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Oscars 2012: Meryl wins election in a landslide for the silent age | reviews, news & interviews

Oscars 2012: Meryl wins election in a landslide for the silent age

Oscars 2012: Meryl wins election in a landslide for the silent age

Streep's victory brings energy and emotion to a bland 84th Academy Awards

Silence is golden: 'The Artist' cleans up

Maybe it was host Billy Crystal at far from peak form. Or a surfeit of cringe-making shtick by too many presenters, including the distaff principals of Bridesmaids. Or the desperation that clung to the multiple on-air tributes to an art form whose very being was celebrated in the evening’s two major winners, Hugo and The Artist. But my God did the 84th annual Academy Awards need Meryl Streep by the time The Iron Lady was called to the stage as Best Actress in the penultimate award of the evening.

I say that not just because Streep’s trophy for playing Margaret Thatcher – a surprise in a town that for weeks had been tipping The Help’s Viola Davis to take that category – unleashed a volume of cheers from the audience that seemed to catch the veteran nominee genuinely off guard in her first actual win in 29 years

But the outpouring of affection afforded Streep sent an 11th-hour surge of energy coursing through an otherwise bland and uninspiring show. Even the red carpet, at least in the live coverage offered on Sky, missed out on the fun by focusing not on Sacha Baron Cohen in the guise of his forthcoming screen character in The Dictator or the arrival of Uggie (pictured below, accepting an Oscar), The Artists headline-making pooch. Instead, we were treated to a roll call of actresses (Rooney Mara, Rose Byrne, Gwyneth Paltrow) so interchangeably emaciated that they seemed to be vanishing in front of our eyes. All of which offered another reason for Streep to feel like a class act, her self-deprecation at the podium notwithstanding. The woman sparkles, whether or not attired in the gold dress on view at an occasion at which she managed this time to stay in her shoes.

The prevailingly lacklustre feel of the evening pointed up a serious Oscar bind. Go the putative-hipster route, as the show did last year by offering James Franco and Anne Hathaway as comperes, and you look as if you are trying too hard. On the other hand, Crystal’s ninth go-round as Oscar’s main man merely made one hearken back to the comic’s glory days, next to which his efforts this year looked comparatively pallid. (An exception: his appearance as Tintin in the opening monologue in which, as per the Crystal norm, he was folded into an array of defining scenes from the film year just gone during which, yes, he got to kiss George Clooney.)

The first half of the evening promised a Hugo sweep that in fact didn’t happen, Martin Scorsese’s tribute to the birth of celluloid scooping up five technical awards until the cinematic paean to itself that is The Artist took over in the second half to score five trophies of its own, three of them in the crucial categories of Best Picture, Actor, and Director. Their Gallic charm by now well-practised on the pre-Oscar circuit, both Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin made the ooh-la-la most of their every trip to the podium, the odd “formidable” peppering the sorts of tributes to Hollywood that are necessary to ensure that the two men don’t become one-hit wonders in the manner of Roberto Benigni. (Whatever became of him?)

And copping the Supporting Actor prize for Beginners for which he had been touted all season, Christopher Plummer spoke with the ready elegance and wit of the classical thesp that he is. “You’re only two years older than me, darling,” noted the 82-year-old Plummer, addressing his statuette directly. “Where have you been all my life?” His composure in the moment contrasted neatly with Supporting Actress winner, The Help’s Octavia Spencer, who managed to thank (among others) the state of Alabama before dissolving into tears with the admission that she was “freaking out”.

 

In other categories, A Separation’s Asghar Farhadi eloquently dedicated his Foreign Film Oscar to the Iranian citizenry, "a people who respect all countries and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment." Documentary winner TJ Martin, of the film Undefeated, took a rather more blunt approach, letting slip the phrase “fucking amazing” – though it was unclear whether Melissa Leo, last year’s deliverer of the F-bomb and back this year as presenter, was responsible for the ultimate American television no-no via a sort of expletive-prone osmosis.

One couldn’t help but notice that presenter Angelina Jolie wears thigh-high black velvet with spectacular confidence

Frankly, a few more choice words might have enlivened a ceremony that devoted way too much time to wasting time – a series of inane set pieces for presenters that included ill-advised documentary-related banter for Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow, for instance, or a lengthy Cirque du Soleil aerial ballet that took its cue from, of all unlikely sources, Cary Grant in North by Northwest. Cue surge in Las Vegas ticket sales for the acrobatic troupe's ongoing shows there.

I could have done without various actors sounding off in pre-taped interviews on one or another aspect of the movies, even if it was scarily fascinating to discover that Reese Witherspoon’s favourite film happens to be the 1987 Kurt Russell/Goldie Hawn collaboration, Overboard. (Someone send Witherspoon a DVD of Citizen Kane, and fast!) One couldn’t help but notice that Supporting Actor nominee Nick Nolte seems to have morphed into Mickey Rourke and that presenter Angelina Jolie wears thigh-high black velvet with spectacular confidence. “Who needs an Oscar,” one could imagine Best Actor also-ran Brad Pitt musing, “when I have her?”

But by the time a not-especially-long ceremony wound down, it felt strangely as if this year’s Oscars had never really begun. Could it be that “Hollywood’s biggest night”, as the event is ceaselessly billed, needs a complete make-over? That could well be. To take a leaf from Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher, it’s time to get to work.

Overleaf: complete list of the winners

 

The Oscar winners

 

  • Best Cinematography: Robert Richardson (Hugo)
  • Best Art Direction: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schavo (Hugo)
  • Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges (The Artist)
  • Best Makeup: Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland (The Iron Lady)
  • Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation
  • Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (The Help)
  • Best Editing: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)
  • Best Sound Editing: Phillip Stockton and Eugene Gearty (Hugo)
  • Best Sound Mixing: Tom Fleischman and John Midgley (Hugo)
  • Best Documentary: Undefeated
  • Best Animated Feature: Rango
  • Best Visual Effects: Hugo
  • Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  • Best Original Score: Ludovic Bource (The Artist)
  • Best Original Song: Bret McKenzie, “Man or Muppet” (The Muppets)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Descendants)
  • Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
  • Best Live Action Short: The Shore
  • Best Documentary Short: Saving Face
  • Best Animated Short: The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr Morris Lessmore
  • Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
  • Best Actor: Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
  • Best Actress: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
  • Best Film: The Artist

'Man or Muppet': watch the Best Original Song

 

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