We watched the Oscar ceremony tonight with friends, and were variously cheered and not by the actual awards.
I'm glad that the two most overrated films of the year, Hugo and The Descendants, didn't get the Big Awards. Hugo had many charms, but it was also too long and overstuffed because Scorsese tried to jam two movies into one - the story of Hugo and the Melies/magic of filmmaking story. I don't understand why Ben Kingsley didn't get a Best Supporting nomination for Hugo, and didn't you get sick of looking at the kid's sad face??
As for The Descendants, the sub-plot of the fate of the 25,000 acres on Kauai interested me more than anything else in the film; I thought Clooney was good, not great, not Best Actor material at all; I thought the young woman who played his older daughter quite the best of the leads, with Beau Bridges's five minutes as his cousin a great cameo. Clooney's character just never impressed me much; no, I did not think he did much of a job of stepping up with his kids, nor did I find his reactions particularly believable. The score, made up mostly of traditional Hawaiian music, doesn't seem to have been noticed, and was absolutely wonderful.
Clooney's other big film, Ides of March, was inexplicably neglected by the Academy. Ryan Gosling gave a surprisingly good performance, especially in the face of the extremely heavy hitters in the other roles: Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti, not to mention Gregory Itzen's riveting three minutes on screen. Seriously, could you come up with a stronger lineup? Only by throwing Sean Penn and Ralph Fiennes into the mix, with a side order of Streep.
I also thought that The Artist, which I liked very much, was not the best picture I saw that was released last year. That would probably be Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, though I freely admit that if you hadn't read the book or seen the great BBC TV series with Alec Guiness as George Smiley, you would not have had a chance of following the plot. As much as I liked Jean Dujardin, who is utterly charming and obviously an extremely talented guy, Gary Oldman's performance as Smiley was a towering achievement. For that matter, the whole cast was so strong that I would not have been surprised by Best Supporting Actor nominations for Mark Strong (Jim Prideaux), Tom Hardy (Ricki Tarr), or Benedict Cumberbatch (Peter Guillam).
In the Best Supporting Actress category, well, I'm sorry it wasn't the wonderful Janet McTeer, who walked off with Albert Nobbs. Glenn Close was also terrific; this was her sixth or seventh nomination without a win. We just saw it last night, and, really, it's a lovely picture.
Update: Alex Ross and Sasha Frere-Jones have a few things to say about the rules for Best Original Score. This is of particular concern given that Ludovic Bource won for The Artist.