Silence was golden again at the Oscars this year, with The Artist, already hotly tipped, tap-dancing off with the three big awards of the night: Best Film, Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius and Best Actor for Jean Dujardin.
Dujardin made a reference in his charming acceptance speech to the fact that Douglas Fairbanks – his inspiration for swashbuckling silent hero George Valentin – had presented the first Oscar ceremony way back in 1929. But he might also have mentioned that the World War One drama Wings which picked up the Best Film Award that night 73-years ago, was also the last silent film to do so prior to The Artist!
So has the Academy come full circle?
Well, the triumph of The Artist certainly wasn’t the only significant throwback in a night which seemed to be celebrating Hollywood’s Golden Era and nostalgia in general as much as it was celebrating the here-and-now.
Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, a film which showcased the forgotten achievements of cinematic pioneer Georges Méliès, picked up five awards in technical categories; Octavia Spencer won a Best Supporting Actress award for her wonderful performance as a maid in The Help, echoing Hattie McDaniel‘s win for Gone With the Wind in 1939 – and maybe saying something not all that revolutionary about the roles still being offered to black actresses in Hollywood today.
Two-time Best Actress Meryl Streep waltzed off with her third statuette playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady and pointed out on the podium ‘two of the other nominees tonight weren’t even concieved when I last won’ (for Sophie’s Choice in 1982).
And to round things off nicely we had Woody Allen‘s knowing nostalgia-fest Midnight in Paris – in which Owen Wilson time-shifts back to the roaring Twenties while vacationing in the French capital and rubs shoulders with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, et al – picking up an award for Best Original Screenplay. Needless to say, Woody, following his own long-standing tradition, didn’t turn up at the event to accept his award!
Yup, this was definitely a night to celebrate times past at the Academy… Who were wonderfully magnanimous about the fact that it was a small French movie that had had the guts to glorify Hollywood’s Silent Era.
But as is usually the case with these glittering affairs, it’s the movies (and personalities) that were left out that tell as much of a story as the movies that were honoured: Michael Fassbender’s searing portrayal of a sex addict in Shame and Nicolas Winding Refn’s hard-hitting thriller Drive being two cases in point. But then, let’s face it, full-frontal nudity and full-throttle violence would probably have put a bit of a dent in the whole rose-tinted nostalgic glow going on – and finding PG-rated clips to use for the telecast from either of those movies would have been one heck of a job, too.
All of that said, if you look hard, you can find some evidence of new blood on the horizon… with the magnificent drama A Separation honoured in the Best Foreign Language Film category – time to give the Academy a pat on the back for welcoming Iranian cinema to the party at last.
So what do you think? Let us know what you thought of last night’s Oscar awards in the comments.