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And the Award for Blandest Oscar Telecast Goes To...

Read the Post Mortem on the Academy Awards and Get the Word on Films Released Over the Weekend

The Oscars
I’ve watched the Oscars for nearly two decades. Last night’s 83rd Academy Awards telecast felt at least that long.

For years, viewers have complained about the award show’s tendency to continue on late into the night. This year’s program may have been slightly shorter, but it lacked the humor and wit that have made the running time of past shows a little more bearable.

Host Anne Hathaway carried most of the weight as her co-star, James Franco, stood by and an opening sequence during which the duo made appearances in the year’s Best Picture nominees fell flat. Hathaway impressed with her vocal abilities during a brief musical number, but the show’s writers gave neither host any particularly memorable lines.

A clip featuring Bob Hope in an Oscarcast of yore appeared to be a reminder that the show was supposed to be fun.

The montages were comparatively few and far between and, thankfully, viewers were not asked to sit through a roundup of last year’s numerous 3-D films.

During the past few years, the Oscars have favored darker, ambitious fare such as “The Departed,” “No Country for Old Men” and “The Hurt Locker.”

This year, the academy marked a return to honoring the type of crowd pleasing pictures favored in the 1990s and early 2000s – namely, “Shakespeare in Love,” “Chicago” or “Titanic,” of which there were more than a few clips throughout the course of the show.

The acting awards were well-deserved: Melissa Leo, providing one of the night’s more colorful acceptance speeches, and Christian Bale were both honored for their work in “The Fighter.”

Colin Firth, in the evening’s least surprising win, took the Best Actor statuette for his performance in “The King’s Speech.” I thought the win was warranted. Natalie Portman nabbed Best Actress for her fearless turn in “Black Swan.”

But “The King’s Speech” edged out former frontrunner “The Social Network” for Best Picture. Both films took home the awards for original and adapted screenplay, respectively.

Typically, the academy might give the top prize to an audience friendly film such as “The King’s Speech,” while giving the Best Director award to the edgier picture – in this case, “The Social Network.” But Tom Hooper won the award for “Speech” over David Fincher.

The night’s surprises were few and far between. Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails, won Best Score for “The Social Network,” while “Inception” fended off “True Grit” and “Black Swan” for Best Cinematography.

While I enjoyed this year’s big winners – “The King’s Speech” and “Inception,” both of which took home four Oscars, I would have liked to have seen a little more love for some of the year’s heavyweights – “The Social Network,” “Black Swan,” “True Grit” and “Winter’s Bone.”

In Theaters  
Several new movies opened last weekend, including “Drive Angry” and the raunchy comedy “Hall Pass” in wide release as well as “Of Gods and Men,” a 2010 Cannes Film Festival favorite, in limited release.

“Drive Angry” has something to offend everyone. It’s loud, filled with wall-to-wall violence, chock full of sleazy characters and has more infant in danger sequences than any other movie in recent memory.

The picture - in 3-D, of course – features Nicolas Cage as an ex-con who has returned from Hell to retrieve his baby granddaughter from a Satanic cult, which has nefarious plans for the newborn.

The filmmakers appear to aim for a so-bad-it’s-good experience, but the film is not quite bad enough to be entertaining or good enough to warrant sitting through it.

Xavier Beauvois’ “Of Gods and Men,” on the other hand, offers ample rewards for the patient moviegoer. The picture is based on a true story about a group of monks who refuse to abandon the villagers in a mountainous region of Algeria, despite threats from fundamentalist terrorists.

The movie, set in the mid-1990s, is a quiet and sobering story about courage in the face of impending doom. Beauvois fleshes out each of the seven monks, not so much through words but via facial expressions and mannerisms, drawing solid performances from his cast.

The film, currently playing in Manhattan and opening at the Kew Gardens Cinemas on March 18, is well worth checking out.

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