When there are so many excellent films in contention for the Oscars, the only sensible thing to do is spread the love around, and that’s what Academy voters did Sunday night. Admirers of Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, and Amour all had reason to be pleased. It’s also heartening that so many of these films have been box-office successes. Of the Best Picture nominees, only Zero Dark Thirty was slighted, winning just one award for Sound Editing.
I might have chosen differently in some cases, but when there are five worthy nominees in virtually every category there’s no perfect solution. For instance, Christoph Waltz is absolutely riveting in Django Unchained; I’m just sorry that the Supporting Actor race couldn’t have been a five-way tie. I feel the same about the Best Actress competition, although I think Jennifer Lawrence gave an astonishing performance that belies her age.
(Speaking of age, does anyone remember that once upon a time the Academy had a separate category for Juvenile Performance? It wasn’t given out on a regular basis, but Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Bobby Driscoll and Hayley Mills were among the winners of this honorary award. Only in recent decades have such youthful actresses as Tatum O’Neal, Anna Paquin, and now Quvenzhané Wallis competed toe-to-toe with their elders.)
What matters most is that good movies were promoted to an enormous worldwide television audience. I’d like to think that people who haven’t seen this year’s documentaries, foreign language films, or even home-grown movies like Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook will be inspired to watch them after seeing highlights on the Oscar broadcast.
The show itself had its usual ups and downs. (Note to future show runners: don’t bring four or five people onstage at once to present an award. It just doesn’t work, and the poor actors just look awkward.) I don’t think producers Craig Zadan and Neal Meron reinvented the wheel, nor did Seth MacFarlane. Every year, it seems, new producers start out thinking they can streamline or energize the program, only to come to grips with the reality that multiple awards are being presented to behind-the-scenes artists few people recognize. But that’s what sets the Oscars apart from the Golden Globes or the People’s Choice Awards. Once you get past the fashion and the glitz, the gags and musical numbers, they remain true to their mandate: to celebrate the best and the brightest in filmmaking. I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.