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Far from perfect Oscar telecast still entertaining

By Noah Redfield, Staff Writer

After a long, nail-biting day of shady deals and backstabbing between Cablevision and ABC, the warring companies reached an agreement just in time to bring us a long, nail-biting evening of shady deals and backstabbing in Hollywood.

Yes, another Oscar season has been and gone, and while the ceremony was a largely predictable affair, it was still fascinating as always to watch an auditorium full of narcissistic celebrities and studio executives take yet another self-portrait illustrating cinema meant in 2009.

Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin delivered one riotous one-liner after another with their dual job as hosts. Unfortunately, their performance was so entertaining that I found myself wishing they had more to do. Whereas Ellen DeGeneres interacted with nominees directly and Hugh Jackman turned the entire format into his own personal stage, Martin and Baldwin were more or less chilling out and occasionally making funnies.

Of course, the biggest laugh of the night came from Ben Stiller's obligatory make-up catastrophe as he took on the persona of a Na'Vi so demented that he looked like he had been left on James Cameron's cutting-room floor and then crawled into one of David Lynch's happier dreams.

Meanwhile in the speech department, Christoph Waltz delivered another in a string of beautifully-crafted poetic acceptances, Sandra Bullock was her typically charming and self-deprecating self, Jeff Bridges captivated everyone with the most humble, gracious and downright moving speech of the night, and costume designer Sandy Powell made millions of viewers want to kick that smug look off her ice-cold slab of a face the second she opened her stupid mouth.

Producers Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic did their best to keep the ceremony as entertaining and snappy as possible, albeit with mixed results. Early on, it occasionally felt rushed with presenters reading out the nominees like infomercial announcers. This should have cut down the running time significantly but it still managed to drag itself on until midnight. It didn't help that they refused to give out the two Lead Actor trophies without repeating the nominees about a billion times.

Bloggers had been calling it a title-fight between indie sleeper "The Hurt Locker" and mega-budget extravaganza "Avatar," with "Inglourious Basterds" as the wild card. It was simplistically branded a David and Goliath match despite the fact that even the king of the world himself, James "Big-Head" Cameron, was openly rooting for ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow to win her well-deserved Best Director Oscar and make history as the first woman ever to take home the award.

In the end, "The Hurt Locker" went home with 6 out of 9 Oscars, proving that while Hollywood still has a soft spot for the little indie film that has been lifted out of obscurity and has taken the zeitgeist by storm. It also indicated that the people are finally ready to consider the Iraq War through the looking-glass of the cinema.

While the show was far from perfect, it still managed to entertain and keep me interested and entertained despite its typically overlong running time. Those of you disappointed by any of the results would do well to remember the myriad mistakes the Academy has made over the years. Once the cinematic crimes start to sink in, you can stop taking the snubs personally and just enjoy the spectacle for what it is: An overblown ass-kissing session that just happens to give us one night of the year upon which the glorious art form that is cinema seems to matter.

 

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