81st Academy Awards
|81st Academy Awards|
|Date||Sunday, February 22, 2009|
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Director||Roger Goodman |
|Best Picture||Slumdog Millionaire|
|Most awards||Slumdog Millionaire (8)|
|Most nominations||The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (13)|
|TV in the United States|
|Duration||3 hours, 30 minutes|
21.68 (Nielsen ratings)
The 81st Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honored the best films of 2008 and took place February 22, 2009, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles beginning at 5:30 p.m. PST / 8:30 p.m. EST (01:30 UTC, February 23). During the ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Academy Awards (commonly referred to as Oscars) in 24 categories. The ceremony was televised in the United States on ABC. Australian performer Hugh Jackman hosted the ceremony for the first time. Oscar-nominated Laurence Mark served as the event's producer, while Oscar-winning writer and director Bill Condon served as executive producer. The Academy hoped to revitalize the ceremony through an entirely new production team sworn to secrecy, and the telecast received generally favourable reviews from critics.
Slumdog Millionaire won eight awards, the most of the evening, including Best Picture and Best Director (Danny Boyle). Other winners were The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with three awards, The Dark Knight and Milk with two awards, and Departures, The Duchess, La Maison en Petits Cubes, Man on Wire, The Reader, Smile Pinki, Toyland, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and WALL-E with one. The telecast attracted nearly 37 million viewers.
Nominations and Winners for Academy Awards of Merit 
The nominees for the 81st Academy Awards were announced on January 22, 2009, at 5:38 a.m. PST (13:38 UTC) at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California, by Sid Ganis, president of the Academy, and the Oscar winning actor Forest Whitaker.
Winners are listed first and highlighted in boldface.
Honorary Academy Awards 
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award 
Multiple nominations and awards 
The following 15 films received multiple nominations.
The following four films received multiple awards.
Presenters and performers 
The following individuals presented awards or performed musical numbers.
Ceremony information 
Due to the declining viewership of the recent Academy Awards ceremonies, the Academy had contracted an entirely new production team in an attempt to revive the award ceremony and revamp its general script and theming. Marketing for the ceremony had even gone so far as to advertise it as "The Biggest Movie Event of the Year". Producers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark announced their plans to rewrite the script, and they made attempts to keep the entire premise of the ceremony a secret, even from the presenters and performers. Film director Judd Apatow aired a new short film during the ceremony which starred Seth Rogen and James Franco reprising their roles from Pineapple Express. Previously, Apatow directed a short film aired during the 74th Academy Awards which starred Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller. Chris Harrison hosted "Road to the Oscars", a weekly behind-the-scenes video blog on the Academy's website, oscar.com. David Rockwell designed a new set and stage design for the ceremony. The red carpet was directed by Robert Osborne. Host Jackman expressed his anticipation of the awards in the few days preceding, and had commented that he was thrilled with preparations for the ceremony. The recent global economic crisis caused a decrease in spending on the telecast from last year's awards, as well as a decrease in the cost to air advertisements during commercial breaks. The recession was mentioned by Jackman who said
this year, everything is being downsized because of the recession. Next year I'll be starring in a movie called New Zealand, and due to cutbacks, the academy said they didn't have enough money for an opening number; I'm gonna do one anyway
The presentation of the four acting awards was styled differently than in previous years (see Notable events section). among other changes, some celebrities presented multiple awards rather than only one or two as in previous years, and 2008 film genre segments replaced usual clip collections.
The telecast received a 6 second tape delay in some areas on the east coast during a section in which Host Jackman thanked Academy president Sid Ganis, and introduced Reese Witherspoon, who would present the Oscar for Directing. This was due to ABC, who panned out from the screen during the delay to present powerball numbers. This delay also occurred at the beginning of The Oscars Red Carpet 2009. There was also a 30-second delay at the start of the telecast, though not a tape delay, but a direct delay which affected the ceremony. Errors also occurred directly following Jackman's opening monologue. After he introduced the Best Supporting Actress category, USA Today reported that a stage hand could be heard yelling to director Roger Goodman for "cutting him off!". The curtain had not been opened when a montage of past Supporting Actress winners began, but was opened 2–3 seconds following. The telecast received a mixed reception from media personalities and critics, yet a more positive response from viewers at home.
