A television show like the Oscars is a strange bird. It's not like SNL or Letterman, where performers come out and do their thing and every one goes home. With awards at stake, awards that might actually change the course of the winners' careers, the proceedings possess an unavoidable and unique tension that does not exist elsewhere. At the Tonys and Grammys, musical performance provides a level of entertainment that the other awards can't hope to match. Yet, the Oscars remain the most important awards program for many people, probably because the movies, at their best, make audiences feel things about themselves and life that other media don't bring into focus as completely or effectively. Only books, I would argue, do a better job.
Hosting the show is an odd experience because you're out there, but it isn't about you. Steve Martin and I worked rather hard, along with the writers and producers, to make sure our contribution did not detract from the primary purpose of the evening, honoring the highest achievements in film. We tell some jokes and show some clips, but the night belongs to the great talent in that room.
I had a wonderful time at the Oscars this year, because the reality of just how many remarkably talented people work in the movie business was never more vivid to me than last night. We all have our preferences (I had to be careful to keep mine to myself in advance of the show). We all think that someone should have been nominated that was overlooked. (500 Days of Summer, anyone?) That someone should have won who didn't. Here are some of the things I will remember about last night's Oscars.
- Carey Mulligan at the Vanity Fair party. I talked with her briefly and thought, "This young woman has everything, absolutely everything, to have a great career in the movies."
- Quentin Tarantino's look after the show. A look that said, "I'm gonna dust myself off and win this thing next year." Gracious and restless in the same moment, who's tougher, and more talented, than Tarantino?
-- Christoph Waltz taking in the fact that he had won the Grand Slam (SAG, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Oscar) for what is the year's best performance.
- Lee Daniels before, during and after the show. Daniels made the film that was the hardest to make. Few filmmakers and few casts of actors go as deep as the Precious company did. Had they won everything last night, who could argue? Daniels should know he was among the biggest winners, with or without the Oscar.
- Kathryn Bigelow trembling onstage as she accepted her second Oscar in under two minutes. Bigelow was, no doubt, headed for the press room as the newly crowned Best Director when Hurt Locker won Best Picture and she had to spin around and pick up her other statue. Kathryn Bigelow's award buoyed the evening. History made as the best director of the best picture is a woman making a war film.
- Sandra Bullock sitting in a room just outside the VF party with her husband, spending a moment taking it all in. Sandy has made a lot of movies. And those movies have made a lot of money. I believe, however, that Sandy, whose career began with movies like Demolition Man, had that dream that we all have and had it all along. Money, fame and privilege all fade into the background. Winning the big one would be... oh so nice. That was the wonderful look on Sandy's face last night. That the reality is every bit as fantastic as the dream.
Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees.