Category Archives: Academy Awards

Song, Dance, and Commendation: Turning the 2009 Academy Awards into a Television Event


Song, Dance, and Commendation:

Turning the 2009 Oscars into a Television Event

When the Academy Awards brought on a set of new producers, there was the usual buzzwords: on time! Big surprises! Excitement! On time! Thrilling! And yet, we all doubted that it could live up to the expectation, especially after the year’s most populist films were all but shut out of major awards, and the chance for big surprises was more or less out the door the second that the runaway train of Slumdog Millionaire pulled into the station. The odds were stacked against this show from being something that felt like a real television event, which is really the point of this whole affair.

Or, well, one of the points. In reality, this is an event that is about celebrating the best in the year of film, but that is an idea that is always so subjective and often disconnected from what the movie-going public actually experienced. At the very least, then, it’s supposed to be a celebration of the talent in Hollywood, something that is always tough with the red carpet affairs and the grasps at star power drive attention towards those with the most cache. And all the while they have to be entertaining, keeping us moving between awards and keeping our attention.

And while it didn’t run on time (who ever expected it to?), and there weren’t many major surprises (here’s a full list of winners), tonight’s Academy Awards will go down in the books as one that provided entertainment you’d see nowhere else, a celebration of the year in movies and not just those movies which happened to be nominated, and one where the fine line between indulgent self-aggrandizing and commending the year’s finest actors was walked with great control. And that, at the very least, created three and a half hours of engaging television.

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Talkin’ Oscar: Retrospective and Review

Four hours, twenty minutes, 16 out of 24 predictions (66.6% accuracy rate, not bad) and 7,398 liveblog words later, Oscar night is over. Marty finally won his Oscar, and Peter O’Toole was left out in the cold as the Academy preferred heroin-addled grandfather to creepy old pervert. The Actresses long anointed to victory took to the stage with grace, and the Oscars went Green with victories for both Al Gore and climate-conscious penguins. And, despite a few surprises, the moral of the story was “Go Green, Go Safe.” This was the story of the 79th Academy Awards.

Ellen Degeneres is a fantastic talk show host, but she isn’t an awards show host. Her monologue was tepid, her gags clichéd. And yet, due to her general nature, the end result was an engaging host who was capable of breaking the tension and the monotony. With the Supporting acting awards pushed later into the evening, it was necessary for Ellen to break up the technical awards, along with some elaborate staging for Costume Design. Through it all, Ellen elevated her constructs with her good nature and adlibbing abilities. Throwing her into the crowd is something that could kill a host dead, but she handled her screenplay gag with Marty and her picture with Clint with ease, especially when giving Spielberg Framing tips. As the show started to wear down on us with video packages, she knew that her job was to break up that monotony with vacuuming, of all things. Perfect? No. As biting as Jon Stewart? No. But, unlike Chris Rock who was pedestrian against expectation, Ellen IS pedestrian and that’s what makes her good for the job.

The show on the whole was dragged down by video packages, despite the fact that they were all really quite well done. While there were attempts to jazz things up with elaborate musical performances, Celine Dion cameos and some silhouette performances (The best of which was clearly the amazing Snakes on a Plane one), none of it kept it from feeling like just another Academy Awards ceremony. This isn’t really that surprising, but at the same time it hurts to see them clearly try to break out of that barrier with no success. It’s a futile fight, there’s no question about it.

As for the awards themselves, the lesson I have learned is, as I said, “Go Green, Go Safe.” While Ellen and the producers wanted us to note the international flavour of the awards, that never really took hold within the winners themselves. I went mostly green, as I predicted the environmentally conscious Happy Feet to take Best Animated Film over the fossil-fuelled Cars and for An Inconvenient Truth to take home Best Documentary Feature. However, it even extended to Best Original Song, where Dreamgirls continued to be shunned as Melissa Etheridge took home the award for her mediocre song from Al Gore’s pet project.

