Hazanavicius earns directing Oscar for ‘Artist’

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“Rango,” with Johnny Depp providing the voice of a desert lizard that becomes a hero to a parched Western town, won for best animated feature.

“Someone asked me if this film was for kids, and I don’t know. But it was certainly created by a bunch of grown-ups acting like children,” said “Rango” director Gore Verbinski, who made the first three of Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.

“Undefeated,” a portrait of an underdog high school football team, won for feature documentary.

Crystal got the show off to a lively start with a star-laden montage in which he hangs out with Justin Bieber and gets a nice wet kiss from George Clooney.

Back as Oscar host for the first time in eight years, Crystal also did his signature introduction of the best-picture nominees with a goofy song medley.

Before his monologue, Crystal appeared in a collection of clips inserting him in scenes from key nominees. The montage included re-creations from some 2011 films featuring Tom Cruise of “Mission: Impossible _ Ghost Protocol” and Clooney’s best-picture contender “The Descendants,” with the actor planting a kiss on Crystal.

Spoofing a scene from nominee “Midnight in Paris,” Bieber told Crystal he was there to bring in the 18-to-24-year-old demographic for the 63-year-old host.

Crystal’s return as host seemed appropriate on a night that had Hollywood looking back fondly on more than a century of cinema history.

The top two nominees _ “Hugo” and “The Artist” _ are both love songs to early cinema.

“Hugo” centers on a mystery connected to French cinema pioneer Georges Melies, who made groundbreaking fantastical short films in the early 1900s. “The Artist” traces the downfall of a 1920s movie star and is favored to become the first silent film to win best picture since the original Oscar ceremony 83 years ago.

Add the Marilyn Monroe tale “My Week with Marilyn” _ which earned Michelle Williams a best-actress nomination as the Hollywood’s greatest sex goddess and Kenneth Branagh a supporting-actor nomination as Oscar winner Laurence Olivier _ and the show’s producers had a ready-made script for a night of fond recollection and backslapping about show business.

Producers Brian Grazer and Don Mischer created the right setting, converting the theater where the Oscars have been held for the last decade into a grand mock-up of a stylish old movie house.

Of course, nostalgia can be sad along with celebratory. The Eastman Kodak Co., whose film has been a staple in the business for as long as Hollywood has been around, is in bankruptcy, and to save money, it won court approval to duck out of its sponsorship deal for the theater that’s home to the Oscars.

The signs were still up identifying it as the Kodak Theatre, but at the request of the landlord, Oscar organizers yanked references to it from the broadcast.

“We’re here at the beautiful Chapter 11 theater,” Crystal joked.

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