Oscars: No Country Romps

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[Academy Awards Recap]

The Coen Brothers and No Country for Old Men walked away with four major Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem). Curiously, the movie with the next most Oscars was The Bourne Ultimatum, which took home statuettes in a trio of technical categories.

There Will Be Blood, Juno and La Vie en Rose won two each, while much ballyhooed flicks like Sweeney Todd, Atonement and Michael Clayton had to settle for one. Probably the biggest surprise was that none of the acting awards went to Americans. If foreign thespians are going to enjoy an edge, why not simply create Best Foreign Actor and Best Foreign Actress categories, the way that they already have one for Best Foreign Film?

Few will question the picks of Daniel Day Lewis or Javier Bardem, but some will certainly scratch their heads over the choice of Marion Cotillard, the Edith Piaf look-a-like who merely lip-synched her way to her Academy Award. And one can only wonder why the Anglophilic Academy tapped Brit Tilda Swinton not only over the Amy Ryan but also over 83 year-old Ruby Dee who deserved to be recognized for her body of work which began back in the Thirties and includes almost 100 screen credits.

Do you know how frequently aging actors and actresses have been belatedly voted their very first Oscar towards the end of a legendary career, and for a performance that clearly wasn’t among their most memorable? Let’s see, just last year we had Alan Arkin (72) for Little Miss Sunshine.

Prior to that, we had George Burns (80) for The Sunshine Boys, Henry Fonda (76) for On Golden Pond, Jessica Tandy (80) for Driving Miss Daisy, Ruth Gordon (72) for Rosemary’s Baby, Geraldine Page (61) for A Trip to Bountiful, (Don Ameche (77) for Cocoon, Paul Newman (62) for The Color of Money, Jack Palance (72) for City Slickers, Sean Connery (58) for The Untouchables, John Wayne (62) for True Grit, Sir John Gielgud (77) for Arthur, James Coburn (70) for Affliction and Shirley MacLaine (49) for Terms of Endearment, to name a few.

So, given the long tradition of honoring thespians in this fashion, it’s unfortunate that Ruby Dee wasn’t also treated accordingly. It’s important to note in this regard that only four Black females have ever won an Academy Award, Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball) in the Best Actress category, and Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost) and Hattie McDaniel (Gone with the Wind) for support roles.

The 80th Annual Academy Awards were emceed by acerbic comedian Jon Stewart who played it uncharacteristically polite all evening, never using any of the biting satire you’d expect of the iconoclastic Comedy Central talk show host. Looks like the recently returned to work writers needed more than nine days to prepare, because the program was rarely clever, funny or imaginative, unfolding uneventfully.

Even the camera-shy Coen Brothers seemed unprepared for their close-ups, reluctantly approaching the microphone to deliver decidedly uncharismatic acceptance speeches.



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