It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Oscars Sunday night.

It was like the debutantes’ ball. All the very best people were there, including Armani, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Carolina Herrera. And those were just the dresses.

First of all I’m happy and proud to say that in my January Oscar column, I picked the winners five times: Best Picture “The Artist,” Octavia Spencer for Best Supporting Actress in “The Help,” Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor in “Beginnings,” Michel Hazanavicius for Best Director of “The Artist,” and Best Adapted Screenplay of “The Descendants.”

Not my choices, mind you, just the picks. I know the town. It’s so transparent.

Not my choices, mind you, just the picks. I know the town. It’s so transparent.

The best moments:

1. First of all, the return of the great Billy Crystal to the stage. His opening number and dozens of brilliant one-liners kept the iconic gold statue from turning into wood. He’s often done that. Last year James Franco and Anne Hathaway took the stage and fell flatter than a souffle in an earthquake. So Billy got the three-in-the-morning phone call and came to the rescue.

2. There was the Cirque du Soleil’s amazing performance, which came literally flying out of the blue, and gave a Vegas bounce to the show that lifted everyone’s spirits. Well, not everyone’s. New York Times critic A.O. Scott tweeted a comparison between the show and “some kid’s bar mitzvah.” Billy Crystal added, “It’s just a pony away from a bar mitzvah.” I thought both were beneath them.

3. I must say that sending out a bevy of unemployed actresses dressed like cigarette girls in costume handing out bags of popcorn was a lot of fun. For most of the audience at the Oscars, it’s a long sit, painful and boring to some. Popcorn is a good idea. Booze is better. That’s why the winners at the Golden Globe Awards give such great, fun acceptance speeches and forget their wives’ names.

4. Woody Allen’s win for “Midnight in Paris” screenplay. Woody wasn’t there because he almost never leaves Manhattan. He always says that he can’t be too far away from the famous Russian Tea Room. In reality he hates the “other coast where the only cultural advantage is being able to turn right on a red light.”

5. Angelina Jolie’s acceptance of Woody’s prize. Well, maybe just Angelina Jolie’s fabulous dress as she accepted Woody’s prize. Well, maybe it was just Angelina’s very long leg that stopped the show.

6. Christopher Plummer’s win. Christopher and Max Von Sydow are men of my generation, albeit a bit older. Both are in their 80s. It was good to see so many strings of gray hair on the shoulders of those Armani tuxedos. It also lends credence to that old saw, “It’s never too late.”

7. Uggie, the little dog from “The Artist,” making it to the stage for the award. I wonder who was assigned to walk him on Hollywood Boulevard during the long evening. When a boy’s got to go, he’s got to go.

8. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis’s “cymbal moment.”

9. Esperanza Spalding’s “What a Wonderful World” backup to the always sad “In Memorium” sequence. I hate this moment. It’s one of those terrible “God! I didn’t know she was dead” things.

10. The “Bridesmaids” had two best moments: The picture, which was just a long Saturday Night Live sketch, didn’t sully the evening by winning, and then the smashing moments given us by Melissa McCarthy, the chubby farmer’s daughter from Plainfield, Ill., and the funniest woman since the late Madeline Kahn. This woman goes back to her series “The Jenny McCarthy Show” in 1997. The road up is tough for funny women. She’s made it.

THE WORST: We all knew about the inevitability of “The Streep.” She’s been in the house more times than the ushers, 17 times, winning first for Best Actress in 1983 for “Sophie’s Choice,” and Best Supporting in 1980 for “Kramer vs Kramer.”

Many saw it coming but hoped it wouldn’t. They’re so bad. Streep has an undeniable track record but few of her past challengers had the power and grandeur of the stunning Viola Davis who was thought to be a shoo-in for the statue.

If you think being a funny woman is a tough road, try being brilliant and black. I’m not sure Davis will ever get another film role as great as Aibileen, but she is basically a stage actress and her career is only beginning. In the words of the great Al Jolson, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Okay, you can Google Al Jolson.

Despite her fine work, Octavia Spencer’s plucking of the prize from Jessica Chastain who clearly deserved it left a bitter after-taste. I had forgotten how brilliant Chastain is until they ran the film clips of “The Help.” Spencer was very good, and the win will buck up her price, but this year will be her last shot at the gold. Chastain, on the other hand, has that gift, that quality that comes along once in a lifetime. Compare her “Tree of Life” and “The Debt” with “The Help.” They may as well put her name on one of the aisle seats.

The painful loss of Best Actor award to Demian Bichir who played the luckless Mexican illegal gardener in “A Better Life.” Almost no one saw “Better Life” when it played locally, and it didn’t do that well across the country. He was up against some heavy hitters with years of more experience, like Gary Oldman, George Clooney and Brad Pitt. But you can bet that with Oscar nominee next to his credits, Bichir will be back again and again. Check out “Better Life” on Netflix.

All in all, it was, with few exceptions, the best produced Oscar cast in years. No, it wasn’t that golden year of 1939 with “Gone With the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “Stagecoach.”

But remember what your grandpa said, “They don’t make em’ like that anymore.” Ain’t it the truth? Special thanks to Jillana Joly Devine of Progressive Artists Agency Hollywood.


Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.