Setting aside the award outcome for a sec, what should we think of the Oscars ceremony? Early response to our poll asking Gold Derby readers what they think yields disappointing results: Nearly 60% give the Academy Awards telecast a C grade or lower.
The show wasn't a disaster, but it wasn't a great Oscars either. It had lots of low points, starting with that awkward opener. Didn't you feel so terribly sorry for those poor lead-acting nominees frozen in silent fear on stage as they were introduced to TV viewers, then dispatched to their seats? Then came that odd Busby Berkeley fantasia hoofed and crooned by Neil Patrick Harris donning too much glitter. Sorry, Neil: You're no Hugh Jackman.
The worst thing of the entire ceremony was the squirmish way that the lead-acting nominees were introduced when it came time to bestow their awards. Last year, Oscarcast producers Bill Condon and Larry Mark came up with a brilliant idea – to have each nominee introduced by a past winner of the prize. This year, Oscarcast producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman kept the general idea but came up with the ridiculous twist of cutting out the Oscar tie-in. Thus presenters weren't (for the most part) past winners. Some will probably never even be nominated (Colin Farrell, for starters). They were just pals of the nominees who embarrassed themselves by gushing silly over their good, good friends. Stanley Tucci shared his deep, dark secret about Meryl Streep: "I've been in love with her for years." Michael Sheen tattled that he lusted after Helen Mirren on the set of "The Queen." Forest Whitaker swooned over the "depth and breadth" of Sandra Bullock's heart, which has "a magical quality." What does that have to do with great film achievement? Who came up with this dreadful new idea?
The big acrobatic dance number that accompanied the performance of the nominated music scores was, well, ambitious and seemed to be appreciated by the audience at the Kodak Theatre. They gave it a rousing ovation, but the number looked ho-hum and repetitive on a TV screen.
Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were merely OK as hosts. A few of their gags were good – like when they donned 3-D glasses to see "Avatar's" James Cameron in the audience. But most jokes were weak tea. Like Steve Martin noting, "The biggest change this year – the best picture category being doubled. And when that was announced, all of us in Hollywood thought, 'What's five times two?' "
Why was there a seven-minute salute to John Hughes? A ratings ploy using comedy as bait? Hughes was never even nominated for an Oscar. Later, when the obituary montage played as James Taylor sang, we were reminded of the deaths of such notable Oscar winners as David Brown, Horton Foote, Jennifer Jones, Karl Malden and Budd Schulberg in 2009. Why didn't any of them get a Hughes-like huzzah? Or even just a little bit more time on the show than a photo flashed?
And, speaking of the "in memoriam" section, where was Farrah Fawcett? Sure, she was primarily a TV star, but she made many feature films, like "Extremities" and "Dr. T and the Women." Michael Jackson made the montage on the Oscarcast, thus upstaging Farrah again, just like he did the day they both died.
And speaking of ratings ploys: Why the tribute to horror films? At first it seemed like a good idea when Kristen Stewart said, "It's been 37 long years since horror had its place on this show when 'The Exorcist' picked up two Academy Awards, so tonight we want to give horror films their due." At that point I assumed Oscarcast producers meant just extreme fantasy horror movies like "Exorcist" because quite a few less-severe examples have certainly done well at the Academy Awards in recent years. Like "Silence of the Lambs," which pulled off a clean sweep of the top Oscar races (picture, director, screenplay, actor, actress) in 1991. Or "Misery" (lead actress, 1990). The horror segment ended up showing clips of both films, plus others. Huh? Were the writers of this segment just bad at math? Or totally ignorant of what's occurred at the Oscars in the past 37 years?