Monday, March 03, 2014

The Oscars

I thought last night's Oscar broadcast was the best in a long time. I'm not alone in that as it had the biggest audience in 10 years. I thought Ellen was funny and appropriate as host, the speeches were good or great, the rest was fine. Even though they got to the first award within 10 minutes, they still managed to go 3.5 hours and I think they should just schedule the show for that long.

They let the winners speak. I don't think anyone was really played off the stage and overall I think the speeches were good. Lupita N'yongo stole the show. She was poised and stunned, appreciative and humble. She thanked her character and had the line of the night, "When I look down at this statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you are from, your dreams are valid." I thought Cate Blanchett gave another great speech, telling each of her competitors how much she liked their performance, thanked everyone on the film and told off Hollywood for not thinking woman can carry a film that makes money. It's just what an Oscar speech should be. Jared Leto was also good, maybe he shouldn't have gone political but he did it well. He definitely did the best job I've seen of thanking his mother. Matthew McConaughey started out okay but then got weird. 20 Feet from Stardom won for best documentary and Darlene Love sang her speech. The husband and wife team that won for best song rhymed and sang their speech. Most of the rest did a standard list, often with a little joke. Whether any of them went a few seconds over it was much better without them being played off.

They left the entertaining part of the show to the host and the songs and the winners which seems right. I think ordering pizzas and getting money for a tip and taking the most popular selfie ever were a lot of fun (and a much better way to bring social media into the show than having James Franco tweet). I also really liked Pharrell Williams' "Happy" with dancing with the stars in the front row. It would have been better later in the broadcast as a seventh inning stretch. Maybe they should have switched it with "Let it Go" so kids staying up could have heard the song from the movie they loved as my friend Mike suggested. And someone I've never head of won an EGOT, that's pretty fun.

The presenters mostly just announced things and didn't do minute long comedy bits. Most managed fine. John Travolta just had to get two things right, the name of the song he introduced, Let it Go and the name of the performer, Idina Menzel and he managed to call her "Adele Dazeem". Robert DeNiro and Penelope Cruz presented the screenwriting awards. He read jokes from the teleprompter just as badly as he does on Saturday Night Live. She managed to pronounce "screenplay" as "scrimptling" but unlike Travolta, it was her accent and it was funny.

I don't get people complaining about Ellen DeGeneres being a bland Oscar host, e.g. Why Ellen is the perfect Oscar host. "DeGeneres has styled herself as the safest thing going: She’s not abrasive to the more sensitive of sensibilities, like Rock, Stewart or MacFarlane. She’s not liable to offend anyone as would Goldberg or Crystal. She’s very good at telling jokes, but those jokes are so inclusive as to be amiably unspecific."

I thought her monologue was funny and not too long. I liked her opening, "For those of you watching around the world, it's been a tough couple of days here. It's been raining. We're fine. Thank you for your prayers." She was self deprecating about not having hosted in 7 years, and then did bits on various nominees. Pretty standard fare. I liked her bit about Jennifer Lawrence tripping and this year they should if she wins they should bring the award to her. I also liked how she finished it, "Anything can happen, there are so many possibilities. Possibility number one, 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility number two, you're all racists. Now please welcome our first white presenter Anne Hathaway."

Today I looked at monologues from old Oscar telecasts. Here's Bob Hope hosting in 1965, 1967, and 1970. He doesn't even show up until 7-12 minutes in and does about 10 minutes like Ellen did. Watching them back-to-back you realize how similar they are. Bit's about the movie titles and the new stars, politics, taxes, and how he hasn't been nominated. The pace is a little faster but it doesn't put the present day to shame by any means.

In 1973 Angela Lansbury opened with a musical number. And then Charlton Heston was late and Clint Eastwood subs for him until Heston shows up and then starts over! In 1980 Johnny Carson did similar bits to Hope and then held up wallpaper samples and asked for advice decorating his bedroom. In 1993 Billy Crystal was fun but the monologue is similar and then he goes into his Oscar Oscar bit which I don't think aged very well.

In short I think people complaining that the show isn't as good as it used to be are looking through rose colored glasses.

Some things can still be improved. I don't know why Bette Middler sang after the In Memorium instead of during. The theme of heroes didn't make much sense to me and I thought the three clips of movies (animation, real life and superheroes) were done badly. The individual clips were too short, they blatantly emphasized Disney films (they own ABC) and they showed multiple clips from the same film (4 from Shrek, 3 from The Incredibles), 3 from 42, 9 from the marvel studios movies not counting various x-men and spider-man clips). To me, if it's the 75th anniversary of Wizard of Oz, it's the 75th anniversary of 1939, the greatest year of movies. They should have celebrated that instead.

All in all it was good, certainly the best Oscar show in five years if not ten. I think for the most part reasonable films won, though clearly The Act of Killing should have won Best Documentary and been nominated for Best Picture. I still have a few well respected films from 2013 to see, then I'll do a post of my favorites of the year. What did you think of the show?

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