Whitaker Reigns As King

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Perennial also-ran Martin Scorsese can never complain again about being snubbed by the Oscars, finally prevailing in his eighth try with the Best Director award for The Departed, which also won for Best Picture, Best Screenplay Adaptation and Best Editing.

Peter O’Toole was not so fortunate, failing again in his own eighth bid. The veteran Irish actor lost out to prohibitive-favorite Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland, who was both gushy and gracious in delivering the most emotional acceptance speech of the evening.

Collecting himself while fighting back tears, Forest reminisced about his childhood. “When I was a kid, the only way I saw movies was from the back seat of my family's car at the drive-in,” he began. “It wasn't my reality to think I would be acting in movies. So, receiving this honor tonight tells me it is possible for a kid from East Texas, raised in South Central L.A. and Carson, who believes in his dreams, commits himself to them with his heart, to touch them and to have them happen.”

After explaining that he took to acting, “because of my desire to connect to everyone” and a belief that through it “we can create a new reality,” he proceeded to try to connect with just about everybody on the planet on the spot, thanking his wife, Keisha, his kids, his parents, his fellow cast members, the people of Uganda, DNA and Channel 4. As a black man it was no surprise that he also thanked God and even invoked the spirit of his ancestors who “continue to guide my steps.”

By comparison, Best Actress-winner Dame Helen Mirren, The Queen, was relatively-reserved in a speech which paid homage to the icy, titular monarch she’d impersonated. Effervescent Supporting Actress-winner Jennifer Hudson,  Dreamgirls, continued her trophy-collecting, coming-out tour, although co-star Eddie Murphy lost out to Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) in the Supporting Actor category, just as I had predicted last week. Eddie had been the early favorite, but the ill-timed release of Norbit before the Academy had finished voting doomed his chances.         

Faithful readers will note that nine of my 11 prognostication panned out, including all eight of the major categories. This was no mean feat, given that the odds makers felt that Little Miss Sunshine and Eddie Murphy would prevail, and they said that several other races were too close to call.

Unfortunately, Ellen Degeneres, was a flop as a host, failing to bring any of her TV talk show’s usual pizzazz to the nearly four hours-long marathon. I knew we were in for a long night when she couldn’t even generate any excitement in the room by doing her trademark dance moves during the monologue. Her self-effacing, tongue-in-cheek brand of humor was worse, obviously cautiously scripted to not offend any of the Hollywood royalty in attendance. And when she entered the audience or went backstage periodically to interact with Celebes like Jack Nicholson, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, again all the jokes fell flat because the tame tête-à-têtes simply lacked any daring.

Most of the luminaries lured onstage engaged in boring bits, such as Al Gore who pretended to be on the verge of announcing his candidacy for the presidency when his words were drowned out by the orchestra. He later returned to accept the Oscar for Best Documentary for An Inconvenient Truth, but his reappearance felt a little anticlimactic, a recurring theme for the evening.

The ever-over enunciating Jack Black joined a frizzed-out Will Ferrell for an annoying song about how comedians always get snubbed, that ended up in the audience. The most-likable luminaries also happened to be the youngest, Oscar-nominee Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) and Jaden Smith (son of Will and Jada), who were adorably cute together reading the winners for Best Shorts from electronic cue cards.

Perhaps the most bizarre incident of the evening involved the announcement which misleadingly promised a “one-time only reunion of the cast of Dreamgirls” that never materialized. After an interminable wait, instead of original Broadway showstoppers Jennifer Holliday, Loretta Devine and Sheryl Lee Ralph, the stars of the current screen adaptation, Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce’, Anika Noni Rose, emerged to perform the three tunes nominated for Best Song, none of which ended up winning anyway. Talk about bait and switch!

Overall, The Departed (4) garnered the most Academy Awards, as this clairvoyant critic envisioned, followed by Pan’s Labyrinth (3). Dreamgirls (2) was undoubtedly the big loser, given Eddie’s precipitous fall from grace, the reunion faux pas, and the musical’s trio of tunes being beaten by one from Al Gore’s documentary.


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