My favorite (TV) night of the year
Moreso every year, there are fewer surprises in the Academy Awards, and the constant media predictions have increasingly determined more and more winners than ever in history. In the past few years I’ve seen frontrunners left behind in favor of little-known or little-seen performances simply because the media circled around the latter and put those names in the minds of the public. I can’t imagine this wouldn’t sway some of the Academy voters, especially those who don’t actually see 90% of the performances or nominees. It can be a little discouraging to watch this night of nights and feel fairly certain of the outcome. And yet, I am devoted fan of this broadcast. Tonight’s awards ceremony was a prime example of what keeps me coming back again and again.
It was almost a given that No Country for Old Men would win Best Picture honors, as was Daniel Day Lewis for Best Actor and Javier Bardem for Best Supporting Actor. But there are usually little surprises along the way to those awards, and tonight featured some of my favorite surprises in recent years. First, Tilda Swinton took home the Best Supporting Actress award, rising above Cate Blanchett’s turn as Bob Dylan, as well as the much-touted Ruby Dee performance in American Gangster and Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone, which was my personal choice. Swinton’s acceptance speech was full of surprise and joy, and was one of my favorite “speeches” of the night for her decision to tease George Clooney from the stage in a way that he is famous for doing to others. Her win makes me anxious to watch Michael Clayton now.
The Best Actress in a Leading Role was equally surprising to me, though not for lack of deserving the award. Marion Cotillard’s win, for her performance as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, was simply a delight to behold. A French actress winning an American honor for work in a French language film brings a new level to the Academy Awards, and much overdue. Cotillard was hardly even mentioned as a frontrunner until just these last two weeks, and then she was awarded this honor. Her disbelief and overwhelming humility warmed my heart and made me happy that the Academy chose her over such extremely talented women who are Oscar favorites. Hers will be the win that remains with me.
Above all, though, was the award for Best Original Song. Up against three sappy little songs from a sappy, but highly favored, movie (Enchanted), the song “Falling Slowly” from Once triumphed in the sweet little underdog way that the film itself has triumphed. Once has become my favorite film of 2007, and watching the two lead actors/musicians get big Hollywood acclaim and perform this haunting song on an international stage reminds me just how much I love movies and the celebration of them. Both Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová were filled with great joy and amazement, and their thank you moments were exactly what true artists ought to say: support the arts, support independent musicians, and never give up on your dreams. Theirs was my favorite win of the evening and my reminder that this particular night of the year will always be important to me. I am consistently joyful, celebratory, and moved, year after year after year, because the films that mean the most and are important to society and culture are given the spotlight they deserve.
I look forward to another year of films to celebrate.
photo of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, by Kevork Djansezian/AP