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An Oscar recap

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (BP)–EXCESS, according to Webster’s New American Dictionary is “the amount by which one quantity exceeds another; an instance of intemperance.” Well, nobody knows how to do intemperance quite like producers of the Oscar telecasts. The 81st Academy Awards ceremony Sunday was star-studded and glimmering, but also overlong and over-produced. And yes, excessive.

Despite the glitz and lavish attempts (Prada this and Armani that) to recreate the extravaganza of the 1930s top-hat and white tie dance numbers, the routines were more reminiscent of high school productions. And the onslaught of tributes trilled through the Kodak Theater as if Jonas Salk, Madam Curie and Abraham Lincoln were being honored.

Meanwhile all 20 or so of the venerated films (out of the 300 or so made this past year) were honored as if the art of movies was actually about art rather than commerce.

But the excess and the excessive effort to glamorize Hollywood only served to underscore the emptiness of it all, a shimmering spectacle for those who get enormous fees for making make-believe.

Kate Winslet (“The Reader”) snagged best actress for playing a Nazi death camp guard who seduced a 15-year-old boy. It’s not easy getting an award for playing a Nazi, you know.

As if there was any doubt, Sean Penn was named best actor for his role as slain homosexual activist Harvey Milk. In his acceptance remarks, Penn attempted to set viewers straight (so to speak) about Prop 8, fearlessly waxing partisan for “gay marriage.”

On top of that, Bill Maher, who made “Religulous,” leavened the spate of socio-political commentary by taking repeated shots at religious beliefs.

In his last line in “Patton,” George C. Scott reminds all champions, “A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning that all glory is fleeting.”

The Bible tells us “the fire will test the quality of each one’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:13). Not much from this menu of Hollywood entertainment fare will stand that test or the human test of time.

And the winners were …

— Best motion picture of the year: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight).

— Performance by an actor in a leading role: Sean Penn in “Milk” (Focus Features).

— Performance by an actor in a supporting role: Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight” (Warner Brothers).

— Performance by an actress in a leading role: Kate Winslet in “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company).

— Performance by an actress in a supporting role: Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (The Weinstein Company).

— Best animated feature film of the year: “WALL-E” (Walt Disney).

— Best foreign language film of the year: “Departures” (Regent Releasing).

— Achievement in art direction: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt, Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo.

— Achievement in cinematography: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Anthony Dod Mantle.

— Achievement in costume design: “The Duchess” (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films), Michael O’Connor.

— Achievement in directing: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Danny Boyle.

— Best documentary feature: “Man on Wire” (Magnolia Pictures).
Phil Boatwright reviews films for previewonline.org and is a regular columnist for Baptist Press.

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