While it can’t be said that “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” winning all 11 nominations on Sunday night was a huge surprise, seeing it actually happen was, in a way, a shock. After 75 years of stiffing fantasy films like “Star Wars,” “E.T.” and “The Wizard of Oz,” the Academy decided to finally award the genre with a huge 11-win sweep. “The Return of the King” plowed through the Oscars, grabbing Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. And it’s about time!
“I’m so honored and relieved that the academy and the members of the academy that have supported us have seen past the trolls and the wizards and the hobbits in recognizing fantasy this year,” said Jackson as he accepted the Best Picture Oscar.
Jackson and everyone else involved in recreating Tolkien’s epic deserve every single one of those awards for single-handedly setting the standard by which all fantasy films, past, present and future, should be judged.
The academy backed this up when they let “King” tie the record for Oscar wins next to “Ben-Hur” and “Titanic.” It is disappointing that Ian McKellen never got his award for Gandalf, but when a series gets 17 out of 30 Oscars, you can’t complain too much.
While I’m glad for Peter Jackson and his crew, it does lead to one problem. Having so many awards go to one movie makes it hard to keep the awards show interesting. Probably the hardest decision this year came in the Best Actor category.
What seemed liked a dead heat tie between Bill Murray, Sean Penn and Johnny Depp ended with a win for Penn. This was the most troubling, since comedic performances seem to be consistently underappreciated.
Depp’s was by far the better performance. He would have been able to do Penn’s role without trouble, while I doubt Penn could have matched a tenth of the coolness Depp conveyed in his jubilant drunken pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow.
Best Actor is the only place the awards differed from those of the Screen Actors’ Guild last weekend. Charlize Theron won Best Actress for “Monster.” It can be seen in even the short clips they played at the Oscars that she deserved it.
Renee Zellweger got a much-deserved win for “Cold Mountain.” While the movie left much to be desired, her performance alone elevated the entire film. Tim Robbins won Best Supporting Actor for his job in “Mystic River.” This is a reasonable choice, but seeing Ken Watanabe take it would have been more enjoyable.
Another big favorite of the night was the win for Best Original Screenplay going to Sofia Coppola. As the second-best film of the year, it was nice to see “Lost in Translation” not walk away empty-handed. Hopefully, Sofia will get her chance at that directing Oscar soon.
“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” took home the technical awards for Cinematography and Sound Editing. These were the only two technical categories “King” was not up for. “The Barbarian Invasions” took the Best Foreign Film, and “Finding Nemo” got the Best Animated Feature.
“The Fog of War” and “Chernobyl Heart” took the Documentary awards, and “Harvie Krumpet” and “Two Soldiers” left with the Short Film awards.
As for the show itself, the lack of variety in winners did contribute to a somewhat boring night, even if you were cheering for “Rings.” Billy Crystal did an excellent job hosting, with his comedy making all the filler entertaining. Crystal just does a great job, and it seems like a waste of time to try out other hosts.
The highlight of the presentations came for Jack Black and Will Ferrell, whose lyrics to the Oscar “wrap it up” theme brought the most laughter of the night while driving home a good point. Some of the speeches definitely fell into the description of boring.
Overall, it was a great show. It was nice to see the academy finally acknowledge the fantasy genre while maintaining their traditional picks in the acting categories.