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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 2, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 09
The Artist dances away with Oscar's top prize
Arts & Entertainment
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The Artist dances away with Oscar's top prize

Hugo, Streep, Dujardin, Spencer, Plummer the night's other winners by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Becoming only the second silent film to win Oscar's highest honor (the other being the very first recipient, Wings, in 1929), The Artist danced away with five Academy Awards at Sunday's 84th annual event winning Best Picture, Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius), Best Actor (Jean Dujardin), Best Original Score, and Best Costume Design. Martin Scorsese's Hugo also took home five awards, cleaning up in the technical categories: Cinematography, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing.

The night's loudest ovation was saved for a somewhat shocked Best Actress winner Meryl Streep, winning her third Academy Award for portraying Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady out of 17 total nominations and her first victory since 1983's Sophie's Choice. Everyone, including perceived The Help frontrunner Viola Davis, jumped to their feet to loudly cheer Oscar's most honored performer, Streep doing her best to keep her typical self-effacing calm. First thanking her husband, then fellow Oscar winner and longtime go-to makeup artist Roy Helland (who won earlier in the evening along with collaborator Mark Coulier), Streep composed herself to proclaim, 'This is such a great honor, but the thing that counts the most to me is the love and the joy we have shared making movies together.'

Christopher Plummer became the Academy's oldest Oscar recipient at the age of 82, winning Best Supporting Actor for his work in Beginners, noting he was only two years younger than the golden man himself during his eloquent acceptance speech. '[When] I first emerged from my mother's womb I was already rehearsing my Oscar acceptance speech,' he said with a wink. 'Mercifully for you, I've forgotten it.' Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress honors for The Help, holding back tears onstage as she took it all in. 'I share this with everybody,' she proclaimed proudly. 'Thank you, world.'

The night's most moving acceptance speech arguably belonged to Best Foreign Language Film winner director Asghar Farhadi for A Separation. 'At this time many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy,' he began. 'They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or a filmmaker, but because at the time when talk of war, intimidation, and aggression is exchanged between politicians the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.'

Woody Allen, who (like always) was not in attendance, took home his first Academy Award since 1987's Hannah and Her Sisters for his Original Screenplay for Midnight in Paris, while Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash nabbed Oscars for their work adapting author Kaui Hart Hemmings' The Descendants. Best Animated Feature went to Gore Verbinski for Rango, while Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin, and Rich Middlemas took home the Best Documentary Feature honors for their inspirational high school football saga Undefeated. Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter took home their second consecutive Oscar for Best Editing working for David Fincher on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, while Flight of the Conchords funnyman Bret McKenzie saw The Muppets sing their way to a Best Original Song win for his tune 'Man or Muppet.'

Billy Crystal returned to host the Academy Awards for the ninth time, his first appearance in this capacity since 2004. Once again he showed a command of the stage all other hosts could learn from, the majority of his one-liners right on target, including making fun of the nameless state of the theater thanks to Kodak's bankruptcy, the Los Angeles Times piece on the median age of a Motion Picture Academy member (62) and current world monetary affairs quipping, 'Nothing can take the sting out of the world's economic problems like watching millionaires present each other with golden statues.' On the comedy side, there was also an amusing bit featuring Christopher Guest and his Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show castmates spoofing a potential Wizard of Oz test screening, Fred Willard garnering the majority of the laughs for his insistence the movie needed 'more flying monkeys.'

The 84th Academy Awards were devoid of any real surprises, with almost every category going as the majority of pundits predicted (save for Visual Effects and Actress). With Hugo and The Artist both coming in with the most nominations, it was hardly a shock to see them rack up the majority of the wins. Excising performances by the Best Original Song nominees, keeping film clip montages to a minimum, and including not a single interpretive dance sequence (although there was a rather forgettable performance by Cirque du Soleil) helped ensure a relatively quick running time, with the show coming to a close just three hours and eight minutes after it began.

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