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Writers and Stewart pull off Oscars

Cassie Belek | Monday, February 25, 2008

For the record, I love the Oscars. Wait, that’s an understatement. I’m obsessed with the Oscars. Which is why even though the Sunday night telecast was a tad underwhelming, I’m not going to say I was disappointed. Jon Stewart was much more at ease than last time, we had some wonderful victory speeches and the In Memoriam montage made me cry again.

In fact, everything that went wrong with the Oscars I’m going to blame on the fact that they only had 11 days to write the telecast due to the writers’ strike. So kudos to writer Bruce Vilanch (that’s right) and host Jon Stewart for making it happen.

I’ll admit that I was a little harsh on Stewart two years ago, but he made me proud this time around. My favorite joke came when he was commenting on all the dark themes and psychopathic killers present in this year’s nominations. He quipped, “All I can say is thank God for teen pregnancy.” Adding that the country “needed that kind of light-hearted fare.”

The ceremony was once again heavy on the montages, but since I love old movies so much I always enjoy those. Stewart gave us a taste of what an even more montage-heavy night would have been like if the writers’ strike hadn’t ended. We saw snippets of “Oscar’s Salute to Binoculars and Periscopes” and “Bad Dreams: An Oscar Salute.” Was I the only one who wanted to see more?

Stewart kept the jokes coming when he gave a little tribute to the acting skills of Cate Blanchett, saying that she had played a queen, a man and although it was a little known secret, the pitbull in “No Country for Old Men.” The “Daily Show” anchor even played Wii on the giant screen with the 11-year-old girl who sang “Raise it Up,” nominated for Best Song.

Speaking of Best Song, I have to admit that the performances from “Enchanted” were disappointing and awkward. Poor Amy Adams did a brilliant job singing “Happy Working Song,” but it was just her, alone onstage. The song loses some of its charm when the CGI rats and cockroaches are missing.

But the classiest moment of the evening and of recent Oscar history came after “Falling Slowly” won the category. Glen Hansard got to give his thanks, but right as co-writer Marketa Irglova stepped to the microphone, the orchestra cut her off. Stewart saved the day when after the commercial break, he escorted Irglova onstage so she could have her Oscar moment. She said, “This is such a big deal, not only for us, but for all other independent musicians and artists that spend most of their time struggling, and this, the fact that we’re standing here tonight, the fact that we’re able to hold this, it’s just to prove no matter how far out your dreams are, it’s possible.”

Unsurprisingly, the presenters didn’t offer much entertainment this year. Jennifer Garner didn’t slip this time and when presenting the award for Best Makeup, Katherine Hiegl stated how nervous she was and said “I’m not very good at this.” She could have fooled me since she’s famous and everything for acting and being composed under pressure. Maybe she suddenly became aware of how heavy her bronzer was. Nevertheless “La Vie en Rose” won the category, and as soon as I saw the joy on Marion Cotillard’s face, I wanted her to win Best Actress.

It was an unusual year for Oscar because all four acting awards went to Europeans. Javier Bardem (Spanish) won Best Supporting Actor for “No Country for Old Men,” Tilda Swinton (British) won Best Supporting Actress for “Michael Clayton,” Marion Cotillard (French) won Best Actress for “La Vie en Rose” and Daniel Day-Lewis (British) won Best Actor for “There Will Be Blood.”

I’ve got to say, though, that those Europeans sure do know how to give an acceptance speech. In his speech, Bardem joked, “Thank you to the Coens for being crazy enough to think that I could do that and put one of the most horrible haircuts in history over my head.” He then spoke in his native tongue, dedicating his award to his mother, grandparents and Spain.

Swinton, who won in a category that was still wide-open by the time the awards began on Sunday, wished Oscar a happy birthday and said, “…and George Clooney, you know, the seriousness and the dedication to your art, seeing you climb into that rubber bat suit from ‘Batman & Robin,’ the one with the nipples, every morning under your costume, on the set, off the set, hanging upside-down at lunch, you rock, man.”

Backstage, Swinton explained that she was just ribbing Clooney as usual. For me, it was nice seeing someone remind Clooney that however big he gets, he’ll always be the guy who wore the nipple suit.

Cotillard became the Oscar sweetheart of the evening after beating expected winner Julie Christie. The French actress in the much-debated fish-inspired dress beamed as she said, “Thank you life, thank you love, and it is true, there is some angels in this city.” I personally think we need more people like Cotillard to remind us that sometimes, Hollywood is magical. She had me in tears.

Other awards on Sunday went to expected winners Diablo Cody for Best Original Screenplay for “Juno” and Joel and Ethan Coen for Best Adapted Screenplay for “No Country for Old Men.” When accepting the Oscar, Ethan simply said, “We, uh…Thank you very much.” Later, when the brothers won Best Director, Ethan joked, “I don’t have a lot to add to what I said earlier. Thank you.”

“No Country for Old Men” took home the top prize of the evening, racking up four total wins. “The Bourne Ultimatem” ended up winning three Oscars for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Film Editing. As happy as I was for the action film that many believed should have been in the Best Picture category, my heart broke in half for poor Kevin O’Connell, the Susan Lucci of the Oscars. O’Connell, nominated for sound mixing for “Transformers,” lost for the 20th time on Sunday. Three hours after he lost last year for “Apocalypto,” his mother passed away. Then backstage, the winner for “Dreamgirls” insulted him. The guy can’t catch a break, but here’s to next year Kevin.

So there you have it. Nothing too spectacular, but nothing too terrible. We had no Cuba Cooding, Jr. moments or streakers running across the stage, but Oscar’s 80th birthday was still a good time. It was a celebration of the end of the writers’ strike, something that Stewart liked to call “makeup sex.” Sadly, the awards season is over. Now let’s get ready for next year.

The views expressed in Scene & Heard are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Cassie Belek at [email protected]