The world has spoken and, if you see one movie, you'd better make it "Slumdog Millionaire".
The scrappy film about a Mumbai teen who becomes a contestant on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" took top honors at the Oscars after winning previously at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. "Slumdog" walked away with the Academy Awards' coveted Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay awards. The film took home a total of eight Oscars.
Surprises included Sean Penn's win for Best Actor for his portrayal of Harvey Milk. Penn, often lambasted for his cantankerous demeanor, opened in a charming manner with "you commie homo-loving sons of guns." Why is the win a surprise? The Academy seemed to be marching right along with the Golden Globes' big picks and many were sure Mickey Rourke would be a shoe-in. In fact, Hugh Jackman included Rourke in his opening bit, telling him, "I want you to say whatever is on your mind because... if you win, we switch to a 20-minute delay."
Other winners were expected, such as Heath Ledger's posthumous nod for Best Supporting Actor. His father, mother and sister accepted the award on his behalf with heartfelt and touching words, leaving few dry eyes in the theatre. After five nominations, Kate Winslet won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in "The Reader." "Wall-E" was another one we saw coming. The animated feature had a message which it delivered with huge heart and incredible skill.
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," which was nominated for 13 awards, only won three Oscars in the categories of Visual Effects, Art Direction and Make-Up.
The show itself featured some big changes. The new producers were hoping to shake things up, but not every stunt proved to be a good idea. Among the misses: the contrived five presenter set-up made many watchers wince and a musical medley in the middle of the show left audience members scratching their heads wondering who thought that would be a good idea. We also could have done without the gratuitous "Romance 2008" montage, but it was relatively painless.
Among the wins: The presentation of the screenplays was incredibly well done -- and with Tina Fey and Steve Martin presenting it also was hilarious. The theatre itself was looking its best, decked out with old Hollywood glamour and dazzling set design and art direction.
While it was an entertaining show, we can't help but wonder how much longer the Oscars will remain relevant. After all, people are turning to the Golden Globes more and more and, after this year, it seems so is the Academy.