It wasn’t the longest in history (not, in fact, by almost an hour), and it wasn’t the most boring, despite some jokes that fell flat and some presenters who were. “The Oscars” (the new title for the annual Hollywood extravaganza that this year’s producers used to make the event sound less stodgy) was a little bit of everything, but, in the end, not enough of what it should be celebrating.
Seth MacFarlane was the new host, picked, allegedly, because he would appeal to the key TV demographic (the 18-49 year olds). He probably did succeed in appealing to half of that group: the male half. It was hard to see how he would have been all that appealing to the female viewers, his shtick bordering on the misogynistic right from the start with his not-all-that-funny “We Saw Your Boobs” musical number (complete with choral support from the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Choir).
MacFarlane is one talented guy; you have to give him that. He sings, he dances, he writes funny scripts for TV shows (and movies, if “Ted,” is indeed funny; we haven’t seen it, but the character’s attempt at humor when he presented an award was just crude), and is not bad at stand-up comedy, if insult jokes are your thing. But twenty minutes of him to start the show (including the running bit with William Shatner/Captain Kirk) was probably ten minutes more than the show needed to establish his bona fides.
But the show was again heavy on musical productions—with a stated theme of “Music in the Movies” how could it not be—and while some of the music was great, in the end it left the supposed star of the show—the movies and the people who make them—relegated to second fiddle status.
The Academy, for all its effort at trying to put on an appealing show, always seems to miss the point. People don’t watch this show for the big production numbers. They watch it to see the stars and because they love the movies. Thus, the formula should be to show the stars as much as possible and to show the movies they starred in as often as possible.
So, why not show heavy chunks of the nominated films (say three or four minutes of each), thereby building up interest in those the viewing audience hasn’t seen, and recalling the best memories for those who have seen them?
Instead we again got little snippets (not even full scenes this time) of the nine films nominated for best picture and about three seconds of a scene for each of the major acting nominees. Hardly a way to “celebrate” the industry’s product, but the people in charge every year seem more anxious to act like the Tony Awards show than the Oscars.
That complaint aside, and we wish it were one the powers that be would pay attention to, the musical part of the show was good, even in some instances very good. In particular, we loved the full cast medley of “Les Miserables,” and appreciated the efforts of septuagenarians Shirley Bassey (now 76 years old and still impressive on the theme from “Goldfinger”) and Barbra Streisand (just turned 70 and still able to deliver Marvin Hamlisch’s “The Way We Were” just as he would have wanted).
Catherine Zeta-Jones (looking great and singing just fine, too) and Jennifer Hudson were certainly worthy of the standing O’s they got, but why did their numbers need to be included in this show?
And Adele may be a great singer/songwriter, but we could have done without her rendition of the “Skyfall” theme. Better to show some more of the movie, since they were supposedly doing a tribute to the 50 years of Bond films (another missed opportunity, with a hodge-podge of short clips without any sense of continuity or even identification of the movies).
Among the women’s gowns (always an interesting item for next-day water cooler discussions), Halle Berry’s dress was amazing, with Selma Hayek’s not far behind. That Jennifer Lawrence tripped over hers as she tried to climb the stairs to accept her best actress award (for “Silver Linings Playbook”) was hardly surprising. Why would a woman burden herself with such a mess?
Quentin Tarantino was appropriately iconoclastic in his undone tie as he accepted the best original screenplay award (for “Django Unchained”). And Ang Lee had the evening’s biggest gaffe when he awkwardly said, “I cannot waste this time talking about all of them” (referring to the actors in his film, “Life of Pi,” for which he won the best director award).
On a more positive note, the acceptance speeches of Anne Hathaway (for best supporting actress in “Les Miserables”), Daniel Day-Lewis (for best actor in “Lincoln”) and Ben Affleck (for best picture) were the standouts. And good for Michele Obama for doing her bit in announcing “Argo” as the best picture winner. (But what were the uniformed personnel behind her supposed to represent?)
The best line of the night might have been MacFarlane’s in “not” introducing Meryl Streep. “Our next presenter needs no introduction,” he said and then immediately walked off the stage. Unfortunately, it was one of only a few truly clever and funny lines on an evening that celebrated the winners but pretty much ignored the films they made.