While part of the excitement is admittedly about the dream of perhaps receiving an Academy Award of my own one day, what really thrills me in the moment is the resounding amount of appreciation and love for cinema. It's a bit cheesy maybe, but it really overwhelms me.
This year marks the first time, despite very strong attempts in the past, that I was actually able to see all of the nominees in the acting, directing, editing, sound, costume, animation, art direction, cinematography, screenplay and best picture categories, including all 15 of the top nominated films for 2008. Of my 21 Oscar picks, which I based on my own feelings of who was deserving, I predicted 18 winners. To say the least, it made the telecast that much more exciting feeling so in-sync with how things were unfolding.
Organizers this year made several major changes to help improve the ratings of the Oscar broadcast, and in my humble view they succeeded immensely. Hugh Jackman brought tremendous energy as host, and his expected song-and-dance routines were funny, playfully merged both previous nominees and winners with modern fanfare, and hearkened back to Hollywood's golden age with a presence reminiscent of Gene Kelly.
The presentation of the technical awards - makeup, costume, art direction, etc. - were given out more rapidly than in years past and with the same presenter handing out multiple awards in those categories. This kept the show moving at a good pace, and as much as I appreciate the technical aspects, it allowed for a quicker turnover and more time for the big names.
Speaking of which, the presentation of the acting awards was (I dare say) the best I've ever seen on the Academy Awards. For each of the supporting and lead categories, 5 former Oscar winners entered the stage behind a video screen adorned with an image of themselves when they won. Each actor/actress then took a moment to talk individually about a one of the nominees in the category, providing what I felt were some of the most inspired moments in the show.
Specifically, the wins for Kate Winslet for Best Actress in The Reader and Sean Penn for Best Actor in Milk felt significant and naturally scripted for ideal soundbites in future telecasts.
The speeches across the board were generally strong and entertaining. I don't even remember anyone being played off the stage this year, which speaks to the quality and conciseness of the winners sentiments. There was a nice mix of genuine and honest shock mixed in with nostalgia, humour and originality. In many ways, the Oscars felt a lot more fresh and energetic than they have in the past with a real effort put towards entertaining the average movie goer.
Finally, Slumdog Millionaire was the big winner of the night earning 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director, Editing and Adapted Screenplay. Of the 5 nominees for picture, to me it was the most uplifting and original of the pack, and based on the media response the win didn't come as much of a surprise.
Thus concludes the biggest night in show business, which in my case frees up time from watching movies to be shifted into making more of my own. The top winners of the evening can be viewed below, and for more on the 81st Academy Awards visit the official site at Oscar.com.
- Best Picture - Slumdog Millionaire
- Best Director - Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
- Best Actor - Sean Penn (Milk)
- Best Actress - Kate Winslet (The Reader)
- Best Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
- Best Supporting Actress - Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
- Original Screenplay - Milk
- Adapted Screenplay - Slumdog Millionaire
- Best Animated Feature - WALL-E