84th Oscar Awards, revisited

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It was a rocky road to Oscar night this year. There was a change in the voting rules for the best picture category. There was a sudden swap in producer and host mere months before the ceremony was about to take place. A few days before Hollywood’s biggest night, there was question as to whether Sacha Baron Cohen would even be allowed to attend the gala.

Yes, it was a rough year leading up to the 84th annual Academy Awards, but there was at least some assurance for Oscar fiends like myself that there was no possible way it could be any worse than last year’s show. And I think the producer Brian Grazer and host Billy Crystal lived up to that promise.

This year’s show began with an established strength of host Billy Crystal – the opening movie montage. Personally, these openings are what I remember most about watching the broadcasts as a kid. And, while I remember the ones from the 90s being a little more hilarious, this year’s montage (including a Justin Bieber cameo I couldn’t believe I approved of) was still pretty stellar. At the very least, it ran circles around James Franco and Anne Hathaway’s montage from last year.

Once the montage was finished, Crystal came out and did his opening monologue and song number: something he has also been doing since he first hosted the show back in 1990. It was also pretty funny, but fell flat because the sound at the theatre was pretty terrible. In fact, it was piercing with feedback the whole night. I’m not sure why that was happening, but it that was pretty distracting for the greater part of the evening.

The awards eventually began with Tom Hanks making his way on to the stage, sporting a distinguished looking goatee. For the most part, the awards played out rather predictably, the consensus being that all the frontrunners won their respective awards. The only shock it seems was Meryl Streep winning the statue over Viola Davis, but in my mind, that was always a two horse race.

Supporting actress Octavia Spencer and lead actor Jean Dujardin gave rambling, yet sincere speeches. Christopher Plummer had the acceptance speech of the night, after receiving what you would have to classify as “the career Oscar” for his performance in Beginners.

There were a few awkward speeches given throughout the night but they were offset by some funny moments as well. Jim “Dean Pelton” Rash was a highlight, accepting his contribution for best adapted screenplay while mocking presenter Angelina Jolie and her now famously exposed leg.

One thing that the Oscars were able keep consistent from last year was the fantastic set. It was quite different than the lavish pieces we saw last year, but no less memorable. For the music categories, a giant songbook was prefaced beautifully by Crystal. After it rose dramatically from below the stage, the host greeted its appearance with an eloquent (and ironic) “Meh.” It was used exquisitely to project some very cool animations relating to the nominated original scores and songs.

The other highlights were a couple of small vignettes displaying A-listers talking about why they love the movies. That was a recurring theme of the evening that was executed extremely well, because ultimately that’s what the Oscars are about for me. It doesn’t necessarily be hip and edgy. It doesn’t have to have something for every single person. It should just be a celebration of film – and I thought they did a beautiful job of that on Sunday night.

The overall show was not perfect by any means. Billy Crystal had as many jokes fall flat as he did ones that hit home. J-Lo and Cameron Diaz should never again be allowed on a stage together. And although I didn’t mind the Cirque de Solei performance, I would have rather seen a rendition of “Man or Muppet” being performed by Jason Segel.

Still, this show was what I remember the Oscars being about. It was a bit cheesy, it was funny, and most importantly it was enjoyable. It might be the nostalgia talking, but I consider it a successful show, if simply because I didn’t have to recoil in horror at the awkwardness of any moment. They are on the right track to bringing the Oscars back to what I once remember it being.


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