It’s safe to say there wasn’t a single surprise at the 2011 Academy Awards, perhaps the most predictable ceremony in Oscar history, with all the usual suspects taking home gold.
“The King’s Speech” won best picture; Colin Firth, best actor; Natalie Portman, best actress; Aaron Sorkin, adapted screenplay and so on and so forth—the same names we’ve been hearing over and over since January, only tonight they get to finish with the Vanity Fair party.
When did the Oscars get so boring?
Even with all the self-conscious hullabaloo about being “young and hip,” Kirk Douglas and Billy Crystal were about the hippest things on screen tonight, making surprise appearances that added a little spice to an otherwise bland evening.
But since it is tradition, here come the top Oscar moments. All things considered, it was worth three and half hours just to glimpse Mila Kunis’s dress.
1. It was a mother’s night. From hosts James Franco’s and Anne Hathaway’s opening homage to their moms (Franco: “That would be weird if my Mom called me ‘Academy Award winner James Franco’; and Hathaway’s mom: ‘Annie, honey, stand up straight – Mr. Steven Spielberg is here), to best director winner Tom Hooper’s admonition ‘listen to your Mum,’ the woman who advised him to take on ‘King’s Speech.’
2. Kirk Douglas reminds us there was once a golden age of cinema. Introduced as a “living legend” the weekly Talmud student proved age hasn’t lessened his charm. And even at 94, he hasn’t lost his touch with the ladies: “Ms. Hathaway…where were you when I was making pictures?” (Apparently, she was changing her dress). The snowy-haired Douglas got some of the heartiest laughs of the evening, withholding the announcement of best supporting actress: “You know,” he began, futzing with the envelope and looking out to the crowd, “you know… three times and I lost every time!” Unable to resist one last come on, the iconic actor presented Melissa Leo with the supporting actress award and said, “You’re much more beautiful than you were in ‘The Fighter.’” Nonagenarian, married – no matter – the man’s got game.
3. Did I mention Mila Kunis’s dress? (Pronounced ME-luh) A flowy, lavender ensemble that evoked lacy lingerie and classic elegance at the same time. With this, Kunis proved her Russian-Jewish roots are not an ethnic obstacle, but the sultry chops of old Hollywood glamour.
4. Aaron Sorkin wins best adapted screenplay for “The Social Network.” And while his speech didn’t exactly crackle with the wit of “West Wing” dialogue, his uncharacteristic humility was duly noted. Sorkin gave nods to Ben Mezrich, author of the book “The Accidental Billionaires” on which “Social Network” was based; his agent Ari Emanuel, his publicist Joy Fehily, Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal, ‘America’s best living producer’ Scott Rudin and the film’s director, David Fincher, whom Sorkin described as someone of “ungodly artfulness” who “has no business being the nicest guy in the world.” He also thanked Mom and Dad before concluding: “This movie is going to be a source of pride for me everyday for the rest of my life.” Indeed, in a season of many formulaic films, Sorkin has delivered the year’s cinematic zeitgeist.
5. David Seidler turns challenge into triumph with his deeply personal win that came late in life. “For writers, a speech like this is terrifying,” Seidler said, accepting the award for best original screenplay for “The King’s Speech”. “My father always said to me that I would be a late bloomer – I believe I’m the oldest person to win this award—and I hope that trend is broken quickly and often.” Seidler also offered encouragement to others with speech disabilities: “I accept this on behalf of all the stutterers around the world. We have a voice; we have The Academy.”
6. Susanne Bier wins the best foreign film award for her Danish film “In a Better World.” Though her speech was simple and concise, she shared some powerful thoughts with The Journal’s Tom Tugend. Speaking of her film and her heritage, she said: “I felt early on that even in the most secure life, there is always the potential for catastrophe.”
7. During Oprah’s presentation of best documentary to “The Inside Job,” the camera pans to the Coen Brothers, who are not at all paying attention.
8. In a surprise appearance by Billy Crystal, the former (and favorite Oscar host) introduces a clip of Bob Hope hosting the 25th annual awards in which Hope says, “Welcome to the Academy Awards – or as it’s known in my house: Passover.”
9. Natalie Portman wins best actress and does not embarrass herself by promulgating to the world how much her fiancé wants to sleep with her. We get it; you’re pregnant. He likes you. Mazel Tov.
10. Steven Spielberg, the reigning king of Hollywood, announces the best picture Oscar. And even though we’ve known who was going to win since December, we were still hoping for a “Schindler’s List” repeat.