Monday, February 25, 2013

FEW SILVER LININGS IN THIS YEAR'S OSCAR SHOW PLAYBOOK


Joseph Gordon-Levitt, host Seth Macfarlane and Daniel Radcliffe in a half-baked 2013 Oscars musical number.


Why does Hollywood have such a hard time putting on a great Oscar show? Can’t they do something that equals the Emmy’s show that Jimmy Fallon hosted two years ago? What’s keeping them from putting on a show as assured as when Neil Patrick Harris hosts the Tony’s? Sadly, Tinsel Town whiffed it again this year. Just like last year when Billy Crystal tried gamely but mostly recycled old shtick (http://exm.nr/Q1gAYC), Tinsel Town seems incapable of making the industry’s most important night feel fresh and truly special.

Why is that? God knows the AMPAS spend millions on the show and has access to the greatest entertainment talent on the entire planet. And the Oscar Show take months to prepare but it sure doesn’t seem like it. Heck, Denzel landed the plane in “Flight”; why can’t the Oscar producers get an Oscar show to take off and tell jokes that don’t crash & burn?
William Shatner as Captain Kirk in a drawn-out bit that felt like it went on for light years.
I thought that when Seth Macfarlane was announced as host he’d add a genuine sense of modern humor to it. But what’s fresh about breast jokes that Blake Edwards vamped better in 1981’s “S.O.B”? What’s new about William Shatner dragging out old Captain Kirk shtick? Maybe if it was Chris Pine spoofing his version of Kirk, but no, Macfarlane gives 10 minutes of screen time to the old James Tiberius in a discolored uniform.

Macfarlane’s nothing if not a pop culture maven, but he didn’t do any of the countless imitations he can do. He barely sang. And the dance numbers he put himself in were under-rehearsed. Compare what he did with the game but ill-prepped Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to what Fallon got Tina Fey, Joel McHale and Jon Hamm to do in the “Glee” spoof they opened the 2011 Emmy’s with. There’s no comparison. The Emmy’s number killed. Macfarlane’s bits killed time. Slowly.

He also made a lot of awful, snide jokes that were too disrespectful for the Oscars. If you’re going to bring up Rex Reed’s awful comments about Melissa McCarthy’s weight (http://bit.ly/125bNB2), the punchline should be about Reed, not Adele and her weight. And jokes about Lincoln being shot, Von Trapp children being carted off to concentration camps, and Ben Affleck’s “Gigli” disaster demonstrated that Macfarlane really had a tin ear out there. His Kardashian hair joke got some laughs, but hirsute women humor strikes me as less gag and more gagging at something like this most esteemed of awards shows.
Anne Hathaway knew she'd win and gave a charming, humbled and prepared speech.
Thankfully, the actual Oscars had enough contests to make many races like Best Supporting Actor, Director and Best Editing incredibly compelling this year. And most of the speeches were either swift or eloquent or both. Anne Hathaway was nervous but thoughtful in her Best Supporting Actress speech. Ang Lee was humbled and yet still appropriately prepared. And who knew that Daniel Day-Lewis coud be so funny? His bit regarding presenter Meryl Streep being asked to play “Lincoln” first resonated better than almost all of Macfarlane’s material.

It was moments like Daniel Day-Lewis' record-setting third Best Actor victory, and Ben Affleck’s long but compelling speech about his comeback when “Argo” took Best Picture, that made the show very strong at times. Christopher Plummer also contributed some nice moments when he made his witty and urbane comments about wanting to work with the Best Supporting Actress nominees. And for once at the Oscars, the musical numbers were terrific, with the likes of Shirley Bassey, Adele and Barbra Streisand all excelling in powerhouse solos.
Barbra Streisand croons "The Way We Were" during the 'In Memoriam' segment.
But then good musical numbers could have been even better with a little more time and thought. I loved the salute to recent movie musicals but couldn’t they have included “Moulin Rouge” and “Hairspray” too? I loved all the time spent honoring 50 years of Bond, but where the hell were the six 007’s? And wasn’t there an opportunity to do something with 2012's stellar animated feature characters like Wreck-It Ralph, ParaNorman or Sparky from “Frankenweenie” somewhere in the broadcast?

At the end of the day, the Oscar show should be the most entertaining awards show that Hollywood puts on. And the numbers and skits should blow our minds. But the show can’t even best the entertainment quotient of the bare bones budgeted Golden Globes. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler killed as hosts there this past January. Why can’t the Oscars be as relevant, sharp and focused? Why did so much of the Oscar Show material have to be so sexist and racist? And is it that hard to give any one of the five actors from “The Avengers” just one decent line?
Daniel Day-Lewis was elegant, thoughtful and funny while accepting his record 3rd Best Actor Oscar.


Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal excelled as Oscar hosts because they struck the right balance between making fun of the town and being reverential towards the industry. Comedians like David Letterman, Jon Stewart and Chris Rock by and large failed because they brought too much snarkiness and not enough respect. Hugh Jackman did a wonderful job hosting the Oscars in 2009 and even won an Emmy for his efforts, but Hollywood should be able to find an equally suitable host if Wolverine is off making another X-Men movie, right?
Jennifer Lawrence looked stunning in the gown she'd later trip on, becoming one of this Oscar's funnier moments.
I hope the producers of next year’s show ask Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to host. Or Jimmy Fallon. They’d know where the line is and never cross it. And I bet they’d have capitalized on Jennifer Lawrence’s tripping and whip out some zinging ad-libs. Where was Macfarlane when that happened? My God, Billy Crystal would’ve been all over that, likely asking Jack Palance to do some one-hand push-ups next to her while she was laid out on the ground. Now that would’ve have been a helluva Oscar moment. Unfortunately this year, despite Bond’s anniversary, I was left shaken and not very stirred.  

8 comments:

  1. As always, right on target and brilliantly analyzed and noted. *sigh* when will they wise up and ask you to co-ord the event?

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  2. Thanks, Cathy! I wish they would! (Tee hee) Maybe it needs a real outsider. Or at least someone who's more of a fan to know that you have to be more respectful.

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  3. I was surprised at how tame MacFarlane was. My thought was that he'd be way more controversial. He apparently left his bag of schticks in the green room. He may think of himself as a funny song and dance man but he sacrificed the former and gave us far too much of the latter. Remember the bit with Shatner about changing the headlines of the morning after? The mediocre one seems like the right choice. I doubt if Seth will be invited back.

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  4. Every year I skip the Oscars and read the Sunday paper. Looks like, once again, I made the right decision.

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  5. Hey McDave, he was tame but also wrong in laughing at the audience, not with it. A big bomb in my book. Sadly. I had high hopes. And I still like Seth, just think he misread how to do the show. Sigh.

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  6. And Michael, your response made me laugh. Guys like me do get all bound up in our underwear over the Oscars, don't we?

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  7. So true! I don't typically watch the show, but this year had such amazing films I had to see the results first hand. Totally agree that the Bond tribute was the highlight of the evening. Loved the Diva solos as well.

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  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Luana. And nice to know you are a Bond fan. I just think that it would have been wonderful to see a couple of the Bond actors out there. Why wasn't Daniel Craig there? He was at the Golden Globes, but not the Oscars? What's up with that? A great missed opportunity in my book.

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