make up for its CRASH mistake!
A Look at the 79th Annual Academy Awards
Written by Frank J. Avella
Photo Credits AMPAS
Scorsese FINALLY won a long overdue Oscar at the
79th Academy Awards and AMPAS wisely chose The
Departed as Best Picture. There were other
surprises, some wonderful and some downright fantastic
as well as a handful of the predictable and disappointing.
This reporter and film lover was
severely disillusioned last year when the weakest
Best Picture nominee, Crash, won the top
award over the far-superior front-runner Brokeback
Mountain. (For the record, the other nominees:
Munich, Good Night, and Good Luck
and Capote were all superior to Crash
in my opinion as well as the opinion of most critics.)
Without rehashing the politics--which involve homophobia,
political correctness and simple bad taste--one
of my favorite nights of the year and the industry’s
most important event, had been badly tarnished.
This year, the Academy got their
balls back and chose pretty damn wisely. They happily
surprised many by selecting the ultra-violent, seemingly-Academy-unfriendly
caper, The Departed, as Best Picture. It
was a damn good choice made even better by the fact
that the always-awesome Jack Nicholson (unjustly
snubbed for a nomination for TD) presented
the award with the amazing and kookier-than-ever
The night began with what looked
like a sweep for the audacious Pan’s Labyrinth
(art direction, makeup and, in an upset, cinematography).
Going into the frightfully-weak
Best Supporting Actor race, I was rooting for anyone
BUT Eddie Murphy (the anointed one) since his performance
wasn’t even nomination-worthy. Mark Wahlberg
deserved the award but didn’t have a prayer.
When Alan Arkin’s name was announced, I knew
the evening was going to be a wild ride--although
I began to instantly fear a Little Miss Sunshine
win for the grand prize!
Interesting to note, Mr. Murphy,
was reported to have bolted directly after losing
to Arkin. Very classy, Eddie! And very sportsman
like. Maybe next year for Norbit 2!
The Academy’s love for the
overrated Dreamgirls was proving to be
underwhelming so Jennifer Hudson’s deserved
victory was even more of a personal triumph. The
Bill Condon musical won only one more award, for
The Academy paid
the screenwriters a long overdue tribute with an
entertaining and intelligent montage about...well
writers (ingeniously compiled by Nancy Myers). As
expected William Monaghan copped the Adapted Screenplay
award for The Departed. Looking and acting
like a stereotypical, disheveled writer, Monaghan
quipped: “Valium does work,” and went
on to pay tribute to his inspirations: Lawrence
of Arabia and Peter O’Toole.
Little Miss Sunshine
The Original Screenplay award
went to the least deserving of the bunch: Michael
Arndt for Little Miss Sunshine. My fears
Major upsets began to pile up
with The Lives of Others winning Best Foreign
Language Film. Having just seen it the night before,
I was blown away by this powerful and frightening
German gem but never thought it had a prayer against
the popularity of Pan. Okay, that’s
not quite true as I did predict it to win but mostly
because the Foreign Language Films are voted on
by a small committee who must see all the nominees
to vote. Wouldn’t it be delightful if this
was stipulated in ALL the categories?
The lead acting awards were as
expected. No one was going to stop the Dame Helen
Mirren juggernaut. Best Actress was her bitch this
entire season--regardless of the award. I’m
surprised they didn’t create a special Grammy
for her! Eloquent, witty and stunning, Mirren’s
triumph was a thrilling moment.
The biggest disappointment of
the evening, for me, was watching the genius-talent,
Peter O’Toole become the biggest acting loser
in Oscar history with eight Best Actor nods and
zero wins. This is a man who should have won for
Lawrence of Arabia, Becket, The
Lion in Winter AND The Stunt Man,
but incredulously lost each and every time. When
Alan Arkin won, I thought the sentiment would spill
over to one of the finest screen actors in the history
of the medium. But it did not. Perhaps it’s
because O’Toole is British (Scotch-Irish,
to be precise). Perhaps not enough folks saw Venus.
