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Oscar 2006: A record-breaking year for averageness.
by Eric D. Snider

The huge shock of “Crash” winning Best Picture was the night’s only real surprise, but it was a doozy. “Brokeback Mountain” was a lock. The polls of Academy insiders and Hollywood types had everyone 100 percent sure it would win.

But when you look at the night, it makes sense. It’s not like “Brokeback” was sweeping the Oscars up until the end. It had lost Cinematography (which was a surprise), and it had lost its three acting nods (which wasn’t).

However, “Brokeback” HAD won Best Director. Best Picture and Best Director usually match up. Tonight’s split marks only the 21st time out of 78 that that’s happened. (It happened a lot more frequently in the early days of the Oscars, at a time when directors were still viewed mostly as studio employees rather than artists who put their own imprimatur on their work. During the period of 1968-1980, considered to be a golden age of great directors and great films, it happened only once.)

When all was said and done, “Brokeback” had three Oscars — which is also how many Best Picture “Crash” had. And “King Kong.” And “Memoirs of a Geisha,” which everyone HATED.

That’s right, folks. No sweeps at all. The most Oscars anything won was THREE, and four movies did it. That’s the smallest haul for the “big winner” of the night since 1949. A 56-year streak of the top dog always having at least four wins, and tonight we broke it. (Five is the average “most wins” number.)

(This year really was a return to old-fashioned Hollywood, as they kept telling us. Before 1949, there were six separate years where nothing won more than three awards. In 1940, no film won more than two Oscars, and five films got that many. And the second year the Oscars were given out, for films from 1928-29 (they went August-July in those days), the awards were completely even in their distribution: Seven awards were given, and they each went to a different film.)

What this big distribution of awards says to me is that while there were many excellent films last year, there was nothing that jumped out as being the clear-cut most awesome blow-you-away best picture. I noticed that when I compiled my top 10 list. My top three or four films could have gone in any order, really.

Some big shut-outs this year. “Munich” had five nominations and got nothing. “Good Night, and Good Luck” had SIX and also got nothing.

All four acting awards were their films’ only wins, despite multiple nominations for each of them.

For the record, here is the list of winners:

Best Picture: “Crash”
Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote”
Actress: Reese Witherspoon, “Walk the Line”
Supporting Actor: George Clooney, “Syriana”
Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz, “The Constant Gardener”
Director: Ang Lee, “Brokeback Mountain”
Foreign Film: “Tsotsi,” South Africa
Adapted Screenplay: “Brokeback Mountain”
Original Screenplay: “Crash”
Animated Feature Film: “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”
Art Direction: “Memoirs of a Geisha”
Cinematography: “Memoirs of a Geisha”
Sound Mixing: “King Kong”
Sound Editing: “King Kong”
Original Score: “Brokeback Mountain”
Original Song: “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp,” from “Hustle & Flow”
Costume Design: “Memoirs of a Geisha”
Documentary Feature: “March of the Penguins”
Documentary Short: “A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin”
Film Editing: “Crash”
Makeup: “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
Animated Short: “The Moon and the Sun”
Live Action Short: “Six Shooter”
Visual Effects: “King Kong”

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originally posted: 03/06/06 20:08:55
last updated: 03/31/06 17:07:17
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