In the early Oscars, no clear front-runners
BY DAVID GERMAIN February 24, 2013 9:18PM
Updated: February 24, 2013 9:55PM
LOS ANGELES — Anne Hathaway has gone from propping up leaden sidekick James Franco at the Academy Awards to hefting a golden statue of her own with a supporting-actress Oscar win as a doomed mother-turned-prostitute in the musical “Les Miserables.”
Christoph Waltz won his second supporting-actor Oscar for a Tarantino film, this time as a genteel bounty hunter in the slave-revenge saga “Django Unchained.”
Hathaway, whose perkiness helped carry her and the listless Franco through an ill-starred stint as Oscar hosts two years ago, is the third performer in a musical to win supporting actress during the genre’s resurgence in the last decade.
“It came true,” said Hathaway, who joins earlier musical-film winners, 2002 supporting-actress winner Catherine Zeta-Jones for “Chicago” and 2006 recipient Jennifer Hudson for “Dreamgirls.” Hathaway had warm thanks for “Les Miz” co-star Hugh Jackman, with whom she once sang a duet at the Oscars when he was the show’s host.
Hathaway’s Oscar came for her role as noble but fallen Fantine in the big-screen adaptation of the Broadway smash that was based on Victor Hugo’s epic novel of revolution, romance and redemption in 19th century France.
In a choked voice, Waltz offered thanks to his character and “to his creator and the creator of his awe-inspiring world, Quentin Tarantino.”
A veteran performer in Germany and his native Austria, Waltz had been a virtual unknown in Hollywood when Tarantino cast him as a gleefully evil Nazi in 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds,” which won him his first Oscar.
Waltz has since done a handful of other Hollywood movies, but it’s Tarantino who has given him his two choicest roles.
Oscar host Seth MacFarlane opened with a mildly edgy monologue that offered the usual polite jabs at the academy, the stars and the industry. He took a poke at academy voters over the snub of Ben Affleck, who missed out on a directing nomination for best-picture favorite “Argo,” a thriller about the CIA’s plot to rescue six Americans during the Iranian hostage crisis.
“The story was so top secret that the film’s director is unknown to the academy,” MacFarlane said. “They know they screwed up. Ben, it’s not your fault.”
William Shatner made a guest appearance as his “Star Trek” character Capt. James Kirk, appearing on a giant screen above the stage during MacFarlane’s monologue, saying he came back in time to stop the host from ruining the Oscars.
“Your jokes are tasteless and inappropriate, and everyone ends up hating you,” said Shatner, who revealed a headline supposedly from the next day’s newspaper with a headline reading, “Seth MacFarlane worst Oscar host ever.”
The performance-heavy Oscars also included an opening number featuring Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum, who did a classy dance while MacFarlane crooned “Just the Way You Look Tonight.” Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt then joined MacFarlane for an elegant musical rendition of “High Hopes.”
Fans have pondered how far MacFarlane the impudent creator of “Family Guy,” might push the normally prim and proper Oscars.
MacFarlane may be a wild card, but as for the show itself, predictability could be the Academy Awards’ middle name. This time looks the same, with clear favorites in the main categories.
So Oscar organizers hope they’ve assembled a show that will be good time on its own performance merits, with wily, bawdy writer, director, animator, singer and all-around vocal talent MacFarlane as host and a ceremony packed with song and dance.
The awards themselves do hold some potential firsts and other rarities.
Affleck’s “Argo” looks like it will be an uncommon film to claim best picture without a directing nomination, while “Lincoln” filmmaker Steven Spielberg and star Daniel Day-Lewis are favored to join exclusive lists of three-time Oscar winners.
Affleck was not counting on anything, though.
“We don’t expect to depart with anything but our integrity,” Affleck said on the Oscar red carpet before the show.
If some longshots came in, the night could produce two more three-time acting winners — Sally Field from “Lincoln” and Robert De Niro for “Silver Linings Playbook.”
There’s also a chance of the oldest or youngest acting winner ever — 86-year-old “Amour” star Emmanuelle Riva and 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis for “Beasts.”
The show will feature a tribute to British super-spy James Bond to mark the 50th anniversary of his first big-screen outing in “Dr. No.” Adele will perform her Oscar-nominated title tune to last year’s Bond tale “Skyfall,” while the show features Shirley Bassey, who sang the Bond theme songs for “Goldfinger,” “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Moonraker.”
The show presents a salute to movie musicals of the last decade, with “Chicago” Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones and “Dreamgirls” winner Jennifer Hudson joining “Les Miserables” cast members that include best-actor nominee Hugh Jackman, supporting-actress front-runner Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham Carter and Amanda Seyfried.
Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have lined up a bubbly mix of young and old Hollywood as presenters, performers and special guests — from Barbra Streisand, Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda to “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe, “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart, and Robert Downey Jr. and his superhero colleagues from “The Avengers.”
Affleck’s thriller “Argo” is in line for best picture after winning practically every top prize at earlier honors. Hollywood was shocked that Affleck was snubbed for a directing nomination, possibly earning the film some sympathy votes, particularly from actors, who love it when one of their own succeeds behind the camera.
The story of how Hollywood, Canada and the CIA teamed up to rescue six Americans during the Iranian hostage crisis, “Argo” would become just the fourth film in 85 years to claim the top prize without a best-directing nomination and the first since 1989’s “Driving Miss Daisy.”
The best-picture prize typically ends the Oscar show, but this time, MacFarlane and Kristin Chenoweth will perform a closing number on the Dolby Theatre stage that producers Zadan and Meron called a “’can’t miss’ moment.”
AP writers Sandy Cohen, Beth Harris and Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.