The Oscars are back! After a few years where the relevance of Hollywood’s glamorous award was being questioned and TV ratings slipped, a new production team, new host, and new stage put the show right back on track.
The new production team of Bill Condon and Laurence Mark created a revitalized feel and renewed look to the ceremony, which resulted in an increase in viewer interest with 13% compared to last year’s show.
The new producers really came through on their promise to reinvent the Awards and created something fresh in place of an event that had been seen as stale, overlong and even irrelevant in the era of Twitter, texting and widespread Internet blogs. Instead, we saw an energetic, warmhearted, and glamorous night that displayed a lot of flash and excitement. Out of the ordinary! In my book, this is the ticket into the new world as old patters and rigid ideas are collapsing under their own weight in front of our very eyes.
The new host, a song and dance man, Hugh Jackman, opened the broadcast with a musical routine that made reference to current economic times, but moved on to show business, with the added spontaneity of pulling Anne Hathaway onstage from a front row seat to join him in a duet. In the old, rules-governed, ‘we-cannot-do-that’ approach this would have been impossible, and even considered ‘inappropriate.’ God bless Bill Condon and Laurence Mark for being different! Framing the stage, overhead hung a shimmering curtain of Swarovski crystals, inspired by the old Coconut Grove where the first Oscars was held thus bringing class back. When you put class and bohemian together the result is magic! We could use more of that in the world of publishing and entertainment. After all, Hollywood is where rockets are firing out with messages into the world shaping and molding it.
Other changes in the presentation included a lowered stage, placing the orchestra up from the pit, and moving the front rows closer. Hugh Jackman got rave reviews from the audience, and the overall production values were specifically saluted by Slum Dog Millionaire’s Danny Boyle during his acceptance speech for Best Director.
Red carpet glamour started with a dazzling array of couture. Some consensus stunners were Anne Hathaway, the Rachel Getting Married nominee who brought old-fashioned glamour to the carpet in a paillette-laden Armani Privé design gown. Tina Fey rejected her customary black in favor of a plunging platinum Zac Posen gown. Ever-glamorous Penélope Cruz, a Best Supporting Actress nominee for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, cloaked her stunning beauty in a vintage Balmain gown that she claimed she bought years ago spontaneously for a special event. Taraji P. Henson, nominated for supporting actress in Benjamin Button, was regal in Roberto Cavalli tiers set off with a necklace that was among the night’s most stunning.
A spectacular novelty, adding spice to the show, was a glimpse of previous Oscar winners who saluted the nominees, bringing Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, Eva Marie Saint, Robert DeNiro, Anthony Hopkins and Adrian Brody, among others, back into the spotlight. Another former winner, Joel Grey, 1972’s Best Supporting Actor for Cabaret, presented the Oscar posthumously to Heath Ledger for his role in The Dark Knight.
Slumdog Millionaire, a love story that combines artistic ambition with broad commercial appeal, was the big winner, taking home eight awards, including Best Picture. Most Oscar voters believe that if a film is the best of the year, then it must be the best directed and written too: Director Danny Boyle’s fictional account of a Mumbai orphan’s surprising winning streak on India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire also won for direction, adapted screenplay, cinematography, editing, original score, original song and sound mixing, amounting to the evening’s sweep.
The Best Supporting Actress winner went to Spain’s Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Heath Ledger was posthumously honored for Best Supporting Actor and British star Kate Winslet finally won her Oscar for Best Actress for her role in The Reader. That left Sean Penn the only American winner in a major category, taking home the Best Actor award for his role as the title character in Milk, in what amounted to a mild upset of Mickey Rourke’s miraculous comeback.
Among the favorite moments in the show was seeing the wonderful agility of Philippe Petit, Best Documentary winner in Man on Wire, who balanced his brand-new documentary Oscar on his chin. Pure magic.
Afterward, winners and others celebrated in true Hollywood style at the Governor’s Ball at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel, which is adjacent to the Kodak Theatre. It is good to see that Hollywood points us to futuristic, creative people who dare to go outside the ordinary and make a difference. Let’s hope that the world follows.
Image courtesy of Oscar.com