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Tues Top Ten Pt 2: 84th Oscar Takeaways

It's (almost) all over but the dresses. But first we're counting down the ten takeaways from Oscar's 84th year. Your takeaways may vary of course but these are the ten things I expect I'll keep thinking about beyond the big night....

10 Direction is Everything
09 Fincher's Oscar Stride
08 Leggy Angelina Jolie
07 Movie Stars on Movies
06 A Separation's Win

Jessica and her Nana

05 Jessica Chastain is a Girly Girl
Just when we started thinking of her as a Serious Serious Actress she showed up in awards season all giggling, bouncy, girlish. This doesn't mean she isn't a serious actor of course but it was rather a shock, even after speaking with her. Celia Foote's uninhibited enthusiasm in The Help might be the closest we've seen to the real woman behind the chameleon. This impression continued on Oscar night when she brought her Nana and went all womanchild shy and cuddly after her clip. Later during the Best Actress presentation she looked enormously worried for Viola Davis. No wonder she's an actress; her face registers every flush of big feeling. 

04 Emmanuel Lubezki Is Never Going To Win an Oscar
I was more sure that "Chivo" aka Emmanuel Lubezki would lose the cinematography Oscar for The Tree of Life than I was sure who would win it. I predicted The Artist but the prize went to Robert Richardson (Oscar #3) for Hugo.  Lately AMPAS seems much more interested in cinematography as a complicated technical profession rather than a spiritual one that's all about light and tone and feeling. For the past three years Oscar has definitely preferred heavily processed CGI behemoths here. We hope they one day get back to movies that feel crafted by hand... and God. Like There Will Be Blood (which miraculously won).

Lubezki is brilliant but it's lost on the general voters. At least the cinematography branch knows his worth. He has the unique distinction of being nominated with frequency despite rarely lensing Best Picture nominees (which is rare) and despite not being inextricably tied to any one specific filmmaker (also rare). His nominations, all of them deserved (rarer still!), come from filmmakers as diverse as Alfonso Cuaron, Terrence Malick and Tim Burton.

03 Best Presenter: Emma Stone
Easy A was such a confident comic star turn that it was inevitable that she would ascend but it's delightful that she's just as funny at the big show as on the big screen. Entering the stage to present strenuously waving, emphatically gesturing, widely grinning, Emma Stone was so keyed up you had to ask if she was for real. Before she spoke you were caught for an instant on the line between 'is this a skit? and 'ohmygod she is really into this' which, as it turns out, was the skit.

We are here tonight to present the award for visual effectsTHIS IS MY FIRST TIME PRESENTING AN AWARD. Hiiiiiii. 

Waitwaitwaitwait let's stop rushing. We should have some banter.

What joy. Emma is just as funny as herself. Or maybe as Anne Hathaway, if you take this as a comic send up of that ill fated Oscar hosting last year. (In tonight's performance Ben Stiller will be playing the supporting of the less stoned but equally dull James Franco there only to bring his partner down). From Stone's unbridled enthusiasm to her ADD Show Person energy to the spontaneous singing... Was it too Mean Girl? I am crazy in love with Anne Hathaway myself but I laughed and laughed.

(Runners up: The Bridesmaids "SCORSESE!!!!!" [knocks back drink]. It was smart to give the six of them the three short film awards as their numbers dwindled on stage. I only wish they could've had a Sound of Music send off or some comic interstitial to shoo each other off the stage 'adieu adieu to you and you and you'. Distant third: Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr in "The Presenter")

02 Meryl Streep's Third Win. Be Careful What You Wish For
As previously discussed... but also the night's best speech. (Streep would have had a rival in Christopher Plummer but for his speech being in syndication for a couple of months now)

01 They Weren't Fooling Around With 'The Year of Nostalgia'
The Oscar Producers will see your Hugo and The Artist and The Help and War Horse and The Tree of Life and Midnight in Paris and every other backwards gazing collage of deeply felt memories, shared at the movies or privately recreated by or vicariously lived through the movies and they'll raise you Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lopez, Meryl Streep Winning, Tom Hanks all over the place, Cameron Diaz, and Billy Crystal thawed from his cryogenic freeze. If you squint your eyes a little this ceremony took place in...1994.

What will you take away from the 84th Oscars? 
Are you already dreaming of the 85th?

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Reader Comments (36)

Nat, that opening line on Christopher Plummer's speech was a classic, and definitely not something that has been "on syndication". Maybe the rest of his speech is stuff we've heard before, but I still agree with all of it. Meryl's speech, of course, was pretty much perfection (even though I was also rooting for Viola, but maybe after this Meryl's nominations will become less frequent and leave an open spot for some new blood). I totally agree with Emma Stone being the best presenter, although I don't think her skit would have worked half as well without Ben Stiller to bounce off of (or Jonah Hill's reaction to her calling him, that was priceless), and Stiller was pretty game. It was great to get presentations like that. As a Mexican, I have to say, Lubezki losing constantly is baffling. He's constantly the best in the category and the fact that he loses to someone who already won twice is even more insulting. Couldn't he at least lose to Jeff Cronenweth (you may not like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but the film has style to spare and the cinematography is awesome!). That's the only loss I found truly maddening, but with A Separation, Christopher Plummer, Rango and The Artist winning, I also have plenty to celebrate....

