The Big Picture
Hosting the Oscars is a thankless job. This year the Academy Awards Powers That Be concluded that benign is better than belligerent. So they asked Ellen to host. I think they made the right call. Here’s why.
Ellen is amiable, good-natured, and universally beloved. She turned the Academy Awards into a giant version of her talk show by mixing with the A-listers in the front row, most of whom gamely played along. It was a bit forced, (Handing out pizzas! Tweeting selfies!) but it was also sort of fun, certainly better than listening to Seth MacFarlane sing “We Saw Your Boobs.”
Although it is obnoxious to “play out” overly long speeches, it is also obnoxious to force the audience to listen to, well, overly long speeches. I kept thinking the ceremony should have been shorter. There was no opening production number, the introductions to the Academy Award nominees for Best Pictures were done in batches, and there wasn’t even a lifetime achievement montage. Despite this, the ceremony dragged and ended at midnight ET, as usual. All the actors who won had prepared speeches, thank goodness. Cate Blanchett’s rocked – good for her for taking on the studios’ “earth is flat” belief that women-driven films don’t make money. Catching Fire was the top-grossing movie of the year, people! (Hooray for J-Law!) And Darlene Love of 20 Feet From Stardom brought down the house when she sang – hooray for backup singers! Lupita Nyong’o looked amazing, and her speech was perfect. Really. See for yourself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fluQ6iyy85g.
The Production Numbers
Speaking of singing, the production numbers were surprisingly good. Loved “Happy” – a joyous, fun, well choreographed number that made me happy by just watching it. The Wizard of Oz tribute in which Pink sang “Over the Rainbow” was beautifully done. And Idina Menzel’s performance of “Let it Go” was stirring and strong.
Every year, Charlize Theron kills it. Although she would look good wearing a paper bag, her dress was no paper bag. She gets my vote for best dressed. Nearly all the dresses were good. Sandra Bullock, Naomi Watts, Cate Blanchett, Amy Adams and Kate Hudson looked great. Although Anna Kendrick’s see-through red and mesh waist panel didn’t work, points to her for taking a risk. Nowadays dresses are safe and stylist-approved.
How To Improve the Ceremony
There are many ways to improve the Oscars, but I will focus on two. The first is to shorten the ceremony by paring the number of categories given out during the telecast. Given that technical people comprise a considerable chunk of the Academy’s 6,000 voters, that is not going to happen. The biggest problem with the Academy Awards is that there are no surprises anymore. I correctly predicted 20 out of 24 nominations. I am not an insider, just your basic movie fan who reads Entertainment Weekly. The Oscars are easy to handicap because they air after all the other awards shows. Want to spice up the Oscars? Televise them in January, before the Golden Globes, SAGs, et. al. Be the leader, not the laggard. I don’t think this will happen anytime soon since the Academy and the movie industry in general is notoriously risk-averse.
So How Were the Oscars This Year?
With a likeable host, stylist-approved fashions, and predictable winners, the Oscars were, in a word, safe. We saw a couple of moments of genuine emotion amidst the long slog to Best Picture. There was nothing risky, nothing edgy; it was pleasant, albeit all very careful. Over and out, until next year!