But it was a damn pity. I only pray he has another
killer performance in him.
For the record, Venus
was not a great film but O’Toole gave such
a lovely and nuanced performance that he truly did
deserve the award. Forest Whitaker did an extraordinary
job, but much of his role called for a lot of ranting
and raving. Alas, he had the mighty Oprah on his
Forest Whitaker, Jennifer
Hudson, Helen Mirren and Alan Arkin
The usually pre-lingual Whitaker
was quite effective and inspiring in his acceptance
speech. It would have been more powerful had he
not read most of it.
Francis Ford Coppola, Martin
Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas
When Mount Rushmore
walked to the podium to present the Best Director
prize, my heart raced. Watching them joke about
winning and NOT winning was a treat. Francis Ford
Coppola, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were
there to give Marty Scorsese his first Oscar. No
one else could take it. It would be a moment to
remember in film history: Certainly the best 2006
Oscar moment. And, thank all the heavens, that is
exactly what happened.
Scorsese’s victory was,
indeed, THE moment of the night. As he took to the
podium, Scorsese asked “Could you double check
the envelope” and acknowledge his “old
friends” who presented the gold god to him.
It was a fantastic and frenzied speech and a thrill
to watch these titans of cinema walk off together
and meet up with Czar Jack waiting in the wings.
Best Picture was as up in the
air as ever. The gracious Jack and gorgeous Diane
strutted out and crowned The Departed the
best of 2006! A magnificent stunner and proof that
the Academy members are not as predictable and out-of-touch
as we might have thought.
The broadcast itself was the normal
mixed bag, but the pros far outweighed the cons.
Kudos to Ellen Degeneres for moving
the show along and bringing a kind of Johnny Carson
class back (okay, with a touch of modern warp).
Her best moments were the seemingly-off-the-cuff,
in-the-audience bits with Martin Scorsese and Clint
Eastwood. Her ‘directing’ Steven Spielberg
as he took a digi-cam shot of her with Eastwood
was brilliant television!
Many of the montages rocked! Especially
Giuseppe Tornatore’s tribute to fifty years
of Foreign-Language Films. This moment’s been
bashed in the blogs and I want to say to those montage-naysayers:
you are not film lovers and the Academy Awards are
a celebration of cinema...not pop culture, so get
over it or just tune out!
As far as length goes, I am of
the opinion that the Oscar show can and should run
AS LONG AS IT NEEDS TO. It is the most important
night in entertainment. Plan ahead and stay up one
night of the year!
Pet peeve: Too many folks read
from paper. Is it so much to ask (an actor especially)
to memorize your lines???
Dreamgirls Medley with Beyonce
Knowles and Jennifer Hudson
The musical highlights included
Melissa Etheridge’s winning rendition of “I
Need to Wake up;” the dynamic Dreamgirls medley
(staged by Condon) and the lovely tribute to Ennio
Morricone. (To answer a much asked question: yes,
Clint Eastwood speaks Italian--he made many films
in Italy with director Sergio Leone!)
A presenting standout was Anne
Hathaway and Emily Blunt having some Devil Wears
Prada fun with Meryl Streep before reading
the costume design nominees.
It’s hard to know what to
make of the dance troupe Pilobus. On the one hand,
they were pretty awesome (The Departed
gun was a wowser and The Devil Wears Prada shoe
was impressive), but were they necessary? Was the
Will Ferrell/Jack Black/John C. Reilly number necessary?
Is Celine Dion ever necessary?
And here are two important questions:
What does Kate Winslet need to do to win an Oscar?
What does Peter O’Toole need to do to win
an Oscar? (And, at age 75, he needs to do it QUICK!)
I want to note that I predicted
20 out of 24 wins correctly. That is a personal
best for me and as rocky and crazy as this year’s
race has been, the end results semi-restores my
faith in AMPAS. And after the devastation I (and
so many others) felt last year, that is saying a