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

God, "The Presenter" was the most painful thing I've ever seen. Sweet lord.

Emma was so good. Like reallyreally good. I'm thinking she gets a nom in the next couple of years.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel T

Emma Stone & Jim Rash (the guy mocking Angelina who is also awesome in the tv show Community) were the highlights of the night... I Agree with the people who says the direction was TERRIBLE, two future classic moments were almost skipped (Jean Dujardin dancing after winning his oscar & the kiss between Meryl and Viola) just because the cameras were too busy all night on Sandra Bullock's face. I Hope the next year the HIP & NOW finally arrives at the oscar ceremony... remember that auto tune montage in the 83rd ceremony? with the social network, twilight, harry potter? well it went viral if you want more young people watching take more risks academy

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChecko

Nathaniel, I have to say that I was a little startled at your take on Davis vs Streep. To your final question...

"Did the door quietly swing closed again?"

No. Nor would a Davis victory mean it was wide open. The reduction of this to racial terms is really irritating me.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

"The Presenter" was the worst "skit"... I was embarassed for the RDJ and Gwyneth.

Loved Emma too.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Viola to Streep: You're a Godless woman. Ain't you tired?
Streep to Viola: No.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtfull

The reduction of this to racial terms is really irritating me.

Welcome to the United States. American history concerning the lives and experiences of black folks would help you understand that race isn't a card apart of a game but something so rooted into the ground we walk you can't see it unless its screaming in your ear -- visible to the surface of your eyes.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtfull

I Too was embarassed for RDJ and Paltrow during that whole "the presenter" mess. It was awkward, forced, not funny and it was way too long!

Jéssica chastain's worried face as she looked towards viola when colin firth spoke about her during the best actress presentation was something that imediatly caught my attention. She looked very worried and deeply moved.

Emma rocked!!!! And yes, she was totally-and unapologetically-mocking anne hathaway

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Anne Hathaway deserves to be totally and unapologetically mocked at all times. That woman knows how to work a nerve!

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh

I am still floating on my Meryl's cloud...

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

/3rtfull: I'm not American, but I am black.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

arkaan -- i'm kinda done talking about it. i realize these arguments are easy to reduce. but I think i do a decent job of making it not just about race -- that was just one paragraph in a big post. Naturally it's what people are focusing on because i concluded with it and race is easy to focus on.

but to say that it's not about race at all is also reductive.

i mean for me it was always about my belief that Viola could be one of the greats ever... which has nothing to do with race... but the fact that this is hard for her to prove because she barely ever gets good big parts is most definitely about her being a woman of color in a business that always wants the blonde goddesses... and preferrably 20 years younger than Viola too. (i figure ageism isn't as much a factor this year because the race was skewing older in not just this category.

OKAY AHEM. how about that jessica chastain.

John and Amanda -- i should've explained that a bit more. I get why the "The Presenter" was annoying to people. I guess the thing is i liked it in concept (and i enjoy RDJ and Gwyneth together) but it went on way too long yeah and did tip over into annoying.

February 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Throughout the past 84 years, accounting for ties and repeat winners, AMPAS has presented a total of 85 Best Actress awards to 70 different actresses.


February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtfull

Highlight of the evening was Streep winning her third Oscar. And her speech was just great. The woman has such class.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Nathaniel, if you want to feel some more happiness about A Separation's win, check out the YouTube clips of various people of Iranian descent getting nervous and then exploding with joy when it won. It gave me chills.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjtagliere

I was thinking about my coldness about the Octavia Spencer train. Well on a positive note she's the only actor from Being John Malkovich to have an Oscar. The movie is also a Criterion Special Edition for Blu ray and DVD.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtfull

I wasn't planning on saying anything mainly because when I read it, there were already 200+ comments. Bringing it up here where there were much fewer convinced me to tackle it.

Lets start with what we agree upon: We agree that Hollywood is deplorable at casting marginalized performers. I still think what happened to Kerry Washington's career is a shame (she's gorgeous, young, talented with charisma. How can Hollywood shunt her to network television?). To me, the best thing about The Help (without having seen it, mind you) was that Viola Davis got a bonfide role/buzz. She isn't in a lot coming up, and that's depressing. But I'm not convinced a victory would change that. While I don't mean to diminish television - it produces fascinating, complex layered work that is amazing - I half expected her to end up on HBO in a few years anyway.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

If I had any doubt about Emma Stone's comedic talent, it was completely erased on Oscar night. Clearly the highlight of the show and it just goes to show just how brilliant she is even when having a dull Ben Stiller trying to bring her down (which he wasn't able to). She just nailed the naturalism, spunkiness, and newcomer ecstasy that she was trying to convey. Imagine if she actually had been partnered with an actor on her level.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Nate, keep doing what you're doing. Just wanted to say that.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbleh

Streep's win is troubling for me because I really did not like The Iron Lady. That includes Streep. She had nothing to work with and fell back on posture and walk to fill in an empty screenplay. However, even that started to slip for me when old Thatcher scenes meant shaking as she walked and younger Thatcher scenes meant standing straight and staring down at people.

