TV Review - The Worst Oscars I've Ever Seen

Hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway
I started watching the Academy Awards on television religiously in 1999. It was the year that Whoopi Goldberg hosted. I remember her giving an amazing and funny monologue where she proclaimed, "I am the last Twentieth Century Fox!" I remember her having to calm down Roberto Benigni because the crazy Italian was jumping on top of his chair. I remember her coming out every few minutes in all the different Oscar-nominated costumes. I remember her giving the thumbs up way into the air in tribute to the late Gene Siskel who had passed away that year. I remember being anxious to see two actors from two of my favorite, independent films that year in attendance, Edward Norton for American History X and Sir Ian McKellen for Gods and Monsters. I remember all of this and I remember being excited about it.

In the twelve years since then, the show has had its ups and downs. The shows have had things about them that I haven't always and 100 percent appreciated, but, in the twelve years since, I have always enjoyed the show and generally been interested enough to watch the whole thing from beginning to end with no problem. This year, all that changed. This year, I actually found myself tuning out and actually resisting the urge to either mute the show or change to another channel completely. Needless to say, that I have never been more bored or more disappointed by an Academy Awards show in all of my life.

My God, where do I begin? First off, the hosts were James Franco and Anne Hathaway. James Franco was nominated this year for Best Actor for his performance in 127 Hours and Anne Hathaway sang with Hugh Jackman at the Academy Awards in 2009 when he hosted, but, before then, this was the first time in over 30 years that the show has not had a comedian or some kind of comic actor with live television experience as the host of the show. This I feel was a fatal mistake.

Hathaway, for starters, did most of the heavy lifting here. Franco looked more like arm candy. He also seemed uncomfortable and awkward through most of the ceremony. There were rumors online that the show would open with some kind of musical number were both Hathaway and Franco would sing, but that didn't happen. Hathaway did eventually sing, but it was by herself. The two weren't given that many great jokes to tell, during the show, and the jokes they were given were delivered flatly and awkwardly, mostly by Franco who also seemed very stiff here.

Now, let's talk about the staging and the overall production of the show. The show opened with Franco and Hathaway doing a parody of Inception, which was okay. Franco and Seth Rogen did a parody, which aired during the Academy Awards in 2009. I thought the parody in 2009 and even in previous years were funnier. Throughout the show, there were these transitional bits that just didn't work with the only exception being the one where an old clip of Bob Hope hosting the Oscars was used to introduce someone. I loved how Billy Chrystal got a standing ovation. Apparently, he was available to help setup the Bob Hope bit but not host the show. A shame! He was badly needed. Chrystal was funny and entertaining as always and was literally like a breath of fresh air in a very stale room.

What was bizarre is that I'm not sure if Kirk Douglas who presented the Best Supporting Actress award had a planned bit or if everything he said or did that night was just improv and off-the-cuff. At first, it felt really weird and slightly uncomfortable, but as he went on and on, almost past the point of absurdity, I kind of came around and started to like it. I don't know if I should feel bad for laughing at a dithering old man, one who's had a stroke, but it got to a point where he almost wanted us to laugh at him for his stuttering, almost as if he were doing a meta-commentary on David Seidler's commentary on people who stutter in The King's Speech.

I did say that I appreciated the fact that after mistakenly taking it out last year, the producers of this year's Academy Awards brought back the singing of the Oscar-nominated songs. Randy Newman who won that night was probably the highlight. Mandy Moore was okay but her blue dress with all those feathers was a big turnoff for me. After seeing Gweneth Paltrow sing on SNL, the Country Music Awards, and the Grammys, I really feel like she'll end up being one of the few actors who makes the successful transition from acting to singing. She did a good job. In a sweet moment, the producers also invited the children's choir from PS22 in Staten Island to sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Sadly, however, the producers crammed them into the end of the show after most people were tuning out. I would have preferred if PS22 opened the show. That would have been remarkably better than Franco and Hathaway's clumsy opening.

Moving on to the awards themselves though, there were absolutely and positively NO SURPRISES here. This was in fact the most predictable Academy Awards I've ever seen, which made things so much more lame. This is also why I could have put the whole show on mute and probably had just as much fun watching as I did with the sound up. The King's Speech came out as the big winner. There was a great article in Forbes magazine trumpeting the return of Harvey Weinstein. I feel like this was just as much a win for him and a return to form for him and his movies at the Oscars than it was for anything else. Inception took four of the major technical awards and The Social Network took home three awards that most people expected for it, including Trent Reznor's score and Aaron Sorkin's writing, which was anointed as the best screenplay ever a year before, so there was no question he was going to win here.

I will say that the Foreign-Language Oscar and the Documentary Oscar are usually the two categories that are the most up in the air and are usually the categories that offer the most surprises. The general viewing audience rarely cares about these two categories, but for people like me who truly love arthouse and independent movies and truly appreciate the Oscars for occasionally spotlighting hidden gems, these two categories offer up true anticipation. What had me in anticipation this year specifically was the Documentary category. My hope was that the film Exit Through the Gift Shop might win. It won the Spirit Award the night before and a lot of press had been given to Banksy whose graffiti has certainly left its mark, not only around the world but definitly in Hollywood in the lead up to the Oscars. Even though it was a foregone conclusion that Inside Job would win, I prayed for an appearance or some kind of prank to be pulled by Banksy at the Oscars, but, alas, that didn't happen. Not even seeing Oprah who gave out that award could uplift me about it.

Finally, I'd like to talk about the acceptance speeches and the outfits. Even though a lot of bloggers didn't go for it, I thought Scarlet Johanssson who always looks gorgeous was well dressed in her Dolce & Gabana lace outfit. Jennifer Hudson also drew controversy but I loved her in her Versace dress, and Sandra Bullock who in my mind made the show probably was the best dressed in Vera Wang. I'm not sure I liked how a lot of the dresses had many frills and feathers and frou-frou things on them, like Mandy Moore's, not good. On the men's side, who cares, but I will say I was rather impressed with what Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem wore on stage, not on the red carpet, but actually on stage. They just embodied old, classy Hollywood in their white tuxedos so well. Beyond what they wore, most of the acceptance speeches were especially boring and had me yawning.

The one exception was the acceptance speech by Luke Matheny, the NYU grad who won the Student Oscar as well as the Oscar for Best Live Action Short for his film God of Love. Unlike Colleen Atwood who read her acceptance speech from a slip of paper and had me wanting to slip into a coma, Matheny read from a card or something and somehow made it awesome. I think his exuberance and enthusiasm about winning was what won me over. He made a shout out to the state of Delaware, which is where I currently live, which I thought was very cool as well. That and his crazy afro, which he joked about should've getting a haircut, just sold it for me. Natalie Portman's acceptance speech for Best Actress for Black Swan was genuine and heartfelt as well as Colin Firth's for The King's Speech, but besides that, none of the speeches were particularly memorable, aside from Melissa Leo's F-bomb and Christian Bale forgetting his wife's name.

The Oscars try not to be political, but often time you'll get someone who'll get on stage and use it as a platform. Michael Moore famously did it to boos. Charles H. Ferguson took the opportunity that night when he won for Inside Job to comment how the CEOs who were responsible in a lot of ways for the financial crisis in 2008 still have their jobs. A few winners in the technical awards who are members of various guilds also took the opportunity, in response to the whole situation in Wisconsin, to make the point that they work for and support unions. Ironic, that one of the most successful documentaries of last year Waiting for Superman, which rails against unions, was snubbed by the Oscars, despite being directed by Oscar-winner Davis Guggenheim. Sometimes, I wish the Oscars would shoot for controversy. Maybe it would liven things up.


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