Anyway, onto the show. I thought Set Macfarlane was an average Oscar house – he didn’t embarrass himself, he didn’t do enough to get him invited back for another year. I’m starting to believe that being Oscar host is a nearly impossible job – you cannot make everyone happy, and yet time and time, that is precisely what the Academy tries to do – both appeal to younger viewers, who currently are not watching the show AND be traditional, and the result is always unsatisfying to all. Still, Macfarlane had his moments. As juvenile as it was, I have to admit I laughed at the “We Saw Your Boobs” musical number – especially the finale that reminded us all just how often we’ve seen Kate Winslet’s boobs. William Shatner was unnecessary, but I guess okay. The Flight reenactment with puppets was, also to me, absurdly hilarious – especially the moment of showing socks in the dryer when the plane rolled. I liked his joke about Daniel Day-Lewis staying in character and trying to “free Don Cheadle”. His bit with Sally Field was amusing, if far too long. And Macfarlane gamely tried to sing and dance – both of which he’s pretty good at – but in a show filled with far too many musical numbers, it felt like overkill. But respect to Channing Tatum, Charlize Theron, Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt for gamely dancing alongside Macfarlane, knowing full well that it could have gone disastrously wrong and they would be mocked endlessly. Macfarlane had a few nice moments sprinkled in among the rest of the show as well (I particularly liked his Rex Reed/Adele joke, which I assume many had to have explained to them). In total, I think Macfarlane probably did as good of a job as is possible as an Oscar host – which is only pretty good.As for the musical numbers, sweet fancy Moses, were there a lot of them. I understand that this is the 10th Anniversary of Chicago winning Best Picture – and that the Oscar show producers were both executive producers of that film – but did anyone find it odd that the show seemed to celebrate Chicago far more than any of the nominees for 2012? Did we really need Catherine Zeta-Jones hoofing it like mad (although obviously, and awkwardly lip synching) her way through All That Jazz? Jennifer Hudson did herself proud singing “You’re Gonna Love Me”, because she was obviously singing, and obviously brilliant, but this felt unnecessary as well. I liked the Les Miserables melody a little better – although adding in the mediocre new song Suddenly just because it was nominated for an Oscar, although expected, was unnecessary. But props to the whole cast who sounded good –especially for Russell Crowe, who knows everyone said he couldn’t sing, and still came out and belted it out anyway. I’m not sure we needed Shirley Bassey belting out Goldfinger – she can still sing, if not quite as good as she did 50 years ago – especially since the much hyped “James Bond tribute” it led into was a colossal bust. Seriously, they couldn’t get ANY of the Bond’s to show up? I may not be a big fan of Barbara Streisand, but she can sing smaltz like The Way We Were theme better than anyone, although turning the In Memoriam segment into an extended tribute to one person (this year composer Marvin Hamlisch) always rubs me the wrong way. Adele can obviously sing about as good as anyone in the world right now, but they needed to turn down the orchestra a little, as it threatened to overpower Adele – and with her pipes, that’s saying something. Not sure we needed Norah Jones singing her song from Ted, and to be honest, she kind of phoned it in. Macfarlane and Kristen Chenoweth’s closing ode to the losers was amusing, and you cannot complain that it made the show run long, since normally we just gets shots of everyone leaving the theater during the end credits. The biggest problem I had with the musical numbers was simply that they all went on WAY too long, and made the show run even longer, and feel even slower, than normal.
Okay, onto the presenters. I don’t know why people agree to be Oscar presenters, because most of the time, you end looking awful. When you can turn a comic duo of Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy (who had probably the best scene together in This is 40) into a laugh less void, you’re in trouble. At least they tried. The much hyped “Avengers reunion” was a complete bust, with Robert Downey Jr. seeming arrogant, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner seeming like they didn’t want to be there, Samuel L. Jackson, in a bizarre velour (?) smoking jacket seemingly clueless and Chris Evans, wait Chris Evans was up there too? Who knew? Mark Wahlberg gamely tried to interact with his animated co-star from Ted, but it wasn’t really all that funny – although, it was funnier than most of the presenters, so give it that. Last year’s returning acting winners were also a mixed bag – Christopher Plummer was the best, completely charming, Meryl Streep was a close second because she’s always a class act, Jean Dujardin seemed to ramble on too much and Octavia Spencer seemed confused, or was given nothing interesting to say. All in all, the Presenter who made the best impression was Michelle Obama, mainly because they didn’t try and make her funny, and her plea for arts education seemed genuine. I honestly cannot remember too much about any of the other presenters (except that Charlize Theron towered over Dustin Hoffman, and Kristen Stewart didn’t seem to give a shit – which I kind of like), so they must not have said anything too memorable.Okay, acceptance speeches. It was a classless move by the Academy to play people who spoke too long off with the Jaws theme. Yes, we all agree, some speeches go on too long, but gently remind them, don’t drown them out with loud music and then cut their mic – like the poor Visual Effects winners for Life of Pi, who were talking about a failing business when they were cut off, and an awkward Nicole Kidman had to pretend (poorly it turned out) that they weren’t just rudely cut off.
