Jay Fingers's Thoughts on the 84th Academy Awards

So, last night the world endured watched the 84th Academy Awards. A lot of people seemed emotionally invested in this year’s Oscars, what with two Black actresses (Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer) up for awards. Plus, this year’s slew of nominees were, overall, of a much higher caliber than in recent years.

Anyway, just wanted to share a few brief thoughts I had about the ceremony and winners:

  • I’m so glad I saw The Artist a week before the ceremony. I’d heard lots about the film prior to seeing it, and I felt it was going to win some awards because of Harvey Weinstein’s heavy Oscar campaigning. But when I saw it, I was blown away. It really is a brilliant film and a beautiful love letter to movies. As the credits rolled, I knew that The Artist would take Best Picture and Director.
  • I was surprised that Jean Dujardin won Best Actor. I didn’t think the Academy would recognize his amazing performance as George Valentin. I honestly thought the awar was going to George Clooney.
  • The Best Actress race was fraught with tension as there was no clear frontrunner. Early on, I’d said either Meryl Streep or Glenn Close would win, but then Viola Davis started picking up steam. In the end, I thought they’d give it to Davis but instead it was awarded to Streep for her performance in The Iron Lady. As the lovely Huny said on Twitter, “Say my name in the same breath as Meryl Streep and Glenn Close and I will neber be a ‘loser.’” Viola Davis will win an Oscar one day, of that you can be certain. I’m just glad it won’t be for playing a maid.
  • Having said that, while I cannot support or applaud the film itself, I’m glad Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for her role in The Help. But people are seriously delusional if they think this will change anything. There are those who keep saying winning an Oscar will “open more doors” … but if there aren’t any roles being created, if there aren’t any projects being greenlit, then what “doors” are you expecting to suddenly fly open?
  • Finally, in the screenplay categories, well, it was a no-brainer. Anyone who’d seen Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s most financially successful and critically acclaimed film in YEARS, knew that it was going to win Best Original Screenplay (though it was nice to see the Academy recognize the crude humor of Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids with a nomination). Same goes for Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash’s adaptation of The Descendants. Payne’s an Oscar darling, and though he hasn’t won any of the big prizes yet, he’s creating the type of filmography that all but ensures he’ll one day add Best Picture and Director statues to his Oscar collection.
  • Finally, Billy Crystal wasn’t as funny this year. And I didn’t particularly care that a great deal of humor came at the expense of Black people and culture. Jabs at Tyler Perry and Oscar winners Three 6 Mafia, as well as a distasteful quip about the lack of Black women in Beverly Hills were among some of the eyebrow-raising moments during the show. As my friend Patrice said, there was a weird vibe at the show this year. The only racially-tinged joke that was actually funny, and served to make a valid point, was, naturally, delivered by a Black person. Chris Rock’s bit about how working in animation “isn’t hard work” was preceded by the hilarious notion that animation allows actors to become anything they want to be. For instance, “If you’re a Black man, you can be a donkey or a zebra.” It’s the things that hurt the most that often the funniest.

So those are my quick thoughts on last night’s Oscars. What did you think? Were you surprised or angered by anything? Was the show funny or stale? Go ahead and rant about whatever you’d like in the comments below.

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