In terms of going safe, outside of Alan Arkin’s win in Best Supporting Actor every major award went to the choices that were the safest for Academy Award members to make…actually, even Alan Arkin was safer than favourite Eddie Murphy considering Murphy’s history of crappy movies dating back as recently as Norbit. From Mirren to Hudson, from Whitaker to Marty’s time to shine, and The Departed won Best Picture because it had everything the Academy expected, rather than desired.

I didn’t quite get this ahead of time, although I was fairly safe on the whole; I should have realized that it was about what was least offensive to voters, those with the least problems or caveats. As a result, while my predictions did alright outside of the usual headscratchers that are withstanding from my general theme of the evening (Such as Pan’s Labyrinth losing Best Foreign Film to The Lives of Others, or winning cinematography over Children of Men), they could have been better. Still, though, I’m happy with my overall performance, and if I had updated my pool ballot I would have totally won. Curse you, hindsight!

Thanks to everyone who’s been following Talkin’ Oscar. Here’s some links to the various posts involved, and after the jump you can check out the Oscar winners and my predictions for each category against one another. Continue reading

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Talkin’ Oscar: Live Blogging Extravaganza

9:00pm – We open on the pre-show with the lovable penguins from Happy Feet, including a President Bush penguin. The answer to all of their problems? Apparently dancing. And now it’s people wearing Borat bathing suits. And then Lightning McQueen. And then Abigail Breslin and the little yellow VW that could. It’s all kind of cute. Just kind of.

9:02pm – And now’s it’s Chris, our host…ABC’s red carpet people are really quite boring, let’s face it. We open with Leo! Chris looks fat. Continue reading


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Talkin’ Oscar: 79th Annual Academy Awards Predictions

79th Annual

Academy Award Predictions

After besting the Elder earlier this year in our Nominations Predictions, I think I might be in more trouble here. While I’m great at reading buzz about nominees in major categories, I am decidedly less good when things open up into the technical categories. It’s all a bit of a gamble even in the major categories this year (some of them anyways) so I’m really sticking my neck out there.

And, perhaps I should look back to my predictions for nominees where I took some risks that paid off, because after completing this predictions I notice that I’m not taking too many risks. My “Dark Horse” candidates are even quite predictable, and I don’t appear to be sticking my neck out much further than I have to. Still, I don’t think I’m towing the line too much, so here’s hoping for some disagreement and some surprises come Sunday night.

Best animated short film


For the Animated Shorts, which most of us might not see in any capacity, Animation World Network has been kind of enough to develop an Oscar Showcase with clips and information on each of the shorts. Click on each nominee to view their page, and load up the clip to see them for yourself.

Now, let’s face it: A majority of people have not seen these shorts outside of No Time for Nuts, which was featured on the Ice Age 2: The Meltdown DVD this fall, and The Little Matchgirl which was featured on the Little Mermaid DVD but likely watched by less kiddies. While this could in fact put ICe Age in a position to win, I also think that it’s a little bit too simple in its execution, almost too child-focused. Lifted has much the same problem (as most Pixar shorts do. While I believe that all of them have a chance, I’m going to go with Disney’s The Little Matchgirl. It signals Disney’s return to the original short arena (If we view Destino as not entirely original but rather adapter) and deals with some interesting subject matter.

Prediction: The Little Matchgirl

Dark Horse: The Danish Poet

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Adriana Barraza – BABEL
Cate Blanchett – NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Jennifer Hudson – DREAMGIRLS
Rinko Kikuchi – BABEL

While technically Breslin or Blanchett could sneak in here, Jennifer Hudson has done far too good a job transitioning into her new role as an actress. TV performances, appearances, red carpets: through them all she has appeared poised, mature and humble. With a much-talked about performance and a recognizable story for people to follow, she’s almost the perfect storm Oscar nominee. Everything came together, none of the possible problems popped up, and she’ll be taken seriously before and after her Academy Award win.

Prediction: Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls)

Dark Horse: Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Jackie Earle Haley – LITTLE CHILDREN
Djimon Hounsou – BLOOD DIAMOND
Eddie Murphy – DREAMGIRLS
Mark Wahlberg – THE DEPARTED

This is an incredibly tough category to call, perhaps the most difficult out of the acting categories, purely because of the “old guy” factor. With apologies to Alan Arkin, who I enjoyed during his brief screen time in Little Miss Sunshine, I don’t really think that the role is Oscar worthy. Eddie Murphy’s career resurgence signaled by his role in Dreamgirls is a much better story, much more deserving, and yet the Academy could revolt against a performer who has never been considered a “real” actor.