Anyway, onto the actual speeches. As expected, most of the below the line “tech” categories didn’t offer much in the way of memorable moments. These artists deserve their moment in the sun when they win an Oscar – the only time they really see their work, that is hugely important to movies, but not often commented on, get the attention they deserve. But, there is a reason why they work behind the scenes. The most memorable moment was, of course, the tie in Sound Editing – but I cannot tell you much of what either person said, because I was too distracted by the fact that both Sound Editors looked like Roy for Shipping Wars (anyway else addicted to that, admittedly silly, “reality show”?). I was also liked to see Canadian Mychael Danna win the Score Oscar – he has worked for a long time in Canada with directors like Atom Egoyan, Deepa Mehta, alongside his Hollywood work, and it’s nice to see someone from my home country win an Oscar.The speeches we will remember, not all fondly, are the ones by stars – or at least in the bigger categories. Even though everyone in the world knew she would win, Adele still seemed genuinely surprised and grateful when she won the Best Original Song Oscar. You cannot fake that kind of genuine emotion – and if Adele can, someone cast her in a movie ASAP. Many people have criticized Anne Hathaway’s speech this morning – saying it felt too rehearsed and that Hathaway acted as if she “deserved” the award (the horror!), but aside from her moment where she looked at the Oscar and said “It came true”, I didn’t get that impression from her. Besides, everyone has told her since the trailer for Les Miserables hit last summer that she had this Oscar in the bag. It’s hard to be THAT surprised when you win when the host is making jokes in the monologue about what a shoo-in you are. Supporting Actor winner Christoph Waltz truly did looked stunned when he won for Django Unchained, and his speech was truly one of the most humble of the night. The same cannot be said for his writer/director Quentin Tarantino, who came on stage looking like a drunken hobo, and then proceeded to celebrate his own greatness for the entire speech (I truly think Tarantino was TRYING to be humble, but he’s Tarantino, and probably incapable of that, which is part of his brilliance). I know it rubbed some people the wrong way, but personally, I liked Jennifer Lawrence’s flippant attitude about the whole awards thing. She seems completely relaxed and at ease, and gave the impression she would have been fine even if they gave it to someone else (although I will say, she didn’t need to wish Emmanuelle Riva a happy birthday, which for some reason felt forced to me). Daniel Day-Lewis inarguably had the best speech of the night – probably because he already has two Oscars at home and will continue to work only when he wants to. For a guy with such a serious reputation, his was the funniest speech of the night – outdoing most of Macfarlane’s jokes with cracks about how he and Streep had flipped roles – he was supposed to play Margaret Thatcher, she Lincoln – and how he had to talk Spielberg out of making Lincoln a musical.
I also liked Ang Lee’s speech. He always seems like a such a nice, genuine person, and his speech was appropriately humble – a funny after he thanked his agents and added “I have to say that”. Ben Affleck’s acceptance speech on behalf of Best Picture winner Argo was a mixed bag for me. Thanking Spielberg after what was a particularly nasty campaign didn’t seem genuine to me, but his rambling in the middle of speech did, even if it bordered on incoherence at times (saying being married to Jennifer Garner was work, than trying to backtrack, etc), but the part that most people seemed to like – where Affleck talked about his struggles since he was last up their 15 years ago, rang hollow to me. But then, I am a hopeless cynic in many ways.So that’s basically how I saw the Oscar telecast itself. I really don’t know what people expect from this show. It will always be too long. There will always be too many awards that most people don’t care about (although they should). It was always be labored, and the host will almost always be merely adequate. The Oscars are what they are, and asking for anything different is a fool’s errand. I’ll be back with a brief wrap-up of what I think of the winners – you know, based on their merit – and the Oscar season as whole later.