I always enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the Oscars, especially compared with the casual levity of other (lesser) award shows. I usually enjoy the Globes, but I can barely even stand to watch more than a few minutes of the other awards. It’s not just that the Academy takes itself more seriously than those other bodies, but it’s that they just seem to have a better sense of style than any other media/pop culture awards.
As for this year’s show, I actually didn’t think it was as much a debacle as last year’s which felt tedious and awkward. I am still not sold on the hosting duo concept, but at least this year’s show had a fortunate sense of brevity. While I think James Franco was the wrong choice for a host comedically, he is much better suited to a character bit or a supporting role, like his turns on Freaks and Geeks and this year’s Green Hornet. I will give the Academy credit for trying to capture the young/hipster crowd, but there is a way to do that without being too pandering and actually getting someone who can deliver a joke (later on this week I will have a list of my personal choices for future hosts).
In contrast, Anne Hathaway did an admirable job, considering she is not even really known for being a comedic actress. She definitely gave off the vibe of “holy crap it’s awesome that I get to host the Oscars” and seemed to be enjoying herself, which is more than we can say for Franco’s stoner detachment. I agree with Jill that the writer’s room needs some fresh (younger?) blood, and that tired jokes delivered by fresh faces are still tired. Although maybe the geriatrics had the last laugh, as the funniest moments of the night were Hathaway’s mom, Franco’s grandmother, and Kirk Douglas. However, I loved the taped sketches that were put together, with nice Inception tributes, and the auto-tune segment spreading the love with some non-nominated films.
The rest of the show felt kind of bland, with no unifying theme. The stage was nice and clean looking, which was a plus, and I liked the effect of the screens curving deep into the stage rather than one giant flat panel. However the choice of which movies to pay tribute too seemed rather arbitrary. Combined with the random interlude about Bob Hope and the first televised Oscar, and the random choices for presenters (like where were Mo’Nique and Christoph Waltz? (THR)) made the whole show feel like it was put together by committee with no one voice giving the show definition other than “here’s some stuff about movies.” Also, I found Celine Dion’s singing during the dearly departed montage more distracting than anything else, but I recognize that may be a personal issue.
One thing that saddens me is the length of the speeches. I recognize the show always runs long and they want to keep the show moving, and that the speeches themselves aren’t usually all that interesting, but the blatant bias toward actors is kind of depressing. Actors are the ones that are always in front of the camera, and can prattle on during appearances on the talk shows of their choice, but this may be the only time people like Andrew Ruherman and Shaun Tan ever get to experience that. Steve Murray from The National Post made a sweet infographic illustrating this:
As for the actual awards, I already was pretty confident about most of them (19 out of 24 *cough* *cough*) and had resigned myself that a film I loved (The King’s Speech) would beat out a film I am mildly obsessed about (The Social Network). My two biggest disappointments were that Nolan, like Tarantino last year, did not receive the Best Original Screenplay nod for Inception, one of the most original and discussed films of last year, and that David Fincher was robbed by the DGA out of his directing Oscar for The Social Network. While there is no doubt Sorkin wrote the hell out of that screenplay, it becomes very apparent in watching the ‘making of features’ that Fincher’s vision for The Social Network elevates it beyond a mere movie of the week along the lines of Pirates of the Silicon Valley and places it alongside All the President’s Men and Network, as a movie that doesn’t so much define a media generation, but tells a timeless tale in a period-specific milieu.
All in all, I always enjoy watching the show, and Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich tweeted something last night that reminds us what Oscar is all about; the award coming back to the people who made it possible: