02-19-2017  10:34 pm      •     

Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker emerged victorious in what had been touted as a David vs. Goliath showdown with her ex-husband James Cameron and Avatar, the biggest moneymaker in box-office history. Each entered the competition with 9 nominations, with Bigelow's Iraq War saga netting 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director and Original Screenplay, as well as a trio in technical categories. Meanwhile, Avatar had to settle for just 3 Oscars, in Cinematography, Visual Effects and Art Direction.
Bigelow made history as the first female ever to be named best director. An obvious hint that she was about to triumph, the supposedly sacrosanct secret ballots notwithstanding, was the fact that the presenter in the category was Barbara Streisand who had herself won a golden Globe but not an Oscar for directing Yentl way back in 1984.
There were no surprises in the lead acting categories with veteran thespians Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) and Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) both winning more for their body of work than for this particular role. Bridges, in his heartfelt acceptance speech, thanked his late parents "for turning me on to such a groovy profession." And the self-effacing Bullock was equally-gracious, thanking her mom, and acknowledging each of her fellow nominees by name. Sandra was most effusive about Gabby Sidibe (Precious), about whom she gushed, "I love you so much. You are exquisite. You are beyond words to me."
As for supporting roles, prohibitive favorites Mo'Nique (Precious) and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) prevailed as expected. Mo'Nique got the last laugh after having been subjected to considerable criticism during awards season for not campaigning or kissing the ring of the Hollywood establishment. This explains why she began her acceptance remarks with, "First, I would like to thank the Academy for showing that it can be about the performance, and not the politics."
In terms of upsets, the biggest surprise arrived when Geoffrey Fletcher and Precious won for Best Adapted Screenplay over Up in the Air. However, the evening's most shocking incident was undoubtedly the reverse Kanye West moment when Roger Ross Williams, who is black, was rudely interrupted during his acceptance speech as the director/producer of Best Documentary Short Film-winner Music by Prudence.
For midway in, this ostensibly-inebriated white woman appeared out nowhere to give him the bum's rush, just like Kanye did to Taylor Swift. Then she started rambling into the microphone like a mental patient until her voice was drowned out by the orchestra. As it turns out, Elinor Burkett apparently wasn't a complete lunatic, but a former co- producer of Music by Prudence, who had abandoned the movie over a year ago but now wanted back in to bask in the glory when the project turned out to be a tremendous success.
Among other Oscar lowlights were Sean Penn's mumbling presentation of the Best Actress award, a sleep-inducing, interpretative dance number choreographed to musical selections from the Best Score nominees, and Tom Hanks' failure to introduce the 10 nominees before opening the envelope to announce the Best Picture. So much for dramatic effect.
Overall, the 82nd Academy Awards Show was rather entertaining and engaging, especially how it devoted time to intimate introductions of the acting nominees, and to detailing the contributions made by a variety of craftsmen to the magic that is moviemaking. The festivities were capably co-hosted by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, whose hilarious, offhand introduction of Sandra Bullock with, "Please welcome my longtime dear friend, and by that, I mean I've never met her," was nothing short of brilliant.


COMPLETE LIST OF ACADEMY AWARD WINNERS

Motion Picture: The Hurt Locker
Actor: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
Actress: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique (Precious)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Foreign Film: El Secreto de Sus Ojos (Argentina)
Adapted Screenplay: Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious)
Original Screenplay: Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker)
Original Score: Michael Giacchino (Up)
Original Song: The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart) by Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett.
Animated Feature Film: Up
Documentary Feature: The Cove
Art Direction: Avatar
Cinematography: Avatar
Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker
Sound Editing: The Hurt Locker
Costume: The Young Victoria
Makeup: Star Trek
Visual Effects: Avatar
Film Editing: The Hurt Locker
Documentary Short Film: Music by Prudence
Animated Short Film: Logorama
Live Action Short Film: The New Tenants

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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