Essays · Movies

Oscar 2006: A Final Analysis

By  · Published on March 6th, 2006

The 78th Annual Academy Awards have been complete for just over 24 hours by now, but the effects of Sunday’s events have and will continue to resonate in my mind for a long time. All the hype, all the spectacle, all the predictions. They were all completely obliterated as the winners were announced one by one, eventually drawing closure to one of the most surprising years in film with the most surprising Oscars in recent history.

Leading into the ceremonies all of the talk was centered around one film: Brokeback Mountain. And rightfully so, as Brokeback was arguably one of the most controversial and emotional stories that Hollywood has produced in a long time. The performances within the film were all deserving of an Oscar and the film had served as Ang Lee’s great memoriam to love. In short, Brokeback Mountain seemed to have things well in hand, and was primed to take home a lot of little golden statues.

This unfortunately, was a concept that seemed to be lost on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. While Brokeback came away from the night winning 3 awards (Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score) it failed to bring home any of the most expected wins. Heath Ledger was denied the Best Actor win, and rightfully so, by the amazing performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote. Jake Gyllenhaal, who was an underdog in the Best Supporting Actor category, could not overtake George Clooney’s performance in Syrianna. And last but not least the absolute most jaw-dropping surprise of the night was the moment when Crash snuck away with the Best Picture Oscar.

Overall I felt that this year’s Oscar Ceremony displayed, in its entirety, a very independent and irreverent spirit. The Academy did not follow suit to what the critics had been saying all year, and I believe the best performances were truly recognized. Brokeback was an amazing film in so many respects, but Crash truly was the best film of the year. Likewise was the fact for the acting categories. Reese Witherspoon’s performance in Walk the Line was electrifying and an absolute beauty to behold. Her on-screen chemistry with Joaquin Phoenix was sincere and endearing, and her singing voice was a welcome surprise as she nailed the very unique style of June Carter. And while her co-star Phoenix did not win for his portrayal of Johnny Cash, the award did find its way into the hands of the most astounding embodiment of any character that I have ever seen, that in the performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote. While some people will always write Hoffman off as a quirky and slightly unoriginal talent, I believe he is by far the most versatile man on screen today. All in all, the awards were very much a true reflection of Hollywood’s best of the year, rather than a bunch of films whose bark was mightier than their bite.

And when you add to that the very classy and humorous hosting job done by Jon Stewart, you get one of the finest Oscar ceremonies in the last 20 years. As I sat watching the presentation, I couldn’t help but think that Jon Stewart could possibly be the next Billy Crystal and host the Oscars for many years to come. So many expected him to be over the top, too political, or possibly raunchy but he stunned the crowd with great timing, reverence and humility. And while his night was memorable, no one will be able to forget some of the follies that ensued: Lauren Bacall came on stage only to appear to be either confused or severely under the influence of something non-organic; Jennifer Garner almost took a spill onto her pregnant behind; and last but not least was the very enthusiastic acceptance speech by members of Three 6 Mafia for their win of the Best Song Oscar.

If it weren’t for the afore mentioned factors this year’s Oscar ceremonies may have been completely forgettable, or even routine. But while so many outsiders continue to say that Hollywood is losing touch with society more and more with each passing day, I for one am ready to admit that I believe they are just starting to get things right.

And now for a little bit of Oscar Night Recap, in a cheeky and fun manner. Here are some of my favorites from the broadcast of the 78th Academy Awards:

Best Acceptance Speech
George Clooney for Best Supporting Actor
Clooney’s speech was not only heartfelt, but incredibly humble. It included a dash of humor, a pinch of homage to his fellow nominees, and even a tad bit of political insight. He was not Michael Moore, but his message was genuine. The easy runner up for this one was Three 6 Mafia, just because.

Most Deserved Award
Reese Witherspoon for Best Actress
I need not continue to dwell on how spectacular her performance was, but I cannot say that there was a more appropriate candidate for any award this entire year than Reese. It would have been depressing if she had not won.

Biggest Surprise of the Night
Crash beating Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture
Is there any more to say about this one? Brokeback had all the cards stacked in its corner and Crash came out of almost nowhere. Well, it would have been nowhere save for the fact that anyone who had seen both films objectively could say that Crash was the better film.

Best Presenter
Ben Stiller’s presentation of the Best Visual Effects award was absolutely hilarious. It had me almost to the brink of wetting myself. And while he did not “blow Spielberg’s mind” as he had intended, I believe that he lit up the stage the most of any presenter.

Best Host Joke of the Evening
Jon Stewart’s follow up to the Three 6 Mafia Oscar win that momentarily turned the Oscars into the Vibe awards: “Look out Itzak Perlman, Three 6 Mafia is backstage. They may have to have a dreidel off.”

Best Montage
The memorial to all of the fallen members of the film family. It is truly amazing, as it is every year, to see what great and legendary talent is lost. They will all be missed, but none more than the man whose image closed the montage, the late great Richard Prior.

Worst Montage
The montage about epic films. Could there have possibly been a more irrelevant moment in the entire evening? None of the Best Picture nominees were really epics, nor were any of the other great films of the year. It would have been more appropriate to do a montage that showed off the independent spirit of this past year in film, or even the theme of great biopics, or better yet the controversial nature of film. This one just did not fit if you ask me.

And I am spent… This concludes our coverage of this year’s Academy Awards week here at Film School Rejects. Thanks for reading.

Tags: Oscar, Oscars, Academy Awards, Analysis, Jon Stewart, Lauren Bacall, Brokeback Mountain, Crash, Film, Cinema, Hollywood, George Clooney

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)