BAFTA this year, but lost out to George Clooney on a Golden Globe.
Best Supporting Actor went to Christopher Plummer for his performance as an older gay man who comes out after the death of his wife in Beginners. At 82, he is the oldest person ever to win an acting Oscar. In his acceptance speech he joked to his statuette: ‘You’re only two years older than me, darling, where have you been all my life?’ He also won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for the role. Octavia Spencer received a standing ovation and burst into tears onstage as she accepted her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Help (she too had already won both a BAFTA and a golden Globe this year).
All in all, this year’s Oscars ceremony went exactly as critics and bookies alike predicted it would. Although it’s unlikely that anyone could have predicted what is possibly the strangest incident ever to have taken place on a red carpet. British comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen arrived dressed as his character from The Dictator, and carrying an urn which he claimed contained the ashes of recently deceased North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, before emptying the ashes all over television presenter Ryan Seacrest – he was then escorted from the red carpet in what appears to be a well-orchestrated, if over the top, publicity stunt.
Still, not even this blatant cry for attention could detract from the films and actors honoured at the Oscars this year. The fact that the big winners of the evening, The Artist and Hugo, both tell stories which pay affectionate tribute to cinema itself, speaks volumes for the hearty condition of film and film-lovers the world over.