Voting trends and summary 
Continuing a trend in recent years, the field of major nominees did not include a bona fide blockbuster at the U.S. box office, with all but one of the nominees for Best Picture performing even more poorly than those of the previous year. However, the top money earner in this year's field of Best Picture nominees performed slightly better in box office receipts compared to last year's highest grossing Best Film nominee, Juno.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was the highest earner among the Best Picture nominees with $104.4 million in domestic box office receipts (compared to Juno which grossed $87 million prior to its nomination). The film was followed by Slumdog Millionaire ($44.7 million), Milk ($20.7 million), Frost/Nixon ($8.8 million), and finally The Reader ($8.3 million).
Among the rest of the top 50 releases of 2008 in U.S. box office before the nominations, 33 nominations went to nine films on the list. Only The Dark Knight (1st), Kung Fu Panda (3rd), WALL-E (9th), Bolt (19th), Tropic Thunder (20th), and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (21st) were nominated for directing, acting, screenwriting, Best Picture or Animated Feature. The other top-50 box office hits that earned nominations were Iron Man (2nd), Wanted (16th), and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (41st).
For the eleventh consecutive year, at least one acting award went to an actor playing a real-life person (Sean Penn for his portrayal of Harvey Milk), this was also the tenth consecutive lead acting award for the portrayal of a real person. Penn's win was viewed as something of a surprise, Mickey Rourke having been the favorite to win. Penn received a standing ovation for his win. For the second year running, the Best Actor trophy has been awarded to a previous Best Actor recipient. Also for second year running, a Spaniard (Penélope Cruz) has won in a supporting category (previously Javier Bardem), and for the fourth year a British actress (Kate Winslet) has won an award (previously Tilda Swinton, Helen Mirren, and Rachel Weisz consecutively). This year also marks the second time Stephen Daldry has directed an actress into a Best Actress win (the other was Nicole Kidman, who also was a presenter), and the fourth time an actress he directed was nominated (Julie Walters and Julianne Moore). It was also the fourth time Woody Allen directed an actress into a Best Supporting Actress win (the others were Dianne Wiest, twice, and Mira Sorvino). This is also the first time the Award for Best Supporting Actor has been awarded posthumously, to Heath Ledger, and only the second posthumous acting award in Academy history. (The first was to Peter Finch for Best Actor in Network in 1976.)
Critical reviews 
The show received a mixed to positive reception from media publications. E! Online said that "Jackman nailed it"; the Associated Press stated that "the key word was charm" and that Hugh Jackman "gave his all"; and Salon.com said "Hurray for the Recession Oscars, the sincerest, sweetest, most heartfelt Oscars ever!" Roger Ebert said of Jackman: "I had a feeling Hugh Jackman would be a charmer as host, and he was." Of the show itself, Ebert added, "It was the best Oscar show I've ever seen, and I've seen plenty." The Toronto Star, Japan Today, and The Sydney Morning Herald also gave positive reviews, and many in the British media were particularly favourable of Hugh Jackman's hosting performance.
Others media outlets were more critical of the show. The Los Angeles Times says the show "fell flat" and from "Jackman's strangely self-conscious, low-rent opening musical number to Ben Stiller's obscure spoof of Joaquin Phoenix's recent appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, the awards had a tone problem—they tried to be something for everyone, coming off like a movie script that had its edginess and guts airbrushed out by too many studio notes." The Los Angeles Times' awards insider page The Envelope says host Hugh Jackman surely "obliterated all memory of the Uma-Oprah thing", in reference to the negative reception David Letterman received when hosting the 1995 Academy Awards ceremony. The Boston Globe states the show "aimed for flash...but ultimately, fizzle prevailed." The Baltimore Sun says "the Oscars show itself took a different direction this year: It went Tony with a vengeance. It was like a concept musical with a flaccid concept, badly in need of a Parisian riot or an exploding chandelier." The Chicago Tribune states the "New format, host are unable to rescue a plodding telecast." The New York Times says of the ceremony as "it was fun for a while, but then it just started to seem long."
Ratings and Reception 
The American telecast on ABC drew in an average of 36.94 million people over its length, which was a 13% increase from the record lows of the previous year's ceremony. An estimated, 68.88 million total viewers watched all or part of the awards. In addition, the program scored an 12.43 rating over a 32.61 share among the 18–49 demographic, which was a 13 percent increase. The show also drew higher Nielsen ratings compared to the previous ceremony, with 21.68% of households watching over a 32.44 share.
