In a night that could have been all about money and compromise, the awards went to the most deserving.
Possibly lost in THE HURT LOCKER shocker was a victory by Mo’Nique, the sassy actress who refused to “campaign,” as they say, for the award but took it home anyway. In the best acceptance speech of the evening, the outspoken comedian turned Oscar winner took the stage saying exactly what needed to be said.
“First, I’d like to thank the Academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics,” Mo’Nique firmly asserted in a succinct but powerful speech. Her performance in the no nonsense and amazing PRECIOUS may have been this year’s best overall, so, humility was not an option.
She went onto to thank Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, both in attendance, telling them that since they touched it, everyone saw it. Again, a truth that some were reluctant to admit. Shots of Perry at the awards showed how absolutely taken he was with Mo’Nique’s heart-felt words of power. Hopefully, they will not be forgotten by the talented writer/director who may one day find himself taking the Oscar stage.
Just after thanking her attorney and her entire BET family, Mo’Nique went onto to credit her husband with showing her “that sometimes you have to forgo doing what’s popular, in order to do what’s right.”
“And baby, you are so, right,” Mo’Nique said resolutely, holding her golden statue tightly.
And the award wore well on her, Mo’Nique was ready for this delivering her words will not one ounce of hesitation. But is Hollywood ready for Oscar winner Mo’Nique?
Of course, the real surprise of the evening had to be THE HURT LOCKER’s win over the behemoth AVATAR. The Academy really got it right by giving the film three (Best Film, Best Director, and Best Writing screenplay for the screen) of the top honors with Kathryn Bigelow named as the first women best director. Such a thing was always on everyone’s wish list, but few, including this critic, thought that LOCKER could pull off such a hat-trick. Bigelow’s little war film, that opened in the US in a limited summer release, made less than $15 million at the domestic box office, compared to AVATAR’s massive $2 billion, yes, with a “B.”
My prediction was that LOCKER might pull off a writing award, and possibly Renner could be named best actor. While Mark Boal took home the statue for writing LOCKER, Jeff Bridges won voter’s hearts and the top award for acting. Bridges, a member of Hollywood royalty, has always given us his best on screen, often playing broken loser types and crafting the famous “Dude” from the Coen’s THE BIG LEBOWSKI. But to win the award, for his work in a little film called CRAZY HEART, Bridges made himself less fun and even ugly. The performance, better than the film itself, points up Mo’Nique’s earlier words—it is all about the performance. And Bridges could find himself here again. In addition to reprising his role in TRON, he’s stepping into a big shoe (well boots), that of Marshal Reuben J. Cogburn in the Coen’s western remake TRUE GRIT.
In a vote of confidence for the inspirational genre of movies that has been growing in popularity, the Academy rewarded Sandra Bullock for her work in THE BLIND SIDE. The film captured the hearts of middle America making it a surprising box office giant, but critics quickly warmed to the inspirational themed material handled very well by John Lee Hancock, who hadn’t made a film since the expensive THE ALAMO in 2004. Bullock had the evening’s second best acceptance speech, humbly referencing her other nominees and even crediting Meryl Streep as a “such a good kisser.” While fun and tongue in cheek, hit YouTube and study the way Bullock says this is a “once in a lifetime experience, I know.” The recent Razzie winner, for ALL ABOUT STEVE, really means that. Bullock’s chances of taking the stage again are probably unlikely, but this year, the floor was all hers.
Closed out of the awards was the George Clooney/Jason Reitman film UP IN THE AIR that most critics picked early as this year’s best. Reitman, just in his early 30s, will no doubt be back with another film, and eventually find himself on that stage.
My favorite documentary feature THE COVE won the award for Best Doc. It was good seeing Fisher Stevens accept the award. The actor turned filmmaker and producer will next be seen in the American remake THE EXPERIMENT, but it is his work behind the camera that has proven to be most interesting.
The ceremony, which ran past midnight, was well hosted by Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Martin had an awkward moment at the end as he attempted to pull from Bigelow one of her statues. Some jokes just fall flat. But the awards went to the right folks—the ones that deserved it.