The 2009 Oscars
What the audience got Sunday night was the most focused Oscar presentations I can recall. That's said with a straight face, although I suffered through a paean montage of romantic movies and other bits I flatly did not understand.
I agreed generally with the prizes, but I would have voted in the Best Actor category for Mickey Rourke. The one-time sensuous pretty boy of films some 30 years ago, Mr. Rourke was almost pretty and projected a cruel lover personality.
WFMD's Bob Miller and I discussed only last week the Best Actor category. "The Wrestler" put Mr. Rourke into the 2009 competition for all sorts of prizes and honors, most of which he won. The story called for the most self-inflected pain I have ever seen in a film. He was the quintessence of the battered, aging hulk he portrayed. Machismo took on another meaning completely. He was totally believable as an old pro passed his time. I loved that performance.
"Milk" came to Frederick for a brief week and I didn't see Sean Penn as the completely open gay politician, California's first. The actor is a self-ordained crusader for human rights. Although married himself – he once took Madonna as a bride – his skills, talents and celebrity went to work for homosexuals long before Sunday's Oscars.
Mr. Rourke's acting seemed to have won most of the prizes handed out this awards season; that was the chief reason I was disappointed watching the televised presentations. Giving equal breadths in the way they handled their respective roles, Mickey Rourke should have won the golden statue, because he engineered a tremendous comeback. That's how I felt.
While celebrating "Slumdog Millionaire," I gave up my hopes for "The Amazing Case of Benjamin Buttons" very recently, when it finally penetrated the truth: the exuberantly joyful flick would win-and big! It cleaned up, in fact, garnering eight awards; topped five years ago when "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of t he King' won 11. British director Danny Boyle masterminded a movie that his associates once thought would go straight to videotape. He – and the movie – couldn't be in better shape to earn hundreds of millions now.
As readers know I have been in love with Kate Winslet for years; not since "Titanic" but not long after; her Oscar for "The Reader" simply culminates the path she plowed since the great ship went down.
Penelope Cruz became the very first Spaniard to take home Hollywood's highest honor. I admired very much the tempestuous spitfire she turned in for Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." She won the Best Supporting Actress category, beating out Marisa Tomei's very realistic stripper in "The Wrestler."
Although no longer a teen, Ms. Tomei showed everything but full frontal nudity to the camera. An Oscar winner for "My Cousin Vinnie" invested considerable acting talents – along with her body – to gain the nomination. At least in my mind, she was the very first runner-up to Ms. Cruz.
One prize that was never in doubt, the best Supporting Actor – if it had not gone to Heath Ledger there may have been riots around the world. The streets of New York, Los Angeles and all of Australia would not have been fully safe, at any rate. He was the Joker incarnate, bestial, insane and above all malevolent. He became the second deceased Oscar-winning performer, after "Network's" Peter Finch and that was back in 1976.
Even with a new thrust, a different approach and brand new elements, the 81st annual Academy Awards telecast still ran past three hours. You know what I've said about the longer movies – except for "Benjamin Button" – a half hour shorter would have made for a better show.
By the way, Hugh Jackman registered as a strong host, even when put through all showbiz arts – singing and dancing that do not appear in his Wolverine flicks.
(By the way, WFMD's Bob Miller and I will kick around the telecast and the individual Oscar prizes on his Friday "Morning News Express," in the program's last quarter-hour, ending at 9 a.m.)