In July 2009, the ceremony presentation received ten nominations at the 61st Primetime Emmys. Two months later, the ceremony won four awards including "Outstanding Choreography" (Rob Ashford), "Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics" (Hugh Jackman Opening Number: William Ross, John Kimbrough, Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab), "Outstanding Short Form Picture Editing," (Best Motion Picture Montage: Kyle Cooper, Hal Honigsberg), and "Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Variety Or Music Series Or Special".
In Memoriam 
Queen Latifah performed "I'll Be Seeing You" during the annual In Memoriam tribute to honor individuals who died since the previous year's Academy Award ceremonies. Listed below are those who were honored during the tribute.
Note: Several notable individuals including Sam Bottoms, George Carlin, Don S. Davis, Mel Ferrer, Beverly Garland, Estelle Getty, Eartha Kitt, Harvey Korman, Jerry Reed, Don LaFontaine, John Phillip Law, Patrick McGoohan, Anita Page, and Robert Prosky were not included in the "In Memoriam" tribute, though they died within the last year. Heath Ledger died shortly before the year before, and a tribute to him was included then.
ABC aired a number of themed commercial advertisements which were shown during the ceremony. The Academy's ban that had previously disallowed film commercials to be aired during the telecast was lifted in mid-2007, thus allowing film companies to promote their upcoming films for the first time during the broadcast. Thirty-second commercials cost between $1.4 million and $1.7 million, compared to up to $1.8 million during last year's show. The decrease was due to the recent global economic crisis.
Like the previous year's awards, 2009's Oscars had also faced multiple controversies.
Disputes over Ledger's statuette 
Because Best Supporting Actor winner Heath Ledger died in January 2008 making his nomination one of posthumous recognition, the Academy had disputes over who should accept the award and who should gain ownership of it should Ledger win. Following talks with Ledger's family in Australia, the Academy ruled that his previous domestic partner Michelle Williams could not accept the award as the two were not married. They then decided that Ledger and Williams' three-year-old daughter, Matilda Rose Ledger, would own the award. However, due to Matilda's age, she will not gain full ownership of the statuette until her eighteenth birthday in 2023. Until that time, Michelle Williams will hold the statuette in trust for Matilda. Ledger's family attended the ceremony and his parents and sister accepted the award on stage on his behalf.
Faked winners leak 
Shortly after the voting polls were closed for the awards, a purported list of winners was posted online. The list, which bore a purported signature from Academy president Sid Ganis, stated that Mickey Rourke won for Best Actor, Kate Winslet won for Best Actress, Amy Adams won for Best Supporting Actress, Heath Ledger won for Best Supporting Actor, and Slumdog Millionaire won for Best Picture. It was later confirmed as a fake list. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences spokeswoman Leslie Unger later revealed that the list was "a complete fraud", and that PricewaterhouseCoopers had just begun to count the ballots. The list was proved false as the first award of the night, Best Supporting Actress, was awarded to Penélope Cruz, not Amy Adams, the purported winner in the falsified list. (The last time names of award winners were leaked prior to the ceremony was at the 12th Academy Awards for 1939, before the Academy adopted the use of sealed envelopes for voting results.)
Other controversies 
Prior to the nominations announcement, it was suggested that the 2008-09 Screen Actors Guild labor dispute could affect the awards by discouraging actors' attendance at the ceremony, However, as talks to end the dispute between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) were ongoing, the expected strike did not affect the awards ceremony, although a resolution between SAG and AMPTP had not yet been reached at the time.
Peter Gabriel, who was originally scheduled to perform his nominated song "Down to Earth" from WALL-E during the live broadcast, declined to perform after learning that he would be allowed to sing only 65 seconds of the song during the ceremony's Best Original Song nominee performances. Gabriel still attended the ceremony. John Legend performed the song in place of Gabriel, backed by the Soweto Gospel Choir.
Special segments 
The telecast featured multiple yearbook style montages of films seen in 2008. They were made up of the animation, romance, comedy, documentary and action film categories.
The animation segment began in a scene from WALL-E where the title character cuts open a damaged refrigerator revealing a VHS tape and an Oscar statuette. Wall-E plays the VHS tape on a tape recorder, which features the actual segment. At the end of the segment, multiple animated characters from the clips are revealed to be watching the tape with Wall-E. Listed below are the films featured in the segment.
- Kung Fu Panda
- Horton Hears a Who!
