Winners and losers

They’ve taken down the H on the Hollywood sign and replaced it with a B for Bollywood in recognition of India’s “Slumdog Millionaire” winning 8 Oscars.

It was evident early on that the film was going to do well after it won the second award presented during the Oscarcast, for screenplay adaptation. A writing award is more often than not a good indicator for a movie winning best picture.

If it was no surprise that “Slumdog Millionaire” won for best picture and for director Danny Boyle (the Academy liked it so much it even gave the film a technical award for sound — probably an award the filmmakers didn’t even expect to win) then the rest of the awards given out didn’t catch anyone off guard either.

When one movie sweeps the awards it makes for boring viewing — like watching a lopsided Super Bowl when you know the losing team is helpless to pose any kind of upset.

The acting awards were “Slumdog”-free, but were predictable anyway. Even I went four-for-four in my pre-Oscar who will win the Oscar blog.

As for the host, actor Hugh Jackman was OK. A bit of a show-off — but most triple threats (acting, singing and dancing) tend to be. His opening presentation borrowed heavily from Billy Crystal, putting the titles of the nominated movies to recognizable tunes. His monologue was method acting and proves once and for all that a comedian is better served to host the Oscars. Missing was the asides comics like Crystal or Steve Martin would provide inbetween awards presentations. And Jackman’s tribute to the musical was saved only because Beyonce was featured. That was also the best time to check out the sporting events of the day on ESPN.

Of course no Oscar show would be an Oscar show if there wasn’t a political theme that ran almost as long as the telecast. This yearit was provided by the winners of the biopic of martyred gay rights activist Harvey Milk — screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and lead actor Sean Penn. But it wasn’t controversial in the Vanessa Redgrave zionist hoodlums of 1978 vein when she was booed off the stage because last night’s political wonkfest concerning the Prop 8 setback played to a unanimous crowd.

Highlights and lowlights:

Change you can believe in: All acting categories featured previous winners announcing the individual nominees. Turns out it was a nice consolation prize for the losers — having icons like Robert DeNiroand Sophia Loren complimenting your performance.

The Big Kahuna: When Steven Spielberg presented the award for best picture, each film nominated was conveniently and smartly mixed in with other best picture winners and nominees of the past. Although comparing Harvey Milk to William Wallace of “Braveheart” may have been a stretch.

Not a dry eye in the house: As expected, Health Ledger won a posthumous Oscar — for playing a comic book character! But it was a touching moment when his dad, mum and sis accepted his Oscar. And truly one of the highlights of the show.

Best reason for channel surfing: The Academy has got to eliminate awards like sound effects editing, animated short subjects, and other lesser-known categories and give them out at an earlier time and maybe have some hot young Hollywood babe announce the winners. These awards always show up midway through the telecast, the winners always have some cause they spew out, and they talk too long and don’t leave enough time for the big winners audiences want to hear from later in the telecast.

Make room for another category: Oscar only recently started giving awards out for best animated feature, so maybe it’s time for another category: best agent. Hell, everybody who wins thanks their agents.

Name that tune: The anthem from “Slumdog Millionaire” that won best song, “Jai Ho,” may not have the timeless quality of other winners like “Over the Rainbow” and “Moon River” — but it’s a far cry better than the song that won a few years ago: “It’s hard out there for a pimp.” Still the title “Jai Ho” sounds like it could be that song’s flip side.

No nudes is bad nudes: Kate Winslet finally wins an Oscar and she’s already talking about cutting back on doing nude scenes in upcoming films. Need another reason not to go to movies? Winslet, like Nicole Kidman and Angelina Jolie, is a fearless actress and if that means appearing in the buff, she, like Kidman has said, won’t censor herself. Oscar sometimes forces performers to lose their edge. Kidman and Jolie still have it. Winslet too. It would be a shame if she turned into Julia Roberts.

Thanks for almost playing the game anyway: If the cliche 15 minutes of fame has become the norm, then there’s got to be something like 10 minutes of comeback. Mickey Rourke lost for “The Wrestler” to another maverick of sorts, Sean Penn. The vote had to be close, but in the end you could almost imagine members of the Academy voting for Penn because Rourke is too much the outcast.

Penn is at times pretentious with his politics, but he is politically correct and that’s a crowd pleaser in Hollywood. Rourke is too radical for pacifist Hollywood. At previous awards shows where he has won, he took some big shots to task. The guy’s burned a lot of bridges and he’s still angry. In his interview with Barbra Walters (filmed before Oscarnight) Rourke answered the question “What would winning the Oscar mean?” with this: It would justify his comeback, but in the end “You can’t eat it, you can’t [expletive] it, and it won’t get you into Heaven.” Imagine what his acceptance speech would’ve been like. Voters had to be considering that and didn’t want to take the chance of having him verbally take apart some of the sacred cows.

The Oscars isn’t the place to knock people off their high horses. Rourke is too much a reminder of their hypocrasy. He may have been a sentimental favorite, but Ledger’s win sealed his fate. Oscar gets bad reviews when he’s maudlin.

After all, there’s just so much sentiment to go around. Even at the Oscars.

Too bad the same can’t be said for those awful musical numbers.

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