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Academy Awards recap

Maija Gustin | Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards was a night lacking surprises. “The King’s Speech” took home major awards, the Academy continued to rush people off the stage by playing music during their acceptance speeches and Billy Crystal remained the funniest man alive when inside the Kodak Theatre.

This year’s ceremonies, though, felt distinctly different than their predecessors. In an effort to draw in a larger, younger audience, James Franco and Anne Hathaway co-hosted the event. The two made no effort to hide this, frequently referring to the new hip Oscars. There was even an Autotune video with clips from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” “Toy Story 3,” “The Social Network” and “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” to amuse any young viewers. Their parents, though, and most of the audience were probably just left feeling confused.

The 2011 Oscars weren’t all about being hip and youthful, though. The ceremony paid homage to days gone by with clips, references and montages from past hallmark winners, including “Gone with the Wind,” the blockbuster hit “Titanic” and The Lord of the Rings. This year’s ceremonies handled the Academy Awards history with care, using these films as testaments to cinematic achievement and as examples that influenced the contemporary films honored that night.

Hathaway and Franco gave their best effort to add a little youthful energy to the show. Their opening clip, a film montage in which they travel through Alec Baldwin’s dreams to get tips on hosting the Oscars, was a fantastic way to start the night. However, from there their overly-scripted dialogue became stunted at best. The two lacked any serious chemistry, but played off each other fairly well.

Franco has excellent comedic timing and an amazing dead face, but Hathaway became a little over-eager at times. She could take a few pointers from the more laid-back Franco. However, her outfits were incredible and her solo singing number wasn’t half bad, though she is still no Hugh Jackman.

In the major categories, Melissa Leo dropped the F-bomb while accepting the Best Supporting Actress award for “The Fighter.” The time-delay at ABC saved America’s audiences from hearing it, and Leo seemed genuinely shocked that it slipped out.

Christian Bale gave a charming acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor for “The Fighter” in which he referenced his past mistakes with that same F-bomb but ended with an endearing note to his daughter.

Aaron Sorkin gave one of the best speeches of the night for Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Social Network,” talking right through the orchestra’s efforts to kick him off the stage while David Seidler’s speech was heartfelt and hysterical for Best Original Screenplay for “The King’s Speech.” Lee Unkrich’s speech for “Toy Story 3” for Best Animated Feature was similarly heartwarming.

For someone who just won an acting award, Natalie Portman gave a surprisingly jumbled acceptance speech for Best Actress for “Black Swan.” However, something about her pregnancy glow makes her endlessly charming. Colin Firth, on the other hand, was both giddy and understated in his Best Actor speech for “The King’s Speech.” His charm is never-ending.

The biggest upset of the night came in the Best Director category, when Tom Hooper won for “The King’s Speech.” Many thought that David Fincher would win for “The Social Network,” but Hooper certainly deserved the achievement. In a night of shout-outs to mom, his was the best.

“The King’s Speech” won the big prize at the end of the night, Best Picture. The Academy topped off an incredible awards season for the British film that has swept the world up in its story.

So while the tone of the ceremony was different, the point of the Oscars remained the same — honor films and those involved in them with a Hollywood extravaganza. Franco and Hathaway may have tried to draw in the younger audience, but their hosting was only good, not great. In fact, the numbers so far indicate that this year’s Oscar telecast is down in numbers from the last. If they really want to bring in the big numbers, maybe the Academy should just nominate the last Harry Potter film at next year’s awards.