- Space Chimps
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars
- The Tale of Despereaux
- Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Listed below are the films featured in the segment.
- Iron Man
- Slumdog Millionaire
- The Reader
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Last Chance Harvey
- Vicky Cristina Barcelona
- The Incredible Hulk
- The Dark Knight
- Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
- Sex and the City
- What Happens in Vegas
- Mamma Mia!
- Revolutionary Road
- High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Background music: 'Lovers in Japan' by Coldplay
Directed by Judd Apatow. The segment begins in a set from Pineapple Express. Dale Denton brings Saul Silver every film that was not nominated for an Oscar to watch (though many were). After viewing the movies, Saul wonders why Janusz Kamiński is with a film crew in his apartment. They invite Kaminski to watch the remaining movies with them.
Listed below are the films featured in the segment.
- Slumdog Millionaire
- The Love Guru
- Step Brothers
- Tropic Thunder
- Mamma Mia!
- The Wrestler
- Forgetting Sarah Marshall
- You Don't Mess with the Zohan
- The Reader
- Saul (James Franco) gives a blank reaction to Milk's kissing scene. This is a joking fact that Franco himself was in the scene.
The segment featured the directors and co-directors of each of the five nominated Best Documentary Feature films discussing their thoughts on the art of documentaries.
Listed below are the films featured in the segment.
- The Betrayal - Nerakhoon
- Encounters at the End of the World
- The Garden
- Man on Wire
- Trouble the Water
Listed below are the films featured in the segment.
- Iron Man
- Speed Racer
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
- The Incredible Hulk
- Journey to the Center of the Earth
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army
- The Dark Knight
- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
- Death Race
- Quantum of Solace
Background music: 'Tick Tick Boom' by The Hives
Baz Luhrmann put together a performance for Jackman hailing the comeback of musicals. This divided the critics, with one Australian journalist saying it was "perhaps overstated" and others applauding the (apparent) focus upon a younger audience.
Many critics expressed surprise and/or disdain at some of the nominee lists, such as the omission of WALL-E and The Dark Knight from the Best Picture category, Sally Hawkins for Happy-Go-Lucky (for which Hawkins had won a Golden Globe), and the omission of Clint Eastwood's performance in Gran Torino from the Best Actor category. The Academy also surprised critics when it only put forward three nominations for the Best Song category, excluding Bruce Springsteen's "The Wrestler" and the theme from Gran Torino. The shortened list led Rolling Stone to accuse the Academy of snubbing Springsteen.
Film previews 
Due to the Academy's action of lifting their ban on film previews being aired during commercial breaks, commercials for upcoming films were seen for the first time during the telecast. Though some websites, such as Yahoo!, had expected commercials for summer blockbusters to be aired, most commercials were for films due for release in the spring season. Film commercials aired included Knowing, The Soloist and The Proposal.
During the end credits of the telecast, instead of clips from the preceding ceremony being aired, there were instead various clips of films which were released in 2009, Three of which (Up, Inglourious Basterds, and An Education) would later be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in the following year's ceremony, which Up was the second ever animated film to nominated the Best Picture award. Other films that were shown that got nominated the next year were Sherlock Holmes for Best Art Direction and Best Original Score, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for Best Cinematography and Julie and Julia for Best Actress. Listed below are the films that were previewed during this segment, in the order in which they were shown.
International telecast 
See also 
- 2008 in film
- 15th Screen Actors Guild Awards
- 29th Golden Raspberry Awards
- 51st Grammy Awards
- 60th Primetime Emmy Awards
- 61st Primetime Emmy Awards
- 62nd British Academy Film Awards
- 63rd Tony Awards
- 66th Golden Globe Awards
- Governors Awards
- List of Academy Awards ceremonies
- List of submissions to the 81st Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
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- Official websites
- Academy Awards official website
- Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences official website
- The Oscars at YouTube (run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)
- News resources
- ABC News – 81st Academy Awards coverage
- CNN Awards Spotlight: Academy Awards
- Yahoo! Movies – 81st Academy Awards
- The Envelope.com with contributions by Paul Sheehan
- Behind the times: the nominees for the 81st Annual Academy Awards World Socialist Web Site Arts Review
- Tim Dirks Filmsite.org Analysis
- IMDb – 81st Academy Awards nominees
- VanityFair.com's Oscar-obsessed blog, Little Gold Men
- Other resources