Sunday, March 09, 2008

Firsts at 80th Academy Award Awards®

Day-Lewis, Swinton, Cotillard, and Bardém

All four acting categories at the Academy Awards® Sunday night were won by actors who have residences outside the U.S. I haven't had time to check this out thoroughly, but I have followed the Oscars® for longer than I am willing to admit on this blog, and I'm almost certain that has never happened before in the history of the Awards. So, that would be the first, first.

UPDATE 9 MARCH to original post of 26 February: It is not a first. All four acting awards going to foreigners at this year's Oscars was NOT a first. That happened first in 1965. Russia's Lila Kedrova received the statuette for ZORBA THE GREEK for best supporting actress, while Julie Andrews took best actress for MARY POPPINS. Best actor and supporting actor went to Rex Harrison, MY FAIR LADY and Peter Ustinov for TOPKAPI, respectively. The last three were Brits. Now, we know. (Source: Entertainment Weekly Magazine, 7 March 2008, Issue #981, p. 42.)

Briton Daniel Day-Lewis won best actor for his role in THERE WILL BE BLOOD; Scotland's Tilda Swinton was named best supporting actress for her role in MICHAEL CLAYTON; and French star Marion Cotillard won best actress for her portrayal of the late real-life French chanteuse, Edith Piaf, in LA VIE EN ROSE. Cotillard was the first French woman to win the award since Simone Signoret in 1960, thus, the second, first. Signoret won for her role in ROOM AT THE TOP.

Spanish actor Javier Bardém, whose Bardém family in Spain is often compared to the U.S. theatrical family dynasty, the Barrymore family, garnered his first personal Oscar® for his role as the maniacal Chigurh in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, which won Best Picture. Bardém also won the Golden Globe and the SAG award, plus many other awards, for this performance. He now holds the forever distinction of being the first Spanish actor to win an Oscar. So, that's the third, first.

There was some pre-Oscar buzz about whether, or not, Bardém would escort Penélope Cruz to the Awards. He took his mother, Pilar Bardém, sister of the late great Spanish director Juan Antonio Bardém. Pilar is an award-winning Spanish actress,. She gave her son a big kiss when he was announced as winner. Read more about Bardém, his family and foreign movies on my Foreign Movie Page, and there is also a permanent link on the right sidebar. However, taking one's mother to the Oscars is not a first. I do not know to whom that honor goes.

The fourth, first: The winner of the Best Foreign Language Film, THE COUNTERFEITERS (Die Fälscher, Austria), directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, is the first-ever win in this category for Austria.

It wasn't only actors residing in other countries who "cleaned up" at the Oscars. The music categories did too. The best original score was awarded to Italian Dario Marianelli for ATONEMENT. Also, Irishman Glen Hansard and Czechoslovakian Marketa Irglova performed their award-winning song, "Falling Slowly" from the very low-budget movie ONCE (Ireland).

The fifth-first happened after Miss Irglova was "played" off the stage before she got a chance to say a word after receiving the Oscar. When the commercial break was over, host Jon Stewart apologized, and she returned to the stage to make an elegant and respectively short, "Thank you" speech. No one cut-off by the show's director has ever been invited back before. It was a wonderful spontaneous moment, one that may join Oscar-clip history.

The sixth first, of which I am aware, is that this was the lowest rated Academy Awards show in history. According to AP, Nielsen Media Research says preliminary ratings for the 80th annual Academy Awards telecast are 14 percent lower than the least-watched ceremony ever, which was in 2003 when CHICAGO won, and there were 33 million viewers. This year's show had a 21.9 rating and 32 million viewers.

This year's ratings are 21 percent lower than last year when THE DEPARTED was named best picture, and Scorsese finally won for best director. That show attracted 41 million. The movie critics, professors and pundits will have a field day postulating as to why almost 10 million U.S. viewers were lost, if these were the correct figures.

And, now, the final first considered here, number seven. The Oscars have made a cautious venture onto the Internet. You can see their first efforts right now on YouTube. Next year, the Oscars may be streaming live on YouTube, or from the Academy's own Web site. That's roughly 362 days and counting. How can one wait that long?

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