Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 02-28-11

Geoffrey Rush & Colin Firth

Geoffrey Rush & Colin Firth

Natalie Portman at the Independent Spirit Awards

Natalie Portman at the Independent Spirit Awards

Oscar outcome: With Oscar’s prime honors having gone exactly as anticipated here last week, I really don’t have anything to complain about.

Moreover, if you were expecting suspense, you’ve been napping all season!

I’ve been saying since early in the race that “The King’s Speech” is more an Academy film than “The Social Network” is. It’s such a basic idea that it shouldn’t need pointing out. But, yes, the Academy’s graying membership relates better to a traditional linear historical biographical period piece drama like “King’s” than it does to a non-linear contemporary biographical drama like “Social” whose focus is on that strange (to them) new frontier called the Internet.

The fact is, the critics who applauded “Social” early on are quite different in their likes/dislikes from the guild voters with whom “King’s” resonated so well later in the season. Many guild voters are able to vote for Oscars because they’re also members of their Academy branches. There is, of course, no Academy branch for critics, so they don’t get to vote. So why would anyone give so much weight to what the critics think?

Critics may help shape the race by elevating the awards profile of certain films, but at the end of the day Academy members are going to vote for the films they liked best, themselves, and that’s frequently altogether different from what appealed to the critics.

Predictability was the order of the night when those new designer inspired sealed envelopes were opened. Yes, there was a slight possibility of Tom Hooper being overlooked for best director as he was at the BAFTAs, but happily that didn’t happen and Hooper wound up with the Oscar he richly deserved. Although spread-it-around theorists thought Academy members might echo BAFTA voters in naming David Fincher best director for “Social,” the odds favored Hooper winning. Only six times since 1948 has the DGA’s best directing winner not gone on to win the best directing Oscar. So Hooper was by far the safest bet.

There also was some potential for surprise in the supporting acting races where “The Fighter’s” Melissa Leo and Christian Bale were favored after winning the comparable Screen Actors Guild awards. Some prognOSCARcators suggested a “King’s” sweep with supporting wins by Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush. Again, it just seemed logical that since actors are the Academy’s largest branch, their vote should reflect how they voted in the SAG awards.

Of course, if Academy members had been able to see Leo’s lengthy and embarrassing acceptance speech before they voted, Carter might very well have won.

In the best actress race, anyone who seriously thought the winner wouldn’t be Natalie Portman for “Black Swan” just wasn’t paying attention. That ship sailed weeks ago when Portman-and-Baby-Bump won SAG’s best lead female actor award. The critics’ support earlier in the season was elsewhere. The New York critics, for instance, celebrated Annette Bening for “The Kids Are All Right” while the L.A. critics voted for Kim Hye-Ja for “Mother” and named Jennifer Lawrence runner-up for “Winter’s Bone.”

As a television show, the Oscars lacks the exciting buzz and champagne fueled sizzle of the Golden Globes and it could certainly learn a lot from the BAFTAs when it comes to conveying elegance and class. The Oscars have evolved into a colorless bloated late-in-the-season spectacle that tries hard to be entertaining in a broad middle-American way while being respectful of Hollywood’s heritage. But the television audience doesn’t understand or care about Hollywood’s past and even within the room there are increasingly fewer people who still feel connected to the movies’ so-called Golden Age.

Anne Hathaway and James Franco were Lite Hosts who brought very little to the party. Billy Crystal, arguably Oscar’s best host since Bob Hope and Johnny Carson, was given so little to do in his guest shot that having him there was truly a wasted opportunity. At least this year we were largely spared the artificial scripted banter between presenters that the Oscars were saddled with for years.

It makes no sense to try to tell the Academy what to do to improve the show next year because it’s just going to keep doing what it thinks makes sense, but never does.

Instead of dominating the awards season as it used to do, the Oscars now just concludes an endless parade of awards shows where the same nominees compete for the same honors and get to express their affection and thanks to the same gods — their fellow cast members and the other nominees followed closely by their producers, wives (if only they can remember their names in the heat of the moment!), husbands, children and agents and, of course, to the Academy.

The only variable from show to show is who and what everybody’s wearing. The fashion police will certainly have some thoughts about Oscar’s many offenders.

Bottom line: It doesn’t say much about the Oscars that for many people the televised red carpet coverage is now more interesting than the event, itself.