Monday, February 26, 2007
The Oscars - the post-mortem
First things first - the fashion! (No, no, just kidding.) As far as the awards went, I did OK - four out of six, and the two "will win" that I missed, my "should win" backups (Forest Whitaker and Alan Arkin) took the prize. So maybe that's like a half each, which would make it five out of six. Groovy. There were some surprises among the categories I didn't predict - The Lives of Others defeating Pan's Labyrinth (which I thought was a bit overrated) for foreign-language film, Happy Feet over Cars for animated feature (the penguins rule for two years in a row), Melissa Etheridge's song from An Inconvenient Truth over the three Dreamgirls tunes for original song (from cancer to Oscar in two years - only in Hollywood). I liked the fact that all five of the best picture nominees won at least one Academy Award; dominant films are fine, but so is spreading the wealth. When Martin Scorsese was announced as best director, I don't mind saying that I said very loudly to the TV screen (and my friend Beth, with whom I was on the phone), "It's ... about ... f****** ... time." And, segueing into fashion for a bit, I agree with Will Ferrell, Jack Black and John C. Reilly - Helen Mirren at age 61 was the sexiest babe in the room.
And now the show itself - the reviews, if you haven't heard, have not been kind. Critics have bashed the broadcast for being too long and too boring. Tom Shales, never one to hold back his words, called the show a "horror." The Hollywood Reporter gave mixed reviews to host Ellen DeGeneres, saying that a host with a "harder edge" may have been a better choice. (This is after previous, so-called "edgy" Oscar hosts such as Chris Rock and Jon Stewart were criticized for perhaps going too far.) Another review went so far as to call DeGeneres the "lowest point" of the show.
Cranks, all of them.
Honesty, I don't know why any comedian - anyone - ever accepts this job anymore. It's easily the most thankless one in show business. Even Billy Crystal, maybe the only universally accepted Oscar host in recent memories, begs off of the gig more often than not, citing the pressure involved.
Look, last night's show wasn't perfect. Producer Laura Ziskin's choice to not open the show with one or both of the supporting categories was a calculated mistake. I could do without some of the film packages, especially Michael Mann's about how the movies saw America. Not only was the show already running long, but it really said nothing about America or the movies. But, people, understand this - the Oscars take a long time to give out, even in the most exciting circumstances. The faster we get around this concept, the happier we all will be. And if I ever get an Oscar and get played off by the orchestra, I may physically assault someone. That is one of the rudest things that can be done to someone, and to have it done in front of a billion people is particularly galling. (The practice, of course, also is done unequally - Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker get all the time they want, but the sound mixing winner? Not so much.)
But if the critics are so obsessed with the time factor involving the Academy Awards, I have the perfect solution for them - next year, carve out only one hour for the show - no pomp, no monologue, no speeches. Do it conveyer-belt style. Hire the most boring people you can - actually, not even famous people. Pull random pedestrians off the street to present. Announce the nominations and winners in deadpan style. Any winner who says anything will automatically have their Academy Award confiscated. We'll see what kind of reviews that kind of show gets. "But it was done in an hour so now you can get back to watching your reruns of Cold Case."
Ellen DeGeneres, I thought, did a fine job bringing her, yes, low-key humor to the telecast. Her bits in the audience with Scorsese and with Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg were especially amusing, and I hope she patents that Oscar bjorn she was showing off. But from the tone of the reviews, which I don't really agree with, I would be surprised if she's invited back to do this again next year. If that's the case, one suggestion for a future host if the Academy decides not to go with the one-hour concept - Al Gore, who was one of the funniest guys last night. He'd be a great M.C. - that is, if he's not doing something else at this time next year.