Actually, I had no intention in the slightest of writing the traditional Post-Oscar Reaction Thoughts. In part, I should note, that's because like always I recorded the broadcast and fast-forwarded through, so my opinion of it as a TV show isn’t especially valid. But this morning, I got an email from a friend who asked, “So, what did you think of the Oscar show?” and I felt obligated to answer. And since I typed all l this out already, I felt that so much effort shouldn’t go to waste.
A little has been tweaked here from the email, but most of it is the same random, off-the-top of my head jumble.
Your thoughts may vary.
On the awards side, I thought the results were basically fine. I don’t care one way or another about who won -- they're all doing just fine with their careers and are already making their next movies. I liked Argo a lot, though I didn’t think it a “Best” Picture. As movie, I felt Lincoln was solidly better. But Argo was a perfectly solid choice, so good for it. I just think it just lucked out a bit by being in a year when there was no real, clear, ahead-of-the-pack standout.
That said, even though I don’t really care all that much who wins anything, there tends to be one award where I really do hope someone wins. And this year it was Best Supporting Actor and Christoph Waltz, simply be he wasn’t just wonderful, but I think gave get Django Unchained the vibrancy people associate with it. In Quentin Tarentino’s acceptance speech, he noted that if his movies are remembered, it will be for the characters – and that character played by Christophe Waltz was one of the best supporting performances I’ve ever seen. So, I was very glad he won. (My only quibble is that I don’t think he was really a “supporting” actor. It was largely a buddy picture, and he was the equal star. The only justification is that he’s not really in the third act. So, I can kind of accept it. But really, I think he was one of the leads, to the point where he’s almost THE lead, pushing the story the whole way.
As for the production –
I thought Seth MacFarlane was hit-and-miss, but overall I liked his edginess, even when some jokes flopped in questionable taste. What I particularly liked (as a writer) is how they cleverly protected themselves for when they did do something that might cross the line. For instance –
The use of Captain Kirk was funny, but more importantly, it was Really Smart because it let them tell the audience beforehand that “We know this will be in bad taste.” It doesn’t make something less questionable, but it softens the blow, a lot. Without doing that, it means going out and cheerfully singing, “We Saw Their Boobs,” and people getting offended that “You think that’s funny???” But by saying ahead of it, “This is something that offended all the women of Hollywood,” it allows people to watch and know that you’re at least aware it’s dicey. That doesn’t mean people can’t be offended by it, but they won’t also think (on top of that) that you believe everyone should love it, which strips away some of the wall that you know you’re building.
(By the way, I liked the number, though but I don’t know if that’s a Guy Thing. But – the reason I liked it is because I don’t think it was intended to make fun of women, but rather make fun of producers and studios who make the decisions that they want to see women’s breasts. That said, the passage about all the movies Kate Winslet has bared herself was hilarious.)
Similarly, I liked that the writers prepared come-backs for jokes they knew crossed the line. That is Really Smart, too, because it a) immediately stops the hisses, b) gets laughs, and c) makes some people think, “Y’know, he’s right.” And without doing that, you’d standing there as the audience is muttering or hissing, which would be all that people remember, and it’s really hard to get the momentum going after that. But planning a quick comeback (and I’m 100% sure they were planned) lets you move past that. For instance, the joke about Mel Gibson’s racist rants got mutterings, but it was so smart to come back with, “Oh, so you’re on his side now?” Which gets people to think, “Oh. Yeah. Right. It was racist rant.) The only joke, for me, that wasn’t necessary was the one about Lincoln. But even there, the comeback was brilliant. “Too soon? I should let you know I have some Napoleon jokes.”
I liked that they used a LOT of musical numbers, making the show seem more entertaining (to me) than most. I’ve yammered about stuff like that for years. That said, I question the specific choices. To be clear, I liked what they chose and "the stars dancing" – but how they used the songs was another matter. If their “theme” this year was the music of Hollywood, they could do better than two classic songs in the opening number, but rather a montage. Or if they were going to salute “movie musicals,” they could do better than bring out the casts of three recent musicals and let them sing for 10 minutes. What they sang and did was great – but it was a poor salute to Hollywood musicals.
(And just to quickly reiterated a note I posted earlier, I I think there was an inside, subtle joke in the very opening of the show, for the music playing when MacFarlane made his entrance to face the auditorium full of Hollywood's gorgeously-gowned, tuxedoed and bejeweled elite. It was from the movie -- The Happiest Millionaire. (The song, by the way, is called, “What’s Wrong with That?” Which, given the edgy jokes to follow, might have been part of the joke, as well.)
The James Bond tribute was a great idea, and fairly entertaining, and smart thing to do. But to use up three minutes with only Shirley Bassey singing “Goldfinger” was odd. Bring out half a dozen singers of past Bond themes and let them ALL sing a medley. And I thought it odd not to have the actual actors who played Bond come on stage. And, of all people associated with James Bond over the years, have Halle Berry introduce the montage. (And in the short montage itself of the history of Bond moments, there were three clips of Halle Berry. I do not think of Halle Berry that much when I think of James Bond movies. And further, when they showed the classic “step out of the water in a bikini” moment, they used hers first, and the famous original with Ursula Andress second. I don’t get it) Someone either had a big crush on her, or was close friends with Halle Berry’s agent. And -- they didn't bring out all the actors who played James Bond??? Or any of them?
There was only one thing I thought was a very unfortunate choice. After the “In Memoriam” montage, letting Barbara Streisand talk about Marvin Hamlisch, which I thought lessened the attention on all the others. And then, as she sang “The Way We Were” (which was an obvious, but terrific choice), they kept up a photo of Hamlisch – and Hamlisch only – the whole time. It really made it seem a tribute to Marvin Hamlisch and all those other legends who died, screw ‘em. Usually, they sing over the montage. But if they wanted to give Streisand all that airtime – fine, but at least use the screen in the background to re-run the video, so that everyone continued to be equally memorialized, or better yet, show a new montage with the “lesser” people who died during the year, even if they would only be in the background.
I fast-forwarded through the acceptances, but for me, the best one I heard was easily Daniel Day Lewis. A man not known for humor and whimsy.
(I also loved the first line from “Argo” producer Grant Heslov, standing on stage with his Oscar between George Clooney and Ben Affleck. “I know what you’re thinking. The three sexiest producers alive.”)
Last comment. For me, the person who came off best for the night was Jennifer Lawrence. Again, not someone know for the lightness and cheery humor. But every time they cut to her, she seemed so joyously happy, about everything. And she gets points, too, for graciously participating in that pre-recorded “Boob” number, and humorously so, cheering herself for being an actress who hasn’t shown her breasts. And she not only became memorable by tripping, but having a self-effacing comeback. And her speech was unjaded and seemed deeply heartfelt, without being maudlin.
Okay, I’ll stop at that. I thought that overall their heart was in the right place to make the show more an entertainment, even if some of the choices fell flat. So, I thought it was a pretty good show – though all of my comments come with the caveat of having fast-forwarded through and not actually seeing the whole show.
Your mileage may differ.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor