Silence proves golden at an old-fashioned Oscars
Academy rewards films which celebrate Hollywood
THIS year's Academy Awards are a salutary lesson to anyone who has ever complained that Hollywood does not do enough to celebrate world cinema.
Providing that piece of world cinema is an hour-and-a-half-long celebration of Hollywood, it might even win Best Picture.
It's a mark of just how gloriously daft the Oscars has become that the ceremony can make a victory for a French film -- and a silent, black-and-white one, come to that -- feel like a predictable, self-administered slap on the back for the US film industry.
In fact, both of this year's most garlanded films have been described as "love letters to the movies", and the affection shown to both by the Academy was undoubtedly a reciprocal billet-doux.
'The Artist', Michel Hazanavicius's irrepressibly charming celebration of silent cinema, received honours for Best Picture and Best Director, along with awards for its leading man Jean Dujardin, its score and its costume design. Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo', a 3D tribute to film's French founding fathers, won the expected raft of technical trophies for its visual effects, sound editing, sound mixing, art direction and cinematography.
Infuriatingly, this year's Oscar ceremony offered little scope for real disgruntlement: most of the winners were no less deserving than they were inevitable.
'A Separation', a justly buzzed Iranian drama, was a laudable choice for Best Foreign Language Film, and Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer's rightful triumphs in the Supporting Actor and Actress categories cap long winning streaks for both stars that took in the Golden Globes and the Baftas.
Plummer, at 82 the oldest actor to win an Academy Award, jokingly asked his trophy, "You're only two years older than me, darling -- where have you been all my life?", and thereby took top honours in the unofficial Best Speech category.
The evening's two injustices were galling. A wan 'Descendants' script took Best Adapted Screenplay over the infinitely sharper 'Moneyball'; and 'The Artist's' original screenplay came second to the blatancy of Woody Allen's 'Midnight in Paris'.
Even the surprise result wasn't particularly surprising. Meryl Streep's roundly deserved victory in the Best Actress category, which brings her Oscar tally to three, astonished few. If there were awards ceremonies for awards ceremonies, Streep would be a shoo-in for Most Plausible "Who, me?" Face: her oft-repeated gawps of feigned astonishment this year have been thoroughly convincing.
For a year in which the Academy celebrated the foundations on which the film industry was built -- its French vaudeville roots, the glory of the silent era, Meryl Streep winning things -- the ceremony itself felt appropriately antique.
Hosting for the ninth time, Billy Crystal was preferable to last year's catatonic Anne Hathaway-James Franco pairing, but his shtick seemed surprisingly dated for a man with such a luxuriant crop of vibrant russet hair on his head. We were also treated to a wonderfully pointless set of pre-recorded interviews in which such industry luminaries as Adam Sandler were able to lecture the assembled likes of Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg on the virtues of cinema.
"Through my films I'm eventually trying to one day tell the truth," explained Mr Sandler, whose last picture, 'Jack and Jill', won him 11 Razzie nominations, including Worst Actor. (© Daily Telegraph, London)