Cut to the inside of the International Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Actors practice their "I'm totally laughing for real and not at all upset" faces as host Ricky Gervais comes out... See full synopsis »
Louis J. Horvitz
For the first time since 1987, one of the four acting winners was not present to accept his award: the late Heath Ledger. He was also the only one of the 20 nominated actors not present at the ceremony. See more »
Nothing shocking here solid show with mostly worthy winners and few surprises
Thanks to Sky yet again, I didn't have access to the full show this year (although they managed to provide 90 minutes of dull red carpet footage on Sky 1 before moving over to the movie channels. The highlights show the next night was what I had to work off with the exception of Hugh Jackman's opening material because apparently Sky didn't have room for that as they filled the start of the highlights with far too much of more red carpet celeb spotting. This in itself goes on for too long but is made even worse by the presentation by Fern Cotton who we are suppose to like I guess but personally is just so bland as to be almost a pencil outline of herself.
Getting into the ceremony it is obvious they have had a bit of a rejig generally because suddenly the stage seems very low and the audience (or, well, the "important" audience) is very much part of the stage almost. I quite liked this although the downside is that in some shots the audience feels really small (like a small comedy club) and then at other times it looks like the audience has been totally divided into those "in" and those "out", which isn't a nice look no matter how true it is. Another change is that the actors awards are presented by former winners who talk about/to a different nominee each. At times I really liked this but at other times I didn't. When the lines seemed natural and not too corny then it seemed to be a great idea, however it is right on the knife's edge and the odd time it really clunks badly, either by unnatural delivery or by some terrible lines. Adrian Brody's lines to Richard Jenkins was close to disrespectful and it showed on Jenkins' face. Mostly though it is a good idea just a bit of a dangerous one.
The ceremony was generally quite good although it is always hard to judge on the highlights show given how much is missing. There are the usual awkward comedy moments that aren't as funny as they should be and so on. The one moment that made me angry was the In Memoriam section. OK, liked the idea of having a singer but the direction was awful, all the names and faces moving around on screen all the time meant that many were hard to read, even on a good sized TV. It was an awful moment but happily one of the few as the majority seemed OK. The winners were mostly as expected and I was glad that Slumdog won so much as it deserved all the awards it got and I'm glad the balance with Benjamin Button didn't occur. BB got many technical awards as predicted and that was fine. The acting awards were good. I was surprised that The Wrestler got a shutout in the way it did but everyone who won was good and there wasn't really any of the usual "politics" to the extent there can be.
Overall these 81st awards were a reasonably good show that tried some new things to mostly positive effect. There was only one awful moment and a hatful of weak moments but it comes with the territory I guess. Jackman was a good host and did a good job for someone who was not a comedian but instead did an all-round entertainers job to good effect.
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