This year at the ‘Ugh’-scars

(Graphic by Wade Thompson).

(Graphic by Wade Thompson).

Ugh. It didn’t have the makings of a classic show by any means, but the 85th annual Oscars ceremony actually dwindled lower than my already modest expectations.  Starting with the announcement that Seth MacFarlane would be hosting, I knew it was just going to be one of those nights.

Before I start with the negatives though, I will admit that once it began, he was perceptively charming. MacFarlane is a performer at heart and he does have the right aura to be a host. His opening monologue even started out okay, and I did laugh at the Flying Nun bit, but the night ultimately slipped out of MacFarlane’s hands, as I expected it would. Jokes about Chris Brown and Mel Gibson were easy and unnecessary. Bits featuring “celebrity boobs” and a sock-puppet rendition of Flight seemed ripped from throwaway jokes on his TV show Family Guy, a show I haven’t cared for since I was 15. The pieces throughout the night seemed too akin to an episode of one of MacFarlane’s animated series; a random assortment of poop humour and bad pop culture references thrown randomly at an oscillating audience to see what will stick.

My theory is that the Oscars thought they had found a personality with humour that, on paper, seemed to match Ricky Gervais, the Golden Globes host from 2011-12. Gervais walked the line between funny and offensive during his stint and if people didn’t love it, it was at least water cooler fodder the next morning. This year’s Academy Awards producers must have thought that MacFarlane was the right man to mimic that sentiment for their Oscars telecast. The problem? The Golden Globes are not the Academy Awards and Gervais’s humour does not boil down to a Comedy Central roast. The Oscars are a classy affair. They represent prestige and elegance. The Globes are the lesser-respected little brother who also provides a dinner because the show itself would be boring on it’s own.
MacFarlane is also, predominantly, a TV actor. I think David Letterman proved when he hosted in 1995, that TV performers should maybe try the Emmys before jumping to a film awards show. That being said, I will easily admit that MacFarlane was not the show’s only issue. Overall, it left me asking too many questions.

Why were Charlize Theron, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe in the opening? What do they have to do with this year’s awards? (Or past awards, for that matter.) Of the bunch, only Theron is a former Oscar nominee or winner. And then William Shatner showed up. What does Captain Kirk have to do with anything? Same goes for Michelle Obama. Why did someone think a 20-minute opening was a good idea?

Why were there only three musicals in the “musical tribute” portion of the show? I’m fairly certain that there were more memorable, albeit “non-Oscar” musicals from the past ten years. I did think the Les Miserables cast killed it on stage, but why did a 2012 movie get that much stage time over any of its competition? Is long, volumous “Legolas” hair now a thing? Those cinematography and visual effects winners think so. There were five “Best Original Song” nominees, so why did we only get to hear two and a half of them? It’s distracting to only go half in on something like that. Was that James Bond retrospective supposed to be boring? And why was that the only montage of the night?

All in all, there were very few memorable moments from the night. Adele’s performance was wonderful, as always. Daniel Day-Lewis was the only absolutely inspired speech. And Jennifer Lawrence falling up the stairs will forever be enshrined into Academy lore. But the host, the set and the presenters seemed to fall flat. None of it seemed to make a lasting impression. And while I must admit that I’m not sure it was as poor as the James Franco fiasco of 2010, it was still as uneven, perhaps more so.

The Oscars is about class. While the awards themselves have diminished to a self-referential joke, at least you should be able to count on the ceremony for some entertainment, and the 85th Oscars provided little in that category. Back to the drawing board, Academy. Might I suggest Kevin Spacey?

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