Freeheld stumbles over too many hurdles to recommend it. The film’s heart is in the right place, but its focus is not.
List of the 83rd Annual Academy Award winners announced Sunday:
1. Best Picture: "The King's Speech."
2. Actor: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech."
5. Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter."
6. Directing: Tom Hooper, "The King's Speech."
7. Foreign Language Film: "In a Better World," Denmark.
9. Original Screenplay: David Seidler, "The King's Speech."
10. Animated Feature Film: "Toy Story 3."
11. Art Direction: "Alice in Wonderland" (2010).
12. Cinematography: "Inception."
13. Sound Mixing: "Inception."
14. Sound Editing: "Inception."
15. Original Score: "The Social Network," Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
16. Original Song: "We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3," Randy Newman.
17. Costume Design: "Alice in Wonderland."
18. Documentary Feature: "Inside Job."
19. Documentary (short subject): "Strangers No More."
20. Film Editing: "The Social Network."
21. Makeup: "The Wolfman."
22. Animated Short Film: "The Lost Thing."
23. Live Action Short Film: "God of Love."
24. Visual Effects: "Inception."
"The King's Speech" spoke loudly and clearly at the 2011 Academy Awards, winning for best picture, actor, director and original screenplay. Though it led with 12 nominations, it failed to put together a sweep, as the voters spread their honors more widely than in most years.
The film tied with "Inception" with four awards apiece, and "The Social Network" was close behind with three. But "The King" got four of the most important five it was nominated for, another achievement for its distribution chief, Harvey Weinstein, who has an unequaled list of Oscar wins in recent years.
Colin Firth's Oscar for "The King's Speech" was perhaps the most expected of the evening, a safe choice but not undeserved. His speech was calm and reserved, as befits royalty, but his voice placed a special emphasis when he mentioned screenwriter David Seidler, whose own experiences with stuttering inspired the film.
Also expected, Natalie Portman's victory as best actress for "Black Swan." She just plain made me feel good while she glowed during her acceptance speech. I've been watching her since she was 14, and she had the gift right from the beginning. It must have something to do with character.
Tom Hooper, best director winner for "The King's Speech," thanked his mother in the audience for attending a dramatic reading of a London workshop production of "The King's Speech" and calling him to say: "Tom, I think I've found your next film." His win was more or less preordained after he won the Directors Guild Award, usually an accurate predictor.
"My father always said I'd be a late bloomer," said David Seidler, 73, of "The King's Speech," the oldest ever winner of best original screenplay Oscar, and the best speaker up until then in the ceremony. He accepted "on behalf of the stutterers of the world — we have a voice," and added, "I would like thank her Majesty the Queen for not putting me in the Tower for using the Melissa Leo f-word."
No mention of the Weinstein Company's decision to release a PG-13 version of the film with the f-words taken out.
Despite the many worthy nominated films, the Oscarcast was painfully dull, slow, witless, and hosted by the ill-matched James Franco and Anne Hathaway. She might have made a delightful foil for another partner, but Franco had a deer-in-the-headlights manner and read his lines robotically.
Incredibly, when former host Billy Crystal came onstage about two hours into the show, he got the first laughs all evening. This was the worst Oscarcast I've ever endured. It's time for the Board of Governors to have a long, sad talk with itself.
At one point I tweeted: "If Bruce Vilanch is within 50 miles of the Kodak Pavilion, they should helicopter his ass backstage and put him to work." I was quickly put straight. Vilanch, the comedy writer responsible for countless great lines in Oscarcasts past, was a writer on this year's show. Since Franco and Hathaway lacked a single clever line, there must be an untold story.
"Inception," which rolled an entire city back upon itself, rotated rooms on their axis and placed characters in them, deservedly won for special effects. Soon after, "The Social Network" received the film editing Oscar, confirming a trend all night of spreading the prizes around. Since "The Social Network" depended so heavily on the crisp editing of Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, it was a well-deserved award. They began with the complexities of Aaron Sorkin's screenplay, its alternating timelines and fast-talking characters, and made it all play dramatically.
Sorkin picked up the adapted script Oscar for "The Social Network," which is technically correct, because it was based on facts from a book. But the film's dialogue itself, the structure, the energy, the verbal pyrotechnics were all original. It was first of all a writer's picture.
The foreign film Oscar went to Denmark's "In a Better World," an upset, I suppose, although in this category sleepers can win because the voters are required to actually see all the nominees. The film, this year's Golden Globe winner, is set to open April 1 in the United States.
"Inside Job," a powerful attack on the Wall Street fraud that led to the 2008 financial meltdown, won the documentary Oscar. Director Charles Ferguson begun his acceptance speech by pointedly observing that no one has yet gone to jail for those crimes. That got a lot of applause, but the cynic in me suspects that Banksy, the director of the also nominated "Exit Through the Gift Shop," might have gotten even more cheers if he'd turned up in a monkey suit.
"The Fighter" picked up its two Oscars in the supporting acting categories, with Christian Bale and Melissa Leo both victorious. In a rambling speech, Leo dropped the f-bomb. The academy's official transcript reported that she said "[EXPLETIVE DELETED]." The words were helpfully in all capital letters and boldface.
Original score went to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for "The Social Network," an urgent composition that drove the film's headlong momentum. Its strength was to serve the film almost single-mindedly; nobody left humming it, or perhaps even particularly remembering it, but that was a strength. Randy Newman won for the best song Oscar for "We Belong Together," a title that might describe the many of the works that received his 19 previous nominations.
"Alice in Wonderland" won for both costume design and art direction, which is fair enough, because "Alice" begins and ends with the costumes and the look of Wonderland. Tim Burton used them to create one of the unforgettable spaces of the year, save perhaps for the space in "127 Hours."
Almost inevitably, Rick Baker and Rick Dave Elsey took the best makeup prize for "The Wolfman." He who wears the most makeup always wins. The subtle changes in the apparent age of Paul Giamatti's character in "Barney's Version," also nominated, didn't get enough credit. You didn't notice the aging enough, which I think was the idea.
Again, I have to say this was the worst Oscarcast I've seen, and I go back a while. Some great winners, a nice distribution of awards, but the show? Dead. In. The. Water.
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