Affleck's Argo takes top Oscar prize

Posted 12:26am on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013

Oscar proved to be generous at the 85th Academy Awards from Los Angeles on Sunday night.

No one film dominated the night, as Argo, Ben Affleck's re-creation of the 1979 rescue of Americans from Iran, won Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay honors but shared the glory with several other films. Ang Lee took the directing statue for the visually stunning survival tale Life of Pi, Jennifer Lawrence won the Best Actress award for Silver Linings Playbook, Daniel Day-Lewis as predicted took home the Best Actor statue for Lincoln, Christoph Waltz from Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained pulled an upset in the supporting actor category, and Anne Hathaway sang her way to a supporting actress Oscar in Les Miserables.

The result was that no film went home with a truck full of statues. Life of Pi topped the list with four, with Les Miserables and Argo following with three each. As expected, the French-language drama Amour won in the Foreign-Language category, although it was nominated for Best Picture as well.

It was great to see Life of Pi given so much love, especially since many critics had said that the book on which the movie is based was unfilmable and Lee proved them wrong.

The Academy Awards were emblematic of a year when there seemed to be a glut of films competing for both critical and audience attention. But it also meant that there were some snubs. Once again, Steven Spielberg ( Lincoln) missed out on a Best Director nod, and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow's controversial film about the killing of Osama bin Laden, unfortunately almost went home empty-handed. It had to share a sound-editing award with Skyfall.

All of this unpredictability -- along with first-time host Seth MacFarlane -- should have made for an exciting, electric show. But it was just the opposite. The jokes fell flat and the musical numbers, including a tribute to James Bond as well as Dreamgirls (2006) , Chicago (2002) and Les Miserables, provided a little spark but not enough to salvage everything else.

Thankfully, there were some heartfelt acceptance speeches, from Lee and, especially, Day-Lewis -- and Lawrence's stumble on the way up to get her gold guy caused a gasp, though she recovered nicely. Nominee and perpetual stoneface Tommy Lee Jones even was seen laughing at one point early in the night, so that's something.

As for host Seth MacFarlane, dude, stick with Family Guy and movies with dirty-talking toys. Funny as a backache and twice as painful, MacFarlane as host is the latest example of the academy grasping for a hipness it's never going to have. The opening skit, in which MacFarlane and William Shatner toggled between the former's usual sophomoric brand of humor and more traditional show-biz shtick (MacFarlane doesn't have a bad singing voice), went on far too long. It's one of those things that probably seemed funnier over lunch in the commissary.

Somewhere, James Franco -- who fumbled spectacularly as co-host two years ago -- is in a church, thanking the heavens that he's not the worst anymore. Come back, Billy Crystal. All is forgiven.

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