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(Review originally written at 25 February 2009)

I can't really say I cared much for any of the winners or movies of this (2008) year but the whole show around it made this one of the best Annual Academy Awards ceremonies of the last couple of years.

They definitely made some big changes this year. I liked it's look and the way it brought the audience close to the stage. It was not just like one big room but segmentations were made in the crowd, with the biggest acting nominees sitting in front and the rest of the cast and crew of a particular movie all together in one segment. Even though it was divided, it all still felt more like one, as if everyone in Hollywood forms one big family. It also helped that it didn't feature too many random close-ups of well known actors responses and laughter. Instead it more focused purely on the ceremony alone.

The pacing overall was done incredibly well. The show wasn't dragging at any points and it wasn't ever too long or too short during any of its categories. Even the normally slow point of the ceremony, the special honorary award Oscar, was this year over in just a few minutes. Because of this it was a very pleasant watch and it didn't feel like 3 hours at all. It constantly kept going and it also didn't feature presenter Hugh Jackman constantly after an Oscar had been handed out. Also the persons handing out the Oscar's at some occasions handed them out for more than one categories, which again added to the pace.

The acting categories had gone to the biggest change, with former winners all presenting the awards, by having a small say about the particular actor and the role he/she played. All of the nominees were obviously touched by this but most people at home still prefer to see a small clip of the particular actor within the movie. Perhaps next year we will see a combination of both these ideas?

I think it was a right choice to let a non-comedian host the Oscar's this time. After all, the night shouldn't be just purely featured around the host but the host should be a person who fills in the blanks and tights the night together. Hugh Jackman did this well. He didn't seemed like the most logic person to host the ceremony this year but I think he surprised a lot of people. And just because he's no comedian doesn't mean he didn't had any funny moments and lines of course.

A big problem always was that the acceptance speeches took far too long and the music often suddenly kicked in right in the middle of an acceptance speech, in order to cut the winners off. This year it didn't looked like there was a time limit and this worked out well, for non of the acceptance speeches dragged on. It was also pleasant that there were no politics involved in any of the acceptance speeches, unless you count in the call for more gay right, from the winners that were involved with the movie "Milk".

The evening itself didn't feature too many surprises when it came down to its winners. It can be perhaps said that the presenters this year were more interesting than the winners. "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" were the two big favorites but I don't think it surprised many people that it was eventually "Slumdog Millionaire" who took home the most awards and also the ones in the most important categories, including best picture. I also can't really say I cared much for any of the nominated movies this year, which could only mean that 2008 hadn't been a too spectacular year for movies. With all of the current troubles in the world it also can be said that movies and the whole showbiz world have become less interesting for people. Also the writers strike of last year didn't helped to produce many brilliant and Oscar worthy movies. It could be me but it also seems to me that movies, especially big potential Oscar material, got less advertised and hyped. "Slumdog Millionaire", "Milk", "The Wrestler", "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" were all movies that were just suddenly there and got nominated.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Sean Penn winning out to Mickey Rourke, who almost seemed certain to take home to award for best acting performance. Of course it's not a shame to loose out to Sean Penn though but it was just that Rourke seemed to have lived his entire life to play this particular role in the movie "The Wrestler". Normally I'm not a too big fan of the person Sean Penn but I must say he surprised me this evening. He seemed very self aware and he was actually looking like he was enjoying the evening. He also had a nice say about gay-rights, which felt honest and sincere from him. Kate Winslet winning and of course Heath Ledger, were all no big surprises and Ledger's win got all of respect from the crowd it deserved. The most toughened persons were brought to tears within the crowd and no doubt also at home, when his family accepted the award on stage.

Of course not all of the changes were for the best tough. Although I like the fact that the show featured more musical numbers and also small film segments, not all of the segments really added up to the ceremony. Paying a tribute to 2008's action movies and comedies? Don't quite see the purpose of it. I like it more when they pay tribute to every movie and actor, from any time, from any genre. Also the life singing during the 'in memoriam' segment seemed out of place. I'm sure the conductor of the evening Michael Giacchino could had provided something better and more suiting for it.

Well done show!

8/10

About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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