I think I would have preferred any other nominee (and many who weren't even nominated) winning. I'm glad Streep won again because she is a great performer, but I'm not glad she won for that particular performance.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

I liked Christopher Plummer's speech best. He is interesting, articulate, and amusing. He is also an amazing actor of great range. I also liked the way his generosity and real appreciation of his co-workers showed up again and again in his speeches this season. That generosity and soul informs his acting. I am so, so happy that this marvelous actor was recognized and awarded. Because they could have picked somebody else! The most artistic front runner diesn't always win...

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Jessica Chastain cemented my love for her.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

Lubezki is tied to Cuaron, and he's quite obviously the cinematographer of choice for Terrence Malick by now. And the cinematographer's branch should stop nominating him (and Roger Deakins for that matter). It only raises hopes.
What do I take away from the 84th Oscars? Now that they've let Tom Cruise present Best Picture, I want to have Jack Nicholson and Steven Spielberg until kingdom come.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

Am I the only person who thought the moment Tom Cruise came on stage: "Wow. He's had a lot of work done"?

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

Okay. I'm ready to talk (or read other people's talk) about dresses.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertimothy

Totally 2001. If the producers were really into nostalgia they should have brought us some old classic stars like MacLaine, Fonda or Barbra. I guess they don't go to the movies anymore. Where were Fassy, Gosling, Mia, Carey, Charlize, Ewan, Tilda, Kirsten and all the people who made the most interesting movies of 2011?

Is Emma Stone the new Goldie Hawn?

PS They forgot Angelopoulos, Raoul Ruiz and Ishioka in the memorial tribute. Unforgivable.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Oh, I hate how much the Oscars hate Harry Potter. They got J-Lo and Cameron Diaz to present and Tina Fey and Bradley Cooper (whose only achievement last year was beating Ryan Gosling to the Sexiest Man Alive title) presented for 3 categories, and they couldn't call people from Harry Potter to present. Even if you hate the series so, Daniel Radcliffe is all over the place right now and Emma Watson was part of My Week with Marilyn. And the worst was how after Harry Potter lost its chance to win an Oscar EVER, Billy Crystal made a passing remark about the ending of the series. I am only ranting because it's my last chance ever. What the hell is their problem?!

On the whole, it was a good enough ceremony and Emma Stone rocks!

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNikhat

The Top thing I took away from this Top Ten:
When she feels like it, Jessica Chastain can be supernaturally pretty.

And yeah, that Presenter skit made Billy Crystal's number look edgy. And Billy Crystal's number belonged in 1991,

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Meryl's speech was lovely. My favorite in years. I didn't like the clip they chose because it reminded me of Miranda. If only...

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

what is a "Nana"? Please explain :P

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

I would like to tell you that you have given me much knowledge about it. Thanks for everything.

I couldn't watch the show, so I am very grateful and delighted about your extensive write-ups.. As I love Emma Stone, it seems I have to find her presenting on youtube.
Can't wait for your post about the dresses.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIvonne

TOM CRUISE presented Best Picture? Seriously?

//While I don't mean to diminish television - it produces fascinating, complex layered work that is amazing - I half expected her to end up on HBO in a few years anyway//

@arkaan - As a matter of fact, the first role she was able to score after the triumph of her perf in Doubt was a smallish supporting role on a few episodes of the 2nd season United States of Tara.

@Nat - I second the "keep doing what you're doing" vote; what I really appreciate is the complexity, the nuances and layers you bring to any issue, whether I agree with you or not.

I didn't see the ceremony only sought out the clip of Emma Stone after reading about it here; the only version I found on YouTube were poor quality (some had already been pulled from the site) of someone recording their tv set. And Emma's vibrance STILL came through despite that. I didn't realize at first that Stiller was doing a Franco imitation until someone mentioned it here, but it makes perfect sense. I wanted to say "someone let this gal co-host the Oscars - maybe with a vet like Steve Martin or Hugh Jackman, or NPH who can match her game? That may have been last year's mistake (out of many) - giving the hosting chores to two newbies, who hadn't paid their dues in terms of being in front of a live audience.

On the other hand, Hollywood, forget the Oscars and just give the lady some great roles and great scripts to choose from (which is my chant and hope for viola and glenn and melissa and sigourney and .......)

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

For me the biggest takeaway of the show was that there's hope for the future. I grew up with Streep, Close, Pfeiffer and co. and I was kind of afraid that when they're gone ( as in retired ) there will be nothing left to look for. But Emma Stone and Jessica Chastain made me hopeful , they really have what it takes to become movie stars.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradelutza

Viola has also been on a few episodes of SVU. She was playing a judge or a prosecutor or something like that.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

I find myself staring at Meryl Streep's pictures. Not because she is a frickin goddess, but because I find it weird to see her holding an Oscar.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoey
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