Crazy to think that this is my fourth time wrapping up Movie Muse’s Oscar coverage, but here we are, another awards season gone by. This year was highly unusual in that there were so many good films and performances, but there was never really a clear favorite for Best Picture, even with “Argo” sweeping all the major pre-Oscar awards. Still, the Academy doled out awards evenly and gave basically every film its due.
“Argo” was definitely an Academy type of film, about the power of individuals and of the movies to actually make a huge difference in a matter of life and death. But more importantly, the film was massively entertaining and beloved by all kinds of audiences, whereas “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech” had a certain limit to their appeal. Even “The Hurt Locker” was not all that accessible. “Argo” had all parts drama, suspense and comedy.
In terms of the telecast, it was definitely slow, both in actuality and in feel. The idea to theme the ceremony around music in film was a bold and different choice, but music has always dragged down the telecast in the past. Just as the Academy fixes “Best Original Song,” the Oscars floods its programming with musical performances — not exactly smart thinking. Seth MacFarlane definitely loves glitzy, singable showtunes, but having a pop-culture comedian host a night of music seems misguided. Still, he had the right kind of presence you want in a host, even if he had to laugh at his own jokes a bit much.
Not much to complain about this year, so that’s nice, except “Wreck-It Ralph” losing Best Animated Film to “Brave.” It appears the Academy loves Pixar, except when they make a “Cars” film. I think it’s safe to say animated films that have too much commercial appeal turn off Academy voters. “Brave” was a touching, traditional animated film that was gorgeously animated, but “Ralph” was a thousand times more clever.
Voters nicely balanced their predictable, snobbier picks with popular ones. All the acting winners were popular choices, but I’m mainly think of Christoph Waltz, who proved how beloved he is by the Academy in winning a second straight Oscar. People loved “Django” and loved him in it, but it was difficult to assume the Academy would go that way in such a talented field.
I have to give the Academy credit for properly choosing Ang Lee for Best Director. I assumed voters would cave to their baser instincts in wanting to award Steven Spielberg, but “Pi” was the film that won the rest of the night and so Lee deserved that Oscar without Affleck as competition.
Seth MacFarlane was a rather inspired choice this year given the popularity of “Ted,” so I was excited to see how he’d handle the Hollywood crowd. But while I appreciated his transparency, it just seemed like he couldn’t be himself up there, like the Academy wanted to keep him on a leash. He wanted to aim below the belt, but every time he did he had to crack a joke about the audience’s reaction. I think it takes someone who commands more respect in Hollywood to make jabs like that. MacFarlane is a TV guy — in a few years, after he builds a film career on the momentum of “Ted,” he might be a choice worth revisiting.
Personally, however, I thought he was rather funny. As much as I didn’t care for William Shatner’s involvement, I thought most of the jokes in the opening monologue were spot on, and the brazen choice to call out the Academy for not nominating Ben Affleck was well played. As the night wore on and the jokes turned into how long the show was going, his humor became a bit grating, but the tribute to the losers over the credits was a nice finishing touch, even if it wasn’t exactly incredible.
I liked, in theory, the idea of doing a themed ceremony, in this case a tribute to the music of film, but it was so detached from everything else going on. Plus, live performances always make a show feel longer, hence why for a good stretch of time, the Best Original Song nominees stopped performing.
Everything just kind of felt half-assed as far as the musical stuff goes. You have a musical tribute to Bond but you only have Dame Shirley Bassey perform and the song “Goldfinger” was never even nominated for an Oscar; you do a tribute to movie musicals but only feature the best movie musicals of the last 10 years. I thought getting the whole damn cast of “Les Mis” together was rather impressive, but doing shorter minute-long clips of the songs would’ve paced the music stuff better and allowed for more surprises. No one needed to hear all of “Goldfinger.”
And there was no rhyme or reason to how they included the music. It could’ve started with the late ’20s and moved all the way up until present day movie musicals. That would’ve been cool, but when you have nearly 30 awards to hand out, I guess there isn’t time. That should’ve been a hint. Personally, I think the show should be dedicated as much as possible to celebrating the films nominated and the people who made them, along with recognizing a particularly aspect or two of movie history so as to honor how we got here. The Oscars are watched enough and slammed on social media no matter what every year, so the Academy should forget the ratings and make it a meaningful night for film fans and everyone in Hollywood. Of course, I say that knowing the show’s ratings were way up from last year.
Best Presenter(s): How can I not say Michelle Obama? Sure, it was kind of ridiculous, but Michelle Obama and the Oscars kind of go hand in hand when you think about it. It was huge of her to remind everyone watching that the arts aren’t some big waste of time. Films do more than distract us, especially the films that get honored at the Academy Awards.
Best Acceptance Speech: A tie for me between the filmmakers of the Best Documentary Short winner “Inocente” and Chris Terrio, screenwriter for “Argo.” Getting to see Inocente up on the stage as testament to the power of what film and art can do for an individual in this country was inspiring. Terrio, on the other hand, while motoring through his speech, was both humble and careful to address what made the film so important, something I really appreciate hearing from nominees. You can thank all your people later.
Funniest Moment: The Von Trapp’s are missing! Talk about being funny while also requiring a little bit of movie knowledge. You just don’t see that kind of humor in the Oscars, and if you didn’t get the reference, you shouldn’t consider yourself a movie fan. Yeah, I can play the elitist card.
Most Awkward Moment: I’m not going to say Jennifer Lawrence falling over. That’s not awkward — it happens to people. What’s awkward is when you use the theme from “Jaws” to play winners off the stage. That’s ridiculous. Yes, Bill Westenhofer went over his time for “Life of Pi” and should’ve known to keep it short, but you thought he was going to get eaten by a shark after they cut the mic.
Best Nominee Showcase: This was a year to make up for the failures of Best Original Song showcases in the past. There were not many other nominee showcases this year too, so this was an easy pick. A huge improvement from last year’s complete lack of a showcase for the two nominees.