There were no dramatic surprises during Sunday night's 83rd Academy Awards broadcast. The Oscars recognized excellence in the varied filmed stories our culture is currently telling itself by awarding three top honors to "The King's Speech," which won Best Picture, Director and Actor (Colin Firth) awards.
This year, the awards seemed to celebrate characters – both humble and royal – who possess the grit and grace to face insurmountable odds. Perhaps these are the kinds of characters we turn to when seeking entertainment in difficult times.
Filmmaker and critic Craig Detweiler said the film "connects with viewers, including teens, who have ever felt stifled, afraid, or overshadowed."
Natalie Portman won the Best Actress award for her tour-de-force performance as a ballerina who descends into madness in "Black Swan," a film that explores good and evil across a backdrop of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake."
"Toy Story 3" won Best Animated Feature Film. The film focuses on a group of under-employed toys that face unwanted adventures after Andy, their owner leaves for college. Christianity Today named "Toy Story 3" its "Most Redeeming Film of 2010."
The winning Documentary Feature was "Inside Job," a distressing look at the roots of America's recent recession that delivers a withering critique of capitalism. And the sci-fi thriller "Inception" won a number of technical awards for its dreamscape visuals.
James Franco ("127 Hours") and Anne Hathaway hosted ABC's three-hour broadcast, which never seemed to take off. "It was so bad I didn't argue when the family changed to 'River Monsters,'" said one Facebook friend, referring to the "adventure fishing" program over on cable channel Animal Planet.
The program took a low-energy, nostalgic look back at classic films like "Gone with the Wind" and past Oscar broadcasts (including one featuring Bob Hope) rather than trying to push the envelope.
And it relied on video segments rather than the spontaneity of its poorly matched hosts. The excitement picked up significantly during a brief appearance by Billy Crystal, who previously hosted eight Oscar shows.
The biggest surprise of the evening was how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences boldly embraced platform agnosticism by harnessing digital media to reach more viewers in more ways. As a result, a program about entertainment on the big screen appeared not only on millions of television screens but also on the tiny screens of incalculable cell phones and other handheld devices whose users were encouraged to blog, text and tweet about the evening as they watched it (or in the case of the Facebook friend above, who did so without watching the broadcast).
There were few truly spiritual moments during the broadcast, as winners thanked their parents, their collaborators, and even "the great state of Delaware" but neglected to once acknowledge any Higher Power's role in the whole creative process.
The evening began with hours of celebrity-studded pre-ceremony broadcasts. "It's like the Super Bowl," said "Social Network" star Jesse Eisenberg. "I don't play football, so this is as close as I get."
Meanwhile, Charlotte, N.C., pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church reflected: "Imagine if the Church honored our God with the passion that Hollywood honors itself."
Major awards eluded the Coen brothers' remake of "True Grit," which received 10 nominations, and "The Social Network," which tells the unfriendly backstory of billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Melissa Leo won the Oscar for Actress in a Supporting Role for placing Alice Ward, the possessive and destructive mother who makes it tough for boxer Micky Ward in "The Fighter" – a film about pluck and perseverance in difficult situations.
"The Fighter" was one of many Oscar-nominated projects that focused on the power of families, whether for good or for bad.