Oscars Diary: A dull night, but at least we won the costume

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The Independent Culture

In his moment of triumph, spare a thought for Nicolas Chartier, The Hurt Locker's financier and co-producer who was banned from the Oscars ceremony after he sent an email to Academy members rubbishing rival movie Avatar. Mr Chartier's punishment overshadowed the crowning achievement of his career and he watched proceedings on TV at a private party in Malibu. He'll still get an Oscar statue. But the affair has tarnished a compelling story: Mr Chartier was so convinced of The Hurt Locker's merit that he remortgaged his house to raise its $15 million budget. He was later banned from the film's set after upsetting Ms Bigelow. But they now seem to be friends. The director promised backstage: "We are going to meet later tonight at some of the parties."

BY MODERN standards, it was a dull night for acceptance speeches. Not one winner broke down in tears, or attempted to use the platform to advance a bizarre political cause. Imagine, then, how boring their comments might have been were it not for a new innovation: the backstage "thank-you-camera". The device allowed winners to tape record best wishes to friends, family and colleagues, in an effort to jazz-up speeches that traditionally consist of one big list of thank-yous. Its introduction meant that just one winner was "played off" for speaking for too long: Nicolas Schmerkin, producer of Best Animated Short Logorama.

BEST SUPPORTING actress Mo'Nique dedicated her win to Hattie McDaniel, the first black Oscar winner who in 1940 occupied a segregated seating area at the Academy Awards. "The reason I have on this royal blue dress is because it's the colour that Hattie McDaniel wore in 1940 when she accepted her Oscar," she said. "The reason I have this gardenia in my hair, it is the flower that Hattie McDaniel wore when she accepted her Oscar."

The reference to McDaniel, the daughter of slaves who played Mammy in Gone With the Wind raised eyebrows among viewers with a knowledge of Oscar history. The Academy has always controversially (and unfairly) refused to replace the pioneering actress's Oscar trophy, which was left to Howard University but went missing during a civil rights protest during the 1960s.

CRITICS WERE unimpressed by this year's ceremony, which kicked-off with what the LA Times called a "lamentable" song and dance number and left veteran hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin with "a lot of incremental dead air." The directors attempted to insert a little old-school excitement by instructing award presenters, for the first time in 22 years, to announce the verdict with the words "and the winner is..." rather than "and the Oscar goes to..." But the best adjective the New York Times could muster to describe the three and a half hour show was "fine." The Washington Post meanwhile called it "entirely too proud of itself."

WHAT DID Sandra Bullock's husband Jesse James whisper in her ear after she was named best actress? America's sweetheart won't say. "You expect me to tell you that? No way!" she said afterwards. "But bless your heart for trying."

SHE'S NOW won three Oscars, but British costume designer Sandy Powell, who won for Young Victoria has yet to get the public attention she feels she richly deserves. "Normally you don't mention the costume design," she complained, backstage. When [British winners] get a ripple in the press, it's usually the actors, directors and cinematographers. So... I hope tonight will get reported." Done.