The Oscars fail to impress

If you follow my column, you will recall my adoration of all things Oscar. Naturally then, this past weekend, I powered through the last few movies that I needed to see, composed all my “year end” and prediction lists, and sat down to watch the movie-lovers’ Super Bowl: the 82nd annual Academy Awards.

Now, as much as I love the show itself, last year’s re-imagining of what the Oscars should be wound up being quite mediocre in my mind. There were a few moments of brilliance, but in the end, it was more about “look what we can do” as opposed to the movies themselves.

So when this years show began, and Neil Patrick Harris came out instead of co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, I was blind-sided with a forlorn feeling that this show might not be as good as I originally anticipated.

Those first opening minutes are the most important minutes for a host. They establish the connection they need with the audience, and by giving that up to someone whose only contribution to film this past year was voicing an animated monkey in the film Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, you discredit your emcees for the next four hours.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Martin and Baldwin came out on the stage and they just weren’t funny. Their thunder had been stolen by a second-rate musical number. In the first 10 minutes of the show, I was already doubting whether or not they could recover from this. I soon found out that they could not.

The hosts did what they could with the rest of the monologue, but could only manage a couple of good jokes amidst a sea of cheesy ones. Baldwin especially seemed uncomfortable on stage, as though it was the first time he was working with the material. Martin did all he could to take over and save it, but there wasn’t a whole lot he could do.

After the rocky start was out of the way, the Academy continued to confuse, interspersing montages and a rather misplaced “In Memorium” of John Hughes amongst very few actual awards. Even though the segments were well done, it felt as though very little hardware was handed out over the course of the first hour.

The rest of the show wasn’t much better, as producer Adam Shankman made it clear that he was a choreographer above all else. Instead of allowing the Best Original Song nominees to perform this year, he opted to have dancers accompany the Best Original Scores, a decision that nearly slowed the show to a halt.

The inclusion of a “Tribute to Horror” montage also raised eyebrows, as it didn’t really demonstrate a purpose, all the while including clips of non-horror films (Edward Scissorhands, New Moon). If this show was the Super Bowl, it was sure providing its audience with a plethora of fumbles.

Despite all of these supposed blunders, there were a couple moments of delight. Best Original Screenplay presenters Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. proved that they need to do a movie together as soon as humanly possible. Best Actress winner Sandra Bullock provided the speech of the night, demonstrating how to be both a class act and a sweetheart at the same time.

The real winner of the night was director Kathryn Bigelow though, despite the presence of singer Barbara Streisand and her attempts to steal the “First Female Best Director” winner’s spotlight. The Hurt Locker did pull through to become the lowest grossing movie of the decade to win the Best Picture award, proving that $300 million dollars can’t buy greatness. It can only masquerade as such.

Even though I had my reservations about last year’s event, it was ultimately better than Sunday’s show. We were subject to pointless spectacle, un-funny and obvious humour (Ben Stiller as a Na’vi), and most of all a show that was about showing off above anything else.

I sincerely hope that the Academy realizes their shortcomings from this year’s affair because if they are going to get progressively worse every year, I may just have to start basing my life around something else.