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Monday, February 25, 2013

A Few Thoughts on the Oscars

Seth MacFarlane was about what I expected: not raunchy enough for the Family Guy crowd, too raunchy for Hollywood. For the most part, I thought he handled himself well. The monologue was pretty clever, though it could have used some editing (the sequences showing what MacFarlane did in Shatner's future would have worked better if they were shorter and not just, you know, the entire sequences) and I appreciated that MacFarlane didn't disappear later in the evening, popping up occasionally to move the show along and drop a joke or two. It bugs me when the host just pops up to bookend the show.

In terms of his actual jokes, some hit, some missed, but that's true of all hosts on all shows. In particular, I liked, "Argo tells the previously classified story about an American hostage rescue in post-revolutionary Iran. The story was so top secret that the film’s director is unknown to the Academy", and "tonight’s ceremony is being watched by close to a billion people worldwide–which is why Jodie Foster will be up here in a bit to ask for her privacy." And, of course, the bit about saying how the next presenter needs no introduction, then walking away.

As for the overall production of the show...well, to be charitable, it could have used some editing as well. I'm not one to bellyache over the length of the ceremony, but it would be nice if that time was spent on some more interesting things. Look, I love movie music and movie musicals, and if the Oscars wanted to celebrate that, fine, but this was more a celebration of Chicago (which, coincidentally, was in part produced by the producers of this year's telecast, so that's...shocking), which wasn't that great a movie to begin with. There are plenty of great movie musicals to celebrate over the last ten years; this show barely celebrated any of them.

Those same producers also produce Smash, now starring Jennifer Hudson. So really, this year's Oscars were a celebration of "two things the producers were directly involved with, and also Les Mis because it's currently nominated so I guess we'd better lump that in".

It also didn't help that the much-hyped James Bond tribute seemed lacking. A non-verbal montage and one song (albeit one that Shirley Bassey absolutely killed on) hardly seems a tribute, right?

One thing the producers did do right that I appreciate was bringing back clips of the nominated actors' work. Also, I really liked the set design, particularly the various drop in backgrounds like the wall of film projectors.

Man, that Avengers bit was pretty awful (it's always bad when you can't tell if something is a bit or if someone went off-script). Another production misstep.

It happens every few years, but I really don't like when they have some kind of animated character "presenting" an award "on stage". It just makes me wonder what the people in the audience are looking at.

In a joke I wish I'd come up with, Alan Sepinwall pointed out that the sound awards were livened up by the fact that all of the winners looked like Die Hard henchmen.  

The tie for Best Sound Editing was the first tie since 1994, when there was a tie in the Live Action Short category. Prior to that, the last tie (and most notable one) was in 1969, when Barbara Streisand and Katherine Hepburn tied for Best Actress.

Speaking of Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence has now earned a place in the group of people I'm okay with winning anything, ever, because their speeches are so entertaining. "You guys are just standing up because I fell, and that's so embarrassing."

Ditto Daniel Day-Lewis (who became the first person to win three Best Actor awards), who managed to win every award in sight this season and still managed to turn in a memorable speech every time. This time, he was surprisingly funny while also being sincere.

Usually, the Best Picture speeches are pretty dry, but Ben Affleck's speech was also really good, managing to convey his obvious appreciation without feeling canned while avoiding the dry lawyer/agent/etc. thank yous. And even Grant Heslov, the "non movie star" third of the Argo production trio, spoke well, including the great line, "I know what you're thinking: Three Sexiest Producers Alive."

2 comments:


  1. I was disappointed in the show, as you know. The Oscars telecast is something many people would only see if you paid them, but for me it's a tradition — one that for the most part I've always enjoyed. Last week's struck out: I didn't like the host, I didn't especially care for the featured bits (montage, performance, etc.), and I didn't agree with the Best Picture winner.

    In terms of his actual jokes, some hit, some missed, but that's true of all hosts on all shows.

    True. But most hosts are either professionals, and so handle the misses with more aplomb, or clearly amateurs (in terms of this kind of gig), so we give them more of a pass. Not all film actors, or even stage actors, can do the not-[quite]-in-character thing that being a master of ceremonies requires. MacFarlane was a strange in-between case. Since relatively few people had heard of him, and even most of those were not really familiar with him as himself, I think the expectation was that he had to have been hired because he'd be good at this. He didn't really have the chops or the cred, though, to do his schtick.

    I surely didn't hate all of his material. His delivery was very much "And here's what I'm supposed to say next," however, not really working with the room and too ready with a canned follow-up when it turned against him. It's hard to knock someone for being glib in a roomful of the Hollywood elite, but there you go.

    Given that the guy grew up wanting to be a cartoonist and comedian, as the profiles that I read of him in the run-up to Oscar night said, I should be predisposed to relate to the guy, yet however much he might have truly relished the opportunity to work one of the last truly classic, old-school show-biz jobs he couldn't keep that smarmy side from coming out. And he hadn't earned the familiar cheekiness. It was obvious even before his post-Oscars comments that he was going to get in this once, not believing his luck, and never look back. Maybe that's an admirable attitude in some situations, but (again, to me) not this one.

    For all that I dissed MacFarlane, by the way, I mostly blame the producers. They hired him, they let his opening go on so long, they let him have his (or their) cake and eat it too by showing the "cut" bits in their entirety, they decided to arbitrarily limit their celebration of movie musicals to the past 10 years (even though their host, and opening numbers, had an even more retro bent in that area) so that they could include their own Chicago and Hairspray plus this year's crowd-pleasing Les Miz with little in the middle (even though a few more years would've included Moulin Rouge!), they gave us a show bereft of much of the other extras we buffs enjoy. I can't even think of another montage beyond the middling James Bond one.

    Man, I wasn't planning on writing that much. 8^)

    Jennifer Lawrence has now earned a place in the group of people I'm okay with winning anything, ever, because their speeches are so entertaining.

    I agree. I'll ditto your ditto of Daniel Day-Lewis — and throw in Adele, too. I paid more attention to the Grammys last year than usual and she was a hoot.

    Ben Affleck's speech was also really good

    Not so much for me. He'd have done way better not to discuss his own creative comeback, which the voters may well have been rewarding but which I feel was even less appropriate to acknowledge than it was to have happen in the first place. And I say that generally liking what I know of the guy as well as being really impressed by the films he's directed.

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  2. @Blam: yet however much he might have truly relished the opportunity to work one of the last truly classic, old-school show-biz jobs he couldn't keep that smarmy side from coming out.

    This, I think, is where he was kind of "damned if you do/damned if you don't". He genuinely does seem to like the old school show biz stuff, but this schtick is also kinda smarmy (and certainly irreverent). At times, as in some episodes of Family Guy, particularly the musical ones, he can blend those two, but it just wasn't going to happen at the Oscars, and he ended up being too little of either to make anyone entirely happy.

    even though their host, and opening numbers, had an even more retro bent in that area

    Seriously, how bummed do you think MacFarlane was (not that he'd ever admit it) to get hired for the job, then hear "we're going to do a tribute to movie musicals" only to have that followed by "...of the last ten years"?

    When I heard the theme a few days before the show, I thought "that's perfect for MacFarlane", until I heard they were focusing in so narrowly, at which point I wondered why they even bothered to hire him (plus, there were plenty of other musicals from that era - granted, not Oscar winning ones but that's never been a problem - they could have included, but it definitely seemed like the producers just wanted to toot their own horns, and couldn't ignore Les Mis because, you know...

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