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Grading the Oscar Show

POSTED:

It's over! After months of hype and hooey, the Oscars are yesterday's news. Except of course for grading the telecast. The winners were mostly well chosen — in an enlightened world The Golden Compass would win nothing, even visual effects — but the dullness quotient increased as the show dragged on and on and on. Here then, teacher's grades for the best and worst moments, remembering of course that the best is often the worst. Feel free to chime in.

a

Best Supporting Actress winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton). What other actress would begin an acceptance speech with the words, "Oh noooo," and then proceed to give her statuette away to her American agent because his ass resembled Oscar's? Great, unexpected stuff on a night of dreary rectitude.

Big winners Joel and Ethan Coen (Best Picture, Screenplay and Direction for No Country for Old Men). They deserved every prize but looked like they'd been called to the principal's office to be chewed out each time they hit the massive stage of the Kodak theater.

Ethan wore a perpetual wince. So refreshingly unslick you could feel their pain. I couldn't have liked it more.

Best Actor Nominees Squirming. Before Daniel Day Lewis was named the winner, we were treated to the sight of George Clooney in full fidget, Johnny Depp picking at his goatee, Viggo Mortensen looking stone-faced and even a deer-in-the-headlights Tommy Lee Jones. Proving that talent, money and fame are no defense against jitters. Unguarded moments are the fun of the Oscars because they're so rare.

b
Best Actress winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose). For joining Swinton in the surprise victory category and for being so charming that the 99 percent of the American public who missed her tour de force as chanteusse Edith Piaf might just rent the DVD. "Thank you life, thank you love," she cooed. So much better than the usual "thank you killer agent, thank you smarmy publicist."

Best Song winner Margeta Irglova (Once). Rudely cut off after her singing partner and boyfriend Glen Hansard used up all the time for thanks (the Irishman pronounched it "tanks"), she returned to the podium (presenter Colin Farrell put in a good word for her backstage) and handled herself with adorable ease.

Best Supporting Actor winner Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men). He actually thanked the Coen brothers for the Dorothy Hamill butch cut he wore in the film and finished up in Spanish in praise of his acting family back home. Bravo, friendo.

c
Host John Stewart. Good lines ("Oscar is 80 this year — which makes him now automatically the frontrunner for the Republical nomination") and wicked putdowns ("Even Norbit got a nomination, which I think is great. Too often the Academy ignores movies that aren't good") vied with lame gags (Atonement capturing the passion and raw sexuality of Yom Kippur") and embarrassing bits like the pregnant award to Angelina Jolie. Stewart gets the pass-fail grade.

Best Actor winner Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood). It was fun to see him bow before his presenter, Queen Helen Mirren, but he had the self-satisfied look of a actor who couldn't lose. His speech at the SAG awards, laced with a tribute to the late Heath Ledger, cut deeper.

d

Best Original Screenplay winner Diablo Cody (Juno). The former stripper and phone sex operator had the chance to go all Juno snarky and instead of shennanigans she dissolved in tears. The devil in Diablo stayed home, dammit.

Academy President Sid Gannis. His misfired bit on the Academy's secret balloting seemed longer than Berlin Alexanderplatz and just as funny.

f

Best Song Nominees: With the exception of the winning song from Once, these numbers were executed with maximum dullness. Fun was MIA . Jimmy Kimmel's post-Oscar show found just the right spirit in his soon-to-be-legendary "I'm Fucking Ben Affleck" video, done in response to his girlfriend Sarah Silverman's video "I'm Fucking Matt Damon," which aired three weeks ago. The Affleck number, laced with "We Are the World"-type cameos from Robin Williams, Lance Bass, Good Charlotte, Cameron Diaz, Don Cheadle, Harrison Ford, Josh Groban and Brad Pitt as a Fed Ex man, had the fire of irreverence the Oscars so desperately need. Oscar's dance staging of "So Close" from Enchanted embalmed the song and anyone in the audience who didn't step out for a drink.

The Running Time: Three hours and seventeen minutes: That was the punishing length of the Oscar telecast, whose memorable moments could fit in a ten-minute time capsule. No more Oscar complaining, at least until next year.

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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