Lights! Camera! Glamour!

The 80th annual Academy Awards honored a year of darkly-themed films, but the ceremony included a few bright surprises.
By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 25, 2008

HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 24 Finally! An awards show you can sink your chompers into. The writers are back at their laptops, the stars have returned to the red carpet, and whoa, would you look at John Travolta? He looks like a Vulcan. Hollywood is back.

"You're here, I can't believe it, you're actually here," began host Jon Stewart, moonlighting from his cable job at "The Daily Show." "It's been a tough three months. The town was torn apart by a bitter writers strike. Tonight, welcome to the make-up sex." Stewart then riffed on the dark, violent, disturbing themes of this year's top contenders, and cracked, "Does this town need a hug?"

The silver-maned George Clooney, who has unseated Jack Nicholson as the public face of Hollywood stardom, stepped to the podium at the Kodak Theatre to celebrate 80 years of Academy Awards. "One thing has been consistent," he said. "It's been long." The audience laughed, wisely, girding itself for 3 hours and 20 minutes. "No, it is unpredictable," Clooney said.

The Best Actress category had been vexing the Oscarologists for weeks: Cate? Julie? Perhaps the young Ellen Page from "Juno"? But it was the fresh-cut flower, Marion Cotillard from France, who went to the stage, trembling and giddy, where she thanked her director Olivier Dahan with "you rocked my life." She continued, "Well, I'm speechless now. Thank you life, thank you love. It is true there are some angels in this city, thank you so so much." She made it backstage where she turned and fell into the arms of Forest Whitaker, who had presented the prize.

A lot of French backstage (and later German, Spanish and Eeenglish English). But Cotillard said, "There's nothing hard about this. It's just joy and so unexpected. It's surreal but I just love it. I just love it. . . . I'm totally overwhelmed with joy and sparkles and fireworks. I just ate all those things and it's going boom, boom, boom right now." The woman was about to explode -- in a good way.

It wasn't a big surprise, but Daniel Day-Lewis, wearing a pair of little hoop earrings, accepted the prize for Best Actor. "Thank you for whacking me with the handsomest bludgeon in town," he said.

The Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, were triple-timers, winning Oscars for: Best Adapted Screenplay, Directing and Best Picture.

"Ethan and I have been making stories with cameras since we were kids," said Joel Coen (he's the talkative one). He recalled they went down to their local airport with a briefcase and made the film "Henry Kissinger, Man on the Go." "What we do now doesn't feel much different from what we did back then," Joel Coen said.

Steve Carell got off a joke when he introduced the nominees for Best Animated Feature by calling "Ratatouille" a scathing indictment of health code violations, when it is actually about a cute rodent in the kitchen. Which then won, beating Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis," the black-and-white adaptation of her graphic novel about growing up during the Islamic revolution in Iran.

"I think I'm going to throw up, too," said "Ratatouille" director Brad Bird, looking a little seasick in the flush of his second Oscar win. He acknowledged that he owed it all to "a little rat who dreams."

This year, the Academy frontloaded the show with the frankly less sexy awards. Among the other early prizes were Costume Design for the regal drama "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" and Makeup for "La Vie en Rose," the story of the French warbler Edith Piaf, and Art Direction for the slasher musical "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

Waiting, waiting. Foot tapping. Finally, a full 46 minutes into the trophy show, the first major prize, for Best Supporting Actor, which went to Javier Bardem, the psychotic killer in the Sonny Bono haircut who stalks the badlands of West Texas like a heartless angel of death in the Coen brothers adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy pulp novel "No Country for Old Men."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company