Oscars go to the little guys

It’s that time of year, when The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences puts its stamp on this year’s greatest achievements in cinema. However, the 79th Annual Academy Awards proved there weren’t many amazing film moments to celebrate in 2006.

With previous years’ awards focusing on major blockbusters, this year’s lack of a dominant film switched the focus from multi-million dollar draws to the little guys. Ranging from Mexican filmmakers to documentary-making ex-politicians, this year’s award ceremony showed proved the Oscars are working to keep up with the YouTube generation and giving Hollywood a much needed wake-up call.

Ellen DeGeneres, this year’s host, gave her comedic insight on the evening’s nominees, emphasizing the international blend in her opening speech. Unfortunately, that was the only useful thing she did. Most of her comedic interludes attempted to inject a youthful exuberance into the normally stiff awards ceremony, but she made the four hours of glitz and glamour drag on for what felt like days.

Like all awards, some winners were a surprise, and some were expected. The big winner of the night wound up being “The Departed,” taking home four gold statues, including Best Picture and awarding Martin Scorsese his first directing Oscar. Looking back, the presenters gave viewers a strong indication of who would win.

Longtime friends George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg were there to present best director, and when Jack Nicholson was announced to present Best Picture, you already knew who the winner would be. The only real question that remained: did Scorsese really win for “The Departed,” which was an amazing movie, or did the Academy give him the statue for his body of work as a consolation prize for past films they’ve snubbed, such as “Goodfellas?”

Another unsurprising moment was when a King and a Queen took home the acting trophies. Forest Whitaker, who portrayed the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland,” took home Best Actor, while Helen Mirren’s striking portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II took home the gold for Best Actress. Both have won several awards for these roles, and it was no surprise they each took home one more trophy.

The supporting actor and actress awards did lead to an upset, with Eddie Murphy losing to Alan Arkin for “Little Miss Sunshine.” The former American Idol Jennifer Hudson delivered a shocked and overly excited acceptance speech for the Best Supporting Actress category for her work in “Dreamgirls.”

While most of the major categories failed to excite, some of the lesser categories proved to be the real talk of the evening. Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish language film “Pan’s Labyrinth,” a dark fairy tale set in 1940s fascist Spain, had the second-highest statue count of the evening, winning three Oscars for cinematography, achievement in makeup and art direction. It gave solid proof that public interest is changing, with overseas artists and foreign language films getting more attention from American audiences.

Al Gore was the other surprise of he evening. His peachy announcement that the show had gone green was the Academy’s chance to relieve a guilty conscience. After all, there always has to be one moment in the show dedicated to making us feel guilty for something. Gore’s best moment came when “An Inconvenient Truth,” his documentary about global warming, took home both Best Documentary Feature and Best Original Song for Melissa Etheridge’s “I Need to Wake Up,” beating out “Dreamgirls'” three nominations in that category.

When Hollywood doesn’t deliver, the awards ceremony will suffer. This year’s show was one of the lowest rated in history, proof that Hollywood really needs to get moving. The times are changing, and now anyone can be a filmmaker. More people are watching Internet video, and Hollywood didn’t deliver a huge blockbuster last year. If big studios don’t start delivering those films that make you an oddball for not seeing them at least once, then the little guy will dominate the future of the Academy Awards.