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New records set at this year’s Academy Awards

Credit: Anabelle Lee Credit: Anabelle Lee

An unusually long rouge rug, a 13.5-inch man coated in gold, millions of dollars worth of diamonds all worn on a single neck: Can it mean anything other than the Oscars?

This year, the film industry’s biggest night came on March 7 when the curtains of Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre opened and 10 nominees for Best Actor and Best Actress all stood on the stage.

After the talented 10 took their seats, Neil Patrick Harris emerged from behind the bandstand to carry out the opening number. The energetic song — “No One Wants to Do It Alone,” a song describing the night’s two hosts as opposed to the usual one — and performances by dancers with feathered fans and a Rockette-style line kick were charming, but lacked a wow-factor, and couldn’t live up to the previous year’s musical number by Hugh Jackman.

Following the musical number, the comedic duo of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin arrived on stage. This pairing was a welcome change, because 1986 was the last time that more than one person hosted the show. The two hosts took jabs at each other, but most of the night was spent picking on the famous faces that were honored.

As hosts, they did exactly what they needed to do: allow those sitting in the chairs for
almost four hours to enjoy themselves in between the occasionally drawn-out acceptance speeches. One example of their joviality involved Steve Martin mentioning “that damn Helen Mirren,” to which Alec Baldwin corrected him, “Dame Helen Mirren.”

There were no water-cooler moments and no promised revolutionary instances this year. Nonetheless, the show garnered 41.62 million viewers, a respectable increase from last year’s 36.94 million.

For the most part, though, the show was like every other year’s, where most people tune into what’s known as “The Big Five.” This quintet of awards includes Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay. (Fun fact: Only three films have won all five awards, delightfully dubbed the “Oscar Grand Slam.”) Awards like Best Documentary Short and Best Sound Mixing don’t hold viewers’ attention.

The award for Best Supporting Actor, going to Christoph Waltz for his role as “the Jew Hunter” in Inglourious Basterds, was not much of a shocker at all. His portrayal was consistently applauded.

The female category also hosted an actress expected to take home the prize: Mo’Nique. Her portrayal of a ruthlessly abusive mother hiding a horrifying story in Precious was met with acclaim from countless critics, and so it was no surprise when she took home the golden statue.

The film Precious was quite popular. Marshall Fine of the Huffington Post described the film as one “that doesn’t shy away from the depth to which human beings can sink.” Not all critics fell in love with the inspiring story, though. A writer for the Daily Telegraph described Precious as “a dispiriting mix of cliché and melodrama.”

Moving on to Best Actress, though all five nominees delivered stunning performances, there were two favorites: Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock. Streep’s role in Julie and Julia was nothing short of her expected greatness; Bullock’s role, however, came among comedic and not-as-incredible portrayals. Thus, Bullock stood out more as an actress, and this, many critics feel, is why she ended up taking home the Oscar. Many also said that Meryl Streep didn’t need another Oscar to prove she’s talented; but others argued that if she is delivering time after time, why not reward her?

Similar to last year’s show, the nominees of the Best Actor and Actress category were announced and commended individually by past co-workers. This allowed all viewers and audience members to look at the potential winners as more than just great actors, but great people and friends as well.

Undoubtedly the biggest change of the night was in the most important category: Best Picture. Not since 1943 has the Best Picture category hosted 10 nominees. So what was the reason for the expansion? Sid Gannis, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, stated in a press conference, “Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going to allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize.”

Regardless of the number of nominees, there will only be two or three serious contenders. For example, Up was one of the most admired movies of the year; but just as everyone agreed it was terrific, everyone also agreed that it had almost no chance of winning the Oscar.

The public raved when Katherine Bigelow was seated just in front of James Cameron — not only were they the brains behind the two most nominated films of the night and the hottest contenders for dozens of awards, but they were once married. Is there a better way to send a message to an ex-husband than to take home the most important award in the industry? Bigelow did just this when The Hurt Locker took home the Oscar for Best Picture

And if you have contributed to the $2.64 billion gross of Avatar, you can most likely agree with this sentiment: so-so story, incredible special effects. Cameron postponed the movie until the necessary technology was available… if that’s not dedication to making the best film possible, what is?

So the great debate came down to whether or not a movie that surpassed the unsurpassable Titanic was worthy of a Best Picture award. There’s probably not a single viewer that could deny calling the visuals “breathtaking.” But is that enough? Its biggest rival was The Hurt Locker, which didn’t gain much nationwide attention until awards season. Even still, it only grossed $25.8 million, less than 10 percent of Avatar’s intake.

Immediately before the winner was revealed, The Hurt Locker’s Katherine Bigelow was handed another Oscar for Best Director. This marked a monumental moment, as she is the first female director to ever receive the award. Not since 2004 with Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby has the Best Director also won the Best Picture.

Overall the Oscars was a night of great success and surprising new advancements. If you’re one of the millions of viewers who tuned it, you truly did witness Hollywood history.