Oscars get a new image -- but fail to deliver drama
'The King's Speech' is crowned best picture in predictable list of winners
These were supposed to be the younger, hipper Academy Awards, the ones that shook up the ceremony's conventions with popular, great-looking emcees in actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway, who were unlike the middle-aged comedians and TV talk-show hosts of years past.
But the results couldn't have been more traditional.
'The King's Speech' -- a prestigious, impeccably made historical film that cries out 'Oscar' with every fibre of its being -- won best picture and three other prizes, over more daring, contemporary contenders like 'The Social Network' and 'Black Swan'.
They also couldn't have been more predictable.
Front-runners in other major categories throughout this long and repetitive awards season also took home trophies from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre on Sunday night.
These included: best actor Colin Firth for 'The King's Speech'; best actress Natalie Portman for 'Black Swan'; and supporting actors Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, both for 'The Fighter'.
'King's Speech' director Tom Hooper, had already won the Directors Guild Award -- an excellent predictor of Oscar success.
Despite multiple attempts to make the Oscars seem current -- including an opening montage that inserted Franco and Hathaway in the best picture nominees, 'Inception'-style, and an auto-tune 'Harry Potter' spoof -- some of the biggest applause and longest standing ovations were for a couple of Academy Awards stalwarts.
Kirk Douglas delighted the crowd as he jokingly tormented the supporting actress nominees, before announcing Leo as the winner.
Once she took the stage, the 94-year-old Douglas remarked to her, "You're much more beautiful than you were in 'The Fighter'.
Then Leo went on to drop an F-bomb during her acceptance speech.
It was a rare unexpected moment -- but the censors bleeped it in time for US audiences.
Hathaway worked hard to keep the proceedings fun and light, playfully twisting in a fringy gown and joking that everyone at home should take a drink when she flubbed her introduction of last year's best-actress winner, Sandra Bullock.
Besides the four Oscars for 'The King's Speech' -- picture, director, actor and original screenplay for David Seidler -- 'Inception' also won four, all in technical categories, as expected: visual effects, cinematography, sound editing and sound mixing.
The great Roger Deakins, who was also up for the cinematography prize for the Coen brothers' 'True Grit', went home empty-handed once again.
He's now 0-for-9.
Among the frontrunners in other categories that were winners were the latest Pixar blockbuster, 'Toy Story 3', for animated feature and 'Inside Job', about the 2008 economic collapse, for documentary feature.
At least there were some lively, candid moments backstage.
Portman, who's pregnant with her first child with 'Black Swan' choreographer Benjamin Millepied, said she didn't know whether she was having a boy or a girl, but the baby was dancing inside her during the musical numbers.
Firth expressed some frustration over a new cut of 'The King's Speech', which is being re-released with a PG-13 rating.
The retooled version softens the cursing from his character, the stuttering King George VI, and makes it accessible to a wider audience.
"I don't take this stuff lightly, but in the context of this film, it could not be more edifying, more appropriate," Firth told reporters backstage. "It's not vicious, it's not an insult or it's not in any of the contexts which might offend people."
Meanwhile, Aaron Sorkin, winner of the adapted screenplay Oscar for 'The Social Network', had some positive words for Mark Zuckerberg, whose creation of Facebook is the basis for the film.
The movie views Zuckerberg from a variety of perspectives and doesn't always place the young billionaire in the kindest light.
"He's been an awfully good sport about this. You know, I don't think there's anybody here who would want a movie made about things they did when they were 19," Sorkin said.
"And if that movie absolutely, positively had to be made, you would want it made only from your point of view, and you wouldn't want to include also the points of view of people who have sued you for hundreds of millions of dollars and, you know, had a visceral emotional reaction to you. But that is the movie that we made."