Out of the 82 films that have been nominated for Best Picture, I have only seen 30. Someday, I hope to be able to say that I have seen them all, but in recent years, my ability to predict the winner has gotten worse and worse. Last year, I saw four of the five nominated films, and the only one I didn't see, Slumdog Millionaire, took home the prize. Ditto for 2007 and 2006. This year, I saw five of the ten nominated films, so my chances of seeing the winner were significantly diminished, but I was sure that by having Avatar under my belt, I would still make it. So, even though I generally like it when a film I've actually seen wins Best Picture, I was ecstatic this year when Avatar lost to The Hurt Locker.
I had wanted to see The Hurt Locker, but I never got around to it. Sight unseen, however, I was still rooting for it. Avatar lacked decent writing, original plot construction, character development, and nuanced acting. If it had won Best Picture on the strength of its special effects alone, it would have been a sad day for the American film industry. I'm fine with awarding it a bevy of Scientific and Technical Oscars, but let's not kid ourselves that Avatar's artistic merits extend beyond its technological innovations. Plus, on a purely subjective level, James Cameron strikes me as someone with an out-of-control ego. If he could spend the most amount of money ever spent on a film, and be beaten by a commercial unsuccessful independent film, directed by his ex-wife of all people, all the better.
Beyond the triumph of The Hurt Locker, and the first female to win Best Director, the evening had several other things going for it. There was the sassy opening number with Neil Patrick Harris (and what awards show isn't improved by a NPH cameo?), the bizarre Kanye-esque moment in the acceptance speech for Best Documentary Short Subject, and the fact that I accurately predicted the winner for Best Animated Short Film -- Logorama.
There was also glamorous fashion in spades: Vera Farmiga won my vote for best dressed of the evening, in her ebullient cascade of fuchsia pleated ruffles; I also loved Sarah Jessica Parker's retro embellished column dress and although I thought Kate Winslet's dress was rather unflattering, her stunning diamond necklace was my favorite accessory of the evening. There were also some spectacular fashion disasters, chief among them being Zoe Saldana's Givenchy haute-couture. That purple abomination proved the old adage that less is more; a dress doesn't need a rhinestone-encrusted bodice, a slit up-to-there, an ombré skirt, and enough ruffles to resemble a lilac French poodle. In the immortal words of Project Runway's Tim Gunn, it was "a lot of look."
There with me to snarkily assess the nominee's fashion choices, and to cheer on our favorite films and actors was Lauren, who I had invited over for the telecast and a very modest spread of hors d'oeuvres. Culinarily speaking, the highlight of the evening were the chocolate meringue sandwich cookies that I repeated after taking them to Lauren's New Year's Eve party back in January. She had enjoyed them then, so I thought I would try them again, this time with a few tweaks. I changed the ganache recipe to one with a lower cream-to-chocolate ratio, in hopes of producing a firmer filling that would set up properly. While the filling did work out much better, and the cookies even tasted slightly more chocolately than the previous attempt, the meringues went soggy at a brisk clip, and were inedible by the next morning. I'm not sure what happened, but I suspect the fog and rain we've been experiencing may have contributed to a humidity problem. Hence, I'm not ready to share a recipe with you until I've had time to figure out what is wrong, but, I thought I'd share a photo of the dainty confections nonetheless: