14 Things We Learned From The 2009 Oscars

Besides the mandatory Defensive Driving Class I had to take, The Oscars was the most educational experience of my year so far. Hopefully, you caught the same things I did. Or we’ll have to fight back behind the playground later.
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By  · Published on February 23rd, 2009

Apparently, there was an award show last night, and a ton of people watched it because most of America thought The Dark Knight was nominated for Best Picture. I blame the Film School Reject false information campaign, and the fact that most people in the United States had never, ever seen The Reader or Frost/Nixon.

While watching live from our gorgeous 160-foot yacht (a 30-foot schooner we rented) floating around aimlessly off the Gulf of Mexico, we watched the glamor and circumstance of The 81st Annual Academy Awards. We were also watching from Los Angeles, Boston, Ohio, and other exotic locales. And despite the myriad interpretations and opinions, the anger or relief created, and the threat that there will be another show next year, we learned more than a few things last night – so we’re calling it a victory.

Knowing is half the battle:

14. The Best Picture Winner is Damned if it Sweeps, Damned if it Doesn’t.

Slumdog Millionaire won every award ever last night, and it caused a fairly intense debate between me and several other FSR Oscar Party goers. I was complaining that one film won mostly everything which seems cheap, while two particularly spirited ladies argued that the Best Picture really should showcase the Best Director and Cinematography and Score. Then I realized that neither of us are right – mostly because it’s a subjective topic – and that it means a film like Slumdog can take Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Song, and Best Score which indicates there was only one truly great movie this year, hands down, which seems absurd. But, the only other option is for a film like Crash to take Best Picture and Best Screenplay (but lose for best Director and not even get nominated for most everything else) and seem totally illegitimate as a winner.

13. The Academy Awards Shine a Light on All Aspects that Make Great Film.

We sometimes forget and sometimes don’t have room in reviews for all of the important features a film can offer. Acting, writing, directing and camera work of course, but the costume design, set design, props, sound editing, mixing, visual effects, and make up are crucial elements in the success or failure of a film. If nothing else, this awards show reminds us that there are thousands upon thousands of people working hard for each film to create art.

12. Mickey Rourke is the Human Equivalent of Kung Fu Panda.

Either you were totally surprised when Mickey Rourke lost or you saw the signs coming. Yet, both Rourke and Kung Fu Panda were the major winners of the awards leading up to the Oscars – with Rourke nailing down an Indie Spirit Award just the night before as an exclamation point to his run. Still, there was no one out there thinking Kung Fu Panda would overtake Wall-E for the Oscar, why should you have thought Rourke would overtake Penn? The Comeback Kid and the Panda both won their awards, got their recognition, and then had to sit by politely while the true greats picked up the Oscar.

11. Jessica Biel Thought She was Attending the Fanciest Toga Party in the World.

Seriously. A fashion joke. I know.

10. The Winners Were Boring, But Nothing Was Necessarily Wrong.

This was a tough year without many surprises headed up to the podium (in fact, Neil Miller scored 100% on his Oscar Ballot, something I’ve never seen before). However, even though the entire field of talent was deserving this year, none of the wins was all that shocking. Without that shock, they were sort of boring, but they were all strong winners.

9. The Slumdog Millionaire Score is the Best Score of the Past Five Years.

I’ve said this before, but I suddenly feel the need to back up my claim. I wish I could look at all movies from the past five years, but it will be easier to highlight just a few solid ones. First, we can get The Dark Knight out of the way fast. Yes, it was brooding, but it was flat. It was also overbearing at times and absent when it was needed. A strong spoiler for my five-year theory is Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, but beyond the sweeping grandiose stuff, and a few key intimate notes, the score itself took a backseat to a ton of other elements of the film. Finding Neverland? Brokeback Mountain? Babel? Fairly forgettable scores. Atonement last year had a strong, moving score, but there’s just no comparison to the strength of Slumdog‘s. The score to Slumdog embedded itself so deeply that it propelled scenes, it created atmosphere without taking away focus. It became a character in the film, and that’s exactly what to think of when thinking of a Best Score.

8. “Jai Ho” Won Despite a Possible Vote Split.

There’s always a little tension when a movie has two songs nominated for Best Song or whenever two similar elements go head to head. A house divided can’t stand and all that. So, for “Jai Ho” to win is a testament to its strength even if a few votes were taken by “O Saya” from other Slumdog fans.

7. We Should Have Focused More on Oscar Research Instead of Securing a Boat Rental

The week leading up to the Oscars is usually filled by every website, newspaper, blog, and magazine’s Oscar stuff. Our site was shockingly silent – mostly because you have to sign a lot of triplicate-style forms when trying to rent a boat from a guy named Jasper. Side lesson: Don’t rent a boat from anyone named Jasper.

6. Slumdog Millionaire is Not The Departed or No Country For Old Men.

For several years, the Best Picture nominees list has included a feel-good film, one that resonates strongly in a positive way with audiences. This film almost never wins. Juno and Little Miss Sunshine are the obvious, most recent examples. This year, the feel-good film won. Call it a response to our cultural woes or call it a product of a changing landscape in Hollywood or call it the result of a damned good movie, but it’s important to note that the stark drama didn’t take top prize this year. And yes, I know it’s weird to say Slumdog is a “feel-good” film, but when compared to the Coens and Martin Sheen falling off a building, I’d say it’s downright sunshiney.

5. We Don’t Know Anything About Foreign Films.

We all pretend to play expert on Oscar night – critics and audiences alike – but one thing’s for sure: we should be watching more foreign films. Not many saw Departures taking top prize because all of the buzz was with Waltz With Bashir. Could this be because most people have only seen three or four foreign languages films a year while thousands are being made? Probably.

4. Tina Fey Should Host the Oscars.

It’s not that Hugh Jackman didn’t do a decent job despite not having much stage time, it’s that Tina Fey would do a much better job. Her bit with Steve Martin was excellent, and we’re fairly sure she ended up falling in love with him.

3. Three Years of Hard Work is Nothing Compared to a Bikini

So we got a boat, bought a bunch of booze and a dolphin, and invited some friends to watch the Oscars with us. As it turns out, Neil has worked hard for three years to build this site, and I’ve been working on the same tip for two and a half, but when two attractive brunettes in bikinis steal Neil’s computer (read: Neil drinks one too many Grasshoppers and gives them his computer) and take over the live-blog, they make our silly little website better than it’s ever been instantly.

2. The New Format was Fantastic.

The consensus amongst our party and our liveblog was that the new format actually worked. There are a few catches though. First, I’m fairly sure that it only would have worked this year. By having former winners introduce the nominees, all of the nominees were paid homage to in equal measure – they were all winners in a way. But this year was odd in that every nominee delivered an incredibly note-worthy performance. Not every year will be that way, and when it’s not, it’ll be awkward. Plus, if there’s something the producers of the show should learn, it’s that shaking things up every year would be a good thing. The new format becomes the old format as the credits roll. Keep us on our toes by changing the game again next year.

1. The Dark Knight Wouldn’t Have Won Anyway.

Stop whining. All the fanboys too stubborn to watch the awards last night missed out on a very crucial lesson. It was Slumdog‘s year, and no film, not even one with a crazed madman fighting a man in a bat-suit, was going to steal its night. The Dark Knight was nominated for eight Oscars and won two (one of them being Ledger’s inevitable win). There’s no way with a lack of momentum like that, that it even deserved to be nominated for Best Picture. Even if it did, and even if it was, there was just no beating Slumdog. Pour one out for TDK, watch it again on DVD, but debate time is over.


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