In an evening most commentators agree was notable for its predictability, there were few wins that raised eyebrows. In what Empire described as “a slight upset”, Meryl Streep took home the Best Actress award for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, beating off competition from hotly-tipped Viola Davis (The Help). And Woody Allen won Best Original Screenplay for 1920s fantasy Midnight in Paris, ahead of Iranian drama A Separation, comedy Bridesmaids and The Artist. Allen failed to turn up to collect his gong, but this wasn’t exactly an upset: “Allen has skipped the ceremony in the past, and he even has passed up the chance to join the academy,” pointed out a Los Angeles Times blog.
Steve Pond provided an analysis at The Wrap of The Artist’s path to Oscars glory: “The Artist was named the Best Picture because it charmed Academy voters in a way nothing else did, because box-office figures no longer mean much to the Academy, and because no other film was ever able to establish itself as the alternative for the voters who didn’t want the black-and-white silent film to win.”
The Artist: An evening of firsts. “The Artist becomes the first silent title to win the most prestigious prize in show-business since 1929,” pointed out Guy Adams in The Independent. “History will also record that The Artist, whose largely French cast and crew have now been propelled to stardom, was also the first ever Best Picture winner from a non English-speaking country.” The Artist tells the story of a silent-movie star dealing with the arrival of the “talkies” – and according to Adams, the theme of nostalgia ran through the Oscars as a whole: “On the catwalk yesterday afternoon, 1920s styles reigned supreme. On stage, the decorations were Art Deco. Even the post-Oscar Governor’s Ball had a Prohibition-era theme.”
Accepting the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film forA Separation, director Asghar Farhadi said, “I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, the people who respect all cultures and civilisations and despise hostility and resentment,” reported The Guardian.
Joy in Iran. After A Separation won Best Foreign Language Film – the first Oscar for an Iranian movie – millions of Iranians took to social media to celebrate, reported The Guardian, after watching the ceremony covertly on illegal satellite dishes: “Millions of Iranians stayed up all night to watch the film’s director, Asghar Farhadi, going up on the stage and delight his countrymen at a time when their lives are clouded with fear of war with Israel and crippling economic sanctions.” Farhadi has become “an ambassador for peace from Iran”, infuriating the regime, which is already suspicious of the film’s overseas success. Nevertheless, Iranian state television still found a way to spin the Oscars win, declaring the award a victory for Iran over Israel, according to The Associated Press.
Hugo actor Sacha Baron Cohen provided one moment of Oscars controversy, reported the BBC, after a red-carpet publicity stunt for new film The Dictator: “The British comedian arrived in character as a middle eastern leader and claimed to be carrying the ashes of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.” Baron Cohen was escorted off the red carpet when he tipped the “ashes” over US TV host Ryan Seacrest. See video of the incident below.
Dullsville. “The show was generally awful, a Crystal-meth nightmare of bad jokes, worse timing, boring awards, and uninspired spectacle,” wrote Dan Kois at Slate. Kois was pleased that the Best Picture award went to “a foreign, indie, mostly silent, black-and-white mash note to the golden age of cinema”, but other than that, found the evening lacking in interest.
“When they called my name I had this feeling half of America were going, ‘Oh come on, her again’. But … whatever,” declared Meryl Streep as she accepted her Best Actress Oscar, said The Telegraph.
Falling viewers. The Oscars producers are unlikely to be pleased at the lack of surprises. Writing ahead of the ceremony, Bob Tourtellotte reported for Reutersthat the show is in danger of losing its coveted status as America’s second most-watched television event and needs a few thrills and spills to win back viewers. “The best solution for a lively TV awards program, sponsors at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences say, is a group of surprise winners or ones who give genuinely emotional or rousing acceptance speeches,” said Tourtellotte. What’s more, the fact that The Artist has dominated the awards may delight critics, but viewers are unlikely to be impressed, as the movie hasn’t done particularly well at the US box office: “The Oscars generally enjoy larger TV audiences when popular hits like Avatar are in the hunt for best movie,” Tourtellotte wrote.
The award for most emotional acceptance speech went to Octavia Spencer, as she picked up her Best Supporting Actress gong for The Help: “I’m wrapping up, I’m sorry, I am freaking out. Thank you,” said a visibly tearful Spencer, reported The Telegraph.