In spite of attempts to reinvigorate the nearly century-old proceedings by blending the new and the traditional into a universally likeable, cross-generational ceremony, the 83rd Annual Academy Awards was just another night at the Oscars.
Co-host Anne Hathaway said that she and Best Actor nominee James Franco "look[ed] very appealing to a younger demographic." The same could be said for the evening itself. With attractive hosts, sleek staging and polished, wall-sized video screens, it was an Oscars ceremony that could have been designed by Apple.
Unfortunately, all those carefully crafted appearances fell apart not long after Franco decided to speak. Even with a beautiful platform, some truly hilarious exchanges and Hathaway's infectious, genuine enthusiasm, nothing could hide the fact that Franco was an unexciting, apathetic partner. For all its attempts at freshness and vitality, the ceremony felt largely dull. Though the academy seemed to be aiming for a marriage between youthfulness and the customary rituals it has always strived to maintain, what resulted was more of a stiff battle for dominance with the newness losing, repeatedly and decidedly, to the expected.
For months, talk has raged over the supposed generational duals between award frontrunners: Melissa Leo versus Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress, Annette Bening versus Natalie Portman for Best Actress and The King's Speech versus The Social Network for the night's ultimate award, Best Picture.
When the time came, though, no amount of speculation or battle rhetoric could hide the utter predictability of the night's winners. Inception walked away with a few technical nods and Toy Story 3 took Best Animated Feature. Christian Bale won for Best Supporting Actor, Colin Firth deservedly snagged Best Actor and Portman and Leo claimed victory in their respective categories.
The ceremony ended with The King's Speech garnering its fourth Oscar of the night for Best Picture after the most clearly biased montage in Oscar history – Firth's speech narrated silent clips of the other contenders. Its main competitor, The Social Network, left with only Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Original Score.
While its freshness fizzled and the academy again showed its complete inability to shock a crowd, it's difficult to stay mad about this year's Oscars. Who would fume in the face of Best Original Song performances, the sincerity and wit of 94-year-old filmmaker Kirk Douglas and the proof that everything really is better with a moving orchestra and a chorus of fifth graders?
Let's face it: This year's Academy Awards ceremony, for all its flaws, was well-paced, nicely organized and still contained the memorable, oddly-touching moments that awards shows do so well. It may not have been, as Tom Hanks called it, the "most magical of nights," but it was, as always, the humorous, enjoyably prestigious affair we have all grown to love, and a fitting celebration of the past, present and future of cinema.