Contest Results and the Morning After

First things first: congratulations to DANA KAUFMAN!! With a final tally of 49 points to my 47, Dana is the winner of this year’s Outguess Ethan contest. Thanks to all the others who entered! Better luck next time.

Now, some thoughts on the ceremony itself. Well, that was….something, right? Seth MacFarlane is getting pretty skewered for his job as host, and he certainly didn’t dispel my nagging thoughts that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler should just host all the things. But while a lot of his jokes seemed ill-advised (the “We Saw Your Boobs” song was a decently funny idea that went on for way too long, while the crack about women “never letting anything go” was groan-inducing), I have to say he brought a ton of energy to the role and, as expected, pulled off all the big song-and-dance sequences with aplomb. And really, what did people think they were going to get from the “Family Guy” creator – that show works by throwing a zillion slightly off-color jokes at the wall and seeing what sticks. MacFarlane basically did a slowed-down version of that here – which left more room for the failed jokes to stick out. In other words, he needs to work on his stand-up comedy skills (how about that painfully stereotypical opening, where MacFarlane kept saying things like “how about that Argo” seemed to expect funny material to just spontaneously appear out of that). But I enjoyed the dance numbers with Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum and Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and god help me I laughed my ass off at “Flight” with sock puppets. I don’t think MacFarlane’s a comedic genius or anything, but he’s not a completely untalented hack either. They could do much better, but they’ve done much worse. I’m chalking that up at about a wash.

No, the people I really want to rip into here are the producers Craig Zaden and Neil Meron and director Don Mischer for some really peculiar and half-baked decisions. For instance, the much-heralded tribute to the James Bond franchise’s 50th anniversary turned out to be…a clip package and Dame Shirley Bassey singing “Goldfinger.” Now, seeing Shirley Bassey performing “Goldfinger” was extraordinary and I practically fainted. But that’s it? You couldn’t get Paul McCartney and Carly Simon out there to do a mash-up of other great Bond themes? You couldn’t collect all six actors who have played Bond on stage? And why was Adele’s performance of the obviously-about-to-win “Skyfall” isolated elsewhere in the show? This felt strangely lackluster.

And speaking of the Original Song category, how about poor Norah Jones, just sandwiched in there at the end of the nominees. “Skyfall” was obviously going to win and provided the show a unique opportunity to get a massively popular singer up on stage – and the Bond tribute made it OK (or should’ve made it OK) to perform just “Skyfall” and leave out the rest of the bland nominees. So why did they even bother with Jones and “Everybody Needs a Best Friend?” Again, this seemed like a half-baked idea.

The cast of “The Avengers” presenting, apparently without a script? Weak. Cutting off rambling speeches by playing the theme from “Jaws?” Jarring. And while Catherine Zeta-Jones lip-synched the hell out of “All That Jazz” (seriously, that’s a compliment) and Jennifer Hudson brought the house down with “And I’m Telling You,” I still don’t really understand the point of that musical tribute. If they just needed an excuse to get the cast of “Les Mis” to go out and do “One Day More,” just do it. Enough of these weak, half-assed nods at Hollywood’s history that conveniently forget that they made movies before 2000.

The best bits, as always, were the unscripted surprises. A tie in Sound Editing brought a strangely exciting energy to the normally-shunted-aside craft categories. Daniel Day-Lewis and Jennifer Lawrence both knocked their speeches out of the park. Michelle Obama was about a million times more glamorous than the hilariously awkward staged military Oscar party going on behind her. Streisand’s singing during the In Memoriam montage turned into an actually pretty touching tribute to her departed collaborator, the great EGOT-winning Marvin Hamlisch. And Ben Affleck finished things off on a high note with his heartfelt speech (and hey, he thanked Canada; can we shut up about that now?).

What did you think of the show, dear readers? Was MacFarlane as atrocious as the media is making him out to be? Do you think the Academy will invite him back (I think it’s distinctly possible)? Did you get tired of the non-stop singing, or did you enjoy the old-fashioned showtime energy?

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