"Did I really earn this or did I just wear you all down?" Sandra Bullock's first words as she accepted the Academy Award for best actress for her starring role in The Blind Side could have just as easily described the telecast that was "so long Avatar now takes place in the past."
Early favorites like Bullock, best actor winner Jeff Bridges, best supporting actress winner Mo'Nique, best director winner Katherine Bigelow, and best film winner The Hurt Locker were all anointed with precursor awards in the weeks before the big night in Hollywood—laying down the red carpet to the Oscars and a night filled with predictability.
Sure, seeing co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin in matching bright orange Snuggies and the cast of So You Think You Can Dance finally getting a paycheck was very 2010, but by and large the 82nd Annual Academy Awards was all sparkle with no real spark.
The night's most random and, therefore, most entertaining moment came when Elinor Burkett, producer of the documentary short winner Music by Prudence, pulled a Kanye West on the main stage. As the film's director, Roger Ross Williams, began his acceptance speech—"… I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would end up here. This is so exciting…"—Burkett shoved her way into the shot complaining into the mic about how "the man never lets the woman talk."
"Isn't that just the classic thing?" she asked before continuing on napkin notes as Williams looked on. "You know in a world in which most of us are told and tell ourselves we can't we honor the band behind this film that teaches us that we're wrong against all odds they did so we can." Then of course, the Oscars band began to play and both were ushered off the stage.
"I'm going to stand as far away as possible so as not to demean the winner," joked Ben Stiller a few moments later when he presented the best makeup award to the team from Star Trek. He was dressed as a blue-skinned Na'vi alien from the planet Pandora, the world created in James Cameron's movie Avatar. The line could have been an ad-libbed dig at speech stealer Burkett or just a clear nod to that fact that he was covered in blue paint at the Olympics of Hollywood.
Taking the night more seriously was Mo'Nique, who won the Oscar for her supporting role in Precious. Dressed in a royal blue gown, she glided to the podium with the confidence of a queen but a quiet humility—a sharp contrast to the cruel and abusive mother with a penchant for onesies and wigs she played in the film. Mo'Nique, who didn't seem at all surprised when her name was called, first thanked the Academy "for showing it can be about the performance and not the politics" before moving on to the film's superstar producers. "Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey because you touched it the whole world saw it." She also paid tribute to Hattie McDaniel, the first black actor to win an Oscar, for her role as the maid in Gone With the Wind. Geoffrey Fletcher also won the adapted-screenplay Oscar for Precious.
Later when Perry took to the podium to present the award for best film editing, he was less confident of his place in the Hollywood machine. Perry joked that he should savor the moment of hearing his name announced "because it probably will never happen again." For her part, Winfrey used her time on stage to praise the star of Precious, Gabourey Sidibe, as "a true American Cinderella on a threshold of a new brilliant career." Sidibe, who played an abused-but-not-broken teen, lost to actress Sandra Bullock, who played a mother determined to save one such child.
Much was made of the contest between best director nominees Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and her ex-husband, James Cameron (Avatar), who said recently that Bigelow would probably take the top prize only because the story line of a girl making a tough war movie was "irresistible."
The Academy obliged on Sunday, and Bigelow, looking as tall as one of Cameron's Avatars, took to the stage appearing nearly as shell-shocked as the soldiers in her film. She was the first woman to win the director's award in the ceremony's 82-year history. When presenter Barbra Streisand handed her the award, Bigelow whispered that she was honored. She dedicated her award "to the women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world." Just moments later Bigelow reiterated that same sentiment when The Hurt Locker won best film.
Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root. Her book, Bitch Is The New Black, will be released this summer. Follow her on Twitter.