Another year and another Academy Awards ceremony finishes with few surprises as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences went with safer (and arguably more tasteful) choices this year. The ceremony itself was the self-congradulatory back slapping that one comes to expect from award shows like this and went by without notable incident.
“The King’s Speech” came away from the evening with four of the biggest prizes (Best Picture, Actor (Colin Firth), Director (Tom Hooper), and Original Screenplay (David Seidler)). “Inception” nabbed most of the technical awards while the big nominee “True Grit,” rode away empty handed.
In the past few years the Academy has been surprisingly forward minded with its choice of Best Original Score. Argentine musician Gustavo Santaolalla, who walked away with the award two years in a row in the middle of the decade (for “Brokeback Mountain” and “Babel”), and Indian composer A.R. Rahman (for his Bollywood-influenced score for, “Slumdog Millionaire.” This year continued that trend with Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor and his partner in crime Atticus Ross walking away with the top film score composition prize. These four wins provide the greatest hope for me that there is some semblance of a breath of fresh air in the Academy. All four take very unique and compelling looks at what a film score can sound like and show score composition can be more than John Williams (or the dearly departed John Berry) symphonics. It was a surprising and, like I said, forward thinking choice that earned a very vigorous head-nod and smile from this outside viewer.
The Reznor/Ross win was one of three for, “The Social Network,” a film that I reviewed when it was released back in October but am now thinking that I need to take a second look at. Editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall won for their work on the film, along with scribe Aaron Sorkin, who walked away with a Best Adapted Screenplay award. The big shock of the night came when last year’s Best Director winner, Kathryn Bigelow, opened the envelope and awarded the Best Director statue to Tom Hooper in lieu of most people’s presumptive winner, David Fincher.
Fincher, who helmed “The Social Network,” is quietly turning himself into the premier American director. He came up during a period of time during the mid-to-late-1990s with a group of young directors (like Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, David O. Russell, and Alexander Payne) that might be considered the best batch of young American directors since the New Hollywood era. All are great in their own way, but Fincher is arguably the best and his loss tonight is the only real complaint I can make about this year’s incantation of an awards ceremony that I love to hate.
I’m working on a more in-depth discussion of Fincher’s work and why he is, if not the best American filmmaker working today, at the very least the one that should be most admired. Keep those eyes peeled!