Cinema Autopsy on the 82nd Academy Awards ceremony and winners

9 March 2010

The Hurt Locker

There were very few surprises this year at the Oscars and I was able to correctly predict 12 out of the 20 awards. Although Avatar is still my preferred film of all the films nominated it is very hard to begrudge The Hurt Locker cleaning up, including winning the Best Motion Picture and Best Director awards. Those two awards finally recognise director Kathryn Bigelow’s incredible talent as a filmmaker, not to mention making her the first Oscar-winning female director.

I felt that the rest of the awards all seemed mostly deserved or justified with the exception of The Young Victoria winning Best Costume Design and Sandra Bullock winning Best Actress for The Blind Side. However, in both cases the acceptance speeches won me over and I stopped grumbling. Despite her bizarrely ungracious attitude, Best Costume Design award winner Sandy Powell expressed my frustrations that period films like The Young Victoria usually win such awards while smaller films that are not about “dead monarchs or glittery musicals” get overlooked.

Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side

I’ve never had anything against Sandra Bullock (despite disliking so many of her films) but I really didn’t want her to win Best Actress mainly because I reacted so badly to The Blind Side. However, Bullock’s acceptance speech was generous, heartfelt, humble and funny so I think she earned herself a lot of credibility in that moment. I do believe that newcomers Carey Mulligan in An Education and Gabourey Sidibe in Precious were nevertheless more deserving but they’ll have lots more shots at the award in the future.

As for the actual ceremony, there was a sincere and moving tribute to the late John Hughes, there was a pretty good attempt and demonstrating what sound editing and sound mixing actually are and Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin provided more laughs  as hosts than It’s Complicated did in its entirety. It was actually a really enjoyable ceremony and the only dud aspect was that there was no time for a clip montage of cinematography nominees or for each nominated  Best Original Song to be played but there was apparently time for an interpretative dance routine to each piece of music nominated for Best Musical Score.

Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart

On a final note, how great was it to see Jeff Bridges win Best Actor for Crazy Heart and then do that speech where he sounded like he was going to suddenly transform into The Dude in front of our eyes?

There’s a full list of all the winners on the official Oscars website.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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Film review – Crazy Heart (2009)

18 February 2010
Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges)

Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges)

Former country music star Bad Blake is a character who is living the sort of life that is so often sung about in his chosen music genre. He’s 57, doing third-rate gigs, smoking too much, drinking too much and basically all washed up. While his former protégée Tommy Sweet has vastly overtaken him professionally Bad barely keeps it together by rehashing old songs from his back catalogue to his small, aging but still devoted fans scattered around country USA. Crazy Heart initially evokes Bruce Beresford’s 1983 Tender Mercies due to the strong similarities between the settings and the films’ leading characters but it is a superior film.

Jeff Bridges gives the performance of his career as Bad. It’s a part that Bridges has been building up to for years while playing various down-and-out heroes and indeed Bad Blake is not too dissimilar to the jazz pianist character he played in the The Fabulous Baker Boys. Such a character could easily be dislikeable but Bridges gives him a cranky charm and sweet sadness. He is frazzled, lives like a slob and very grumpy but the shine in Bridge’s eyes and the cracks in his voice make us love him.

Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) and Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal)

The entire cast of Crazy Heart is excellent including Colin Farrell as Tommy Sweet and Robert Duvall as Bad’s old friend Wayne. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jean, a young divorcee who comes into Bad’s life, and it is wonderful to see a strong female character that is allowed to be both emotional and resilient. The development of Bad and Jean’s relationship is one of the many aspects of Crazy Heart that feels incredibly sincere and genuine. Rather than adhering to the sort of classical Hollywood narrative structure that we are accustomed to seeing in such films, Crazy Heart adopts an authenticity that raises it above what could have been a generic tale of redemption.

Then there are the sensational songs, many of which are performed by Bridges and Farrell, written for the film by T Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton. The music performed in Crazy Heart actually becomes more engaging and sophisticated during the course of the film as the characters move from performing songs that are reliable old favourites to trying out more emotive and complex material. You don’t need to be a country music fan to enjoy Crazy Heart but there is a good chance you will become one afterwards thanks to this gracefully restrained and sweet drama.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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