Oscar winners show few surprises

There are three things in this life that are all but certain: death, taxes, and Hollywood pandering to itself at the Academy Awards. Hollywood once again proved its vanity by awarding the art-house films with the big prizes while ignoring the blockbusters that delighted audiences and critics alike.

Billy Crystal returned to host the awards for the ninth time, representing the Academy’s attempt to restore the ceremony to a more traditional format after the controversial 2011 show. Crystal displayed a lot of energy for a veteran Academy host, bouncing off Justin Bieber and footage from 2011’s biggest films with the heart of a comic in his prime. He gave off more vigor than the awards currently deserve.

The Academy remained as predictable as ever this year, with clear favorites “Hugo” and “The Artist” walking away with five awards between each of them. “The Artist” came out on top, winning the awards for Best Actor and Best Director in addition to Best Picture. Hugo won most of the technical awards, including Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects.

Other major awards included Meryl Streep’s third win as Best Actress for “The Iron Lady” (in a surprising upset after “The Help’s” Viola Davis was considered to be a sure thing), Octavia Spencer for Best Supporting Actress in “The Help” and Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor in “Beginners.” Of the lesser awards, “Rango” walked away with Best Animated Film, “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” was awarded Best Original Song and the box office hit “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” scored Best Editing.

There is no doubt that some of the films which won deserved their awards. “The Artist” and “Hugo” are, according to critics and average film-goers, love letters to the early eras of cinema. However, the fact remains that the Academy is only interested in nominating films they consider worthy of recognition, mostly consisting of films either made independently or concerning historical and dramatic material.

Common audiences yearn for the years when iconic films like “Gone With the Wind,” “The Godfather” and “Rocky” went home with the top prize, but those years are long gone.

In a year where audiences laughed, cried and cheered for such diverse films as “Drive” and the last chapter of “Harry Potter,” it is downright criminal that these films did not get any type of recognition.

Not even highlights such as memorable presentations from Robert Downey Jr., Emma Stone, the cast of “Bridesmaids” or the “Muppets’” intro to a Cirque Du Soleil show could mask the disappointment of the snubbing of another year of fantastic films in favor of obvious dramatic pictures.

Unless the Academy begins recognizing a wider range of films that both they and audiences enjoy, the Oscars will risk losing their status as a relevant gauge of effective moviemaking.