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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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The Oscar telecast: Worse than ever?

Harris

Call me an eternal optimist. At this time of year, I always find myself hoping against hope for two things: that (1) somehow this will be the year that the Cubs win the World Series and (2) maybe this will be the year the producers of the Academy Awards successfully reinvent the world's oldest awards show.

We'll have to wait till October to see if I'm right about the Cubs, but as far as the Oscars go, it was another huge disappointment, a colossal missed opportunity. Right from the start, the producers seemed unable to re-imagine the show as something other than a glitzy, painfully earnest version of the same cobwebby variety show we've been watching for years. I mean, there's far more inventiveness going on in ABC's "Modern Family" than there was on the Oscar stage last night.

Where to