So the 84th annual Academy Awards are history, and that feeling of deflation has set in.
I have a pet theory about this year's results. Years from now, when film historians (and maybe even Academy members) look back on the winners from last night, the dominant reaction will be:
Why in the world did they choose "The Artist" as best picture?
I think it could rank up there with 1930, when "Cimarron," a western that has faded with time, won over "The Front Page," which was great even before it was remade into "His Girl Friday."
Or 1941, when the sentimental mining story "How Green Was My Valley" triumphed over the towering innovation and gutsy social commentary of "Citizen Kane."
Or 1944, when homespun "Going My Way" beat suspense classics "Gaslight" and "Double Indemnity."
Or 1952, when "The Greatest Show on Earth" was deemed a better picture than "High Noon," perhaps mostly because in a year when color was relatively new, a color-drenched circus story topped a black-and-white western for the ages.
Or 1956, when the forgettable "Around the World in 80 Days" topped the unforgettable "Giant," with James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson all at their peak.
Oh, don't get me wrong. I don't want to take back my positive review for "The Artist," not a line. It was gutsy and innovative, making a black-and-white silent movie in this day and age. And making it with consummate skill and artistry, as Michel Hazanavicius did, is worthy of praise.
If you haven't seen it yet, and I know most of you haven't, I can heartily recommend it. It's expanding to a thousand more screens in the days ahead.
It's a charming story, funny and sentimental, with a handsome guy, a pixie of a chorus girl and a dog that nearly steals the show.
But best picture?
"The Artist" just feels a little light for that, even with its clever references to other film classics.
The plot is time-worn melodrama. And when it comes to substance, that little dose of movie history isn't even as significant or insightful as what also-ran "Hugo" had to tell us about Georges Melies.
I still think "The Descendants" should have won. And not because an Omahan made it.
Start with stellar ensemble acting, impeccable casting, and the best performance to date of George Clooney's career.
Director-screenwriter Alexander Payne's multilayered and emotionally complex story dealt with weighty issues like who should make the call on end-of-life issues, what it takes to be an active and involved parent, dealing with marital infidelity amid devastating loss, and taking personal responsibility for the life you've made for yourself.
And that whole issue of land development and personal wealth versus the preservation of a beautiful slice of nature is very much alive today.
In fact, you could argue that Payne's movie was the most direct and insightful of all the best-picture nominees at dealing with contemporary life as we know it. And he did it with an incredible balancing act between comedy and tragedy, deftly flipping back and forth between the two.
But those film historians I talked about at the start will have the advantage of perspective. As the years go by, they'll see more and more clearly what fades over time and what never loses its relevance. I could be very wrong about that.
I think the Academy gets a lot right in how it chooses to honor the art and craft of making movies. Ranking art is a bit of a hopeless exercise to begin with.
I loved Viola Davis in "The Help," but was glad to see Meryl Streep win best actress. In a standout year for female performances, hers stood out amid the crowd. She disappeared into the character of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Billy Crystal's return as host was welcome, even if not particularly groundbreaking. I'd rank him up there with Bob Hope and Johnny Carson among the all-time best Oscar hosts. And I'm glad he's a kinder, gentler host who doesn't go after celebrities in the audience the way Ricky Gervais has at the Golden Globes.
So, what did you think, readers, movie fans and Academy Award watchers? How did this year's show stack up in your mind?
Is there a year you think the Academy got the best-picture winner wrong? What was the year, and what should have won instead? If I get enough interesting responses, I'll share them with readers soon.
Hear World-Herald reviewer Bob Fischbach's summary of what's opening each week at the movies Friday mornings on KQKQ-FM, 98.5, at 8:50 a.m.; and The Big O, 101.9, at 8:35 a.m.