Still, as much as I think Arkin could take this thing, I think that Eddie Murphy has done enough work to be rewarded for his performance. With both SAG and Globes going his way, I don’t see the Academy turning around and giving Arkin this award, especially since I think they’ll be giving one to O’Toole later in the evening.

Prediction: Eddie Murphy

Dark Horse: Alan Arkin

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Penélope Cruz – VOLVER
Helen Mirren – THE QUEEN

There is no competition here. While The Queen will likely go home empty-handed otherwise, Helen Mirren’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II has been an unquestioned sure thing for months. None of the precursors changed this, and anyone in their right mind will select her in their oscar pools.

Prediction: Helen Mirren (The Queen)

Dark Horse: Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada)

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Leonardo DiCaprio – BLOOD DIAMOND
Ryan Gosling – HALF NELSON
Peter O’Toole – VENUS

This is one of those awards that, much like Supporting Actor, there are a lot of factors at play. On one hand, Whitaker has taken most of the precursors (Including both the SAG and Globes) and is generally well-liked, humble, all of that jazz. However, he’s up against two candidates with more pedigree, more prestige if you will. O’Toole is old, beloved, and has never won despite his lengthy career (Including a snub for Lawrence of Arabia). Leo is young, had huge roles in both Blood Diamond and the Departed, and has been taken very seriously as an actor in recent years.

I think Old and Winless is going to take it this time around, in the end; O’Toole is actually attending the ceremony, he was on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and I think the Academy feels it’s time to give him his due. Whitaker is still in solid position, though I think I’ll have Leo as my Dark Horse, perhaps shooting myself in the foot.

Prediction: Peter O’Toole (Venus)

Dark Horse: Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond)

Achievement in directing


This is Marty’s year. The award is being presented by three of his most famous contemporaries (Spielberg, Lucas, Ford Coppola), and he won the DGA earlier this year. The fact of the matter is that, while there are some strong contenders in the category, The Departed was received well by audiences and critics alike, and there is no candidate to stand against him. Still, the Academy could be real jerks and give it to Eastwood again, but I can only hope they don’t do such a thing.

Prediction: Martin Scorcese (The Departed)

Dark Horse: Paul Greengrass (United 93)

For my prediction for the big one, Best Picture, as well as the rest of the awards: Continue reading

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Talkin’ Oscar: 2007 Academy Awards Extravaganza Preview

That’s right, folks. We’re less than 24 hours away from the event, the extravaganza if you will, and Cultural Learnings is all about informing everyone about who to watch, what will win, and which spoilers to look out for. It’s all about Hollywood’s best (aka Hollywood’s most well represented and advertised) on Sunday night, so I’ll be coming to you with two separate events here on the blog which will be linked below.

First, I’ve posted my entire Oscar predictions on Saturday evening. Then, on Sunday, I’ll be live-blogging from 3rd Floor lounge to bring you all the latest from the awards (So if you want to watch The Amazing Race at 9, you can catch up here at Cultural Learnings). It’s an epic dual-post extravaganza that starts tonight, so stay tuned!

Part One: Official Predictions

Part Two: Live Blogging Extravaganza (Coming Sunday Evening!)

The 79th Annual Academy Awards: A Preview

When: 8:30pm EST on ABC (CTV in Canada)

Host: Ellen Degeneres

It’s Ellen’s first time hosting the Oscars, and she’s on a bit of a personal roll at this point. She was sitting front and centre at the Grammys, despite little to no connection to the music world. Her talk show remains buzzworthy, continuing to provide the kind of entertainment that appeals to housewives and younger viewers alike. Unlike Jon Stewart, who drew some political lines in the proverbial Hollywood sands, Ellen is the kind of host eho everyone can get behind with little difficulty. I’m pretty sure most people have even forgotten that she’s gay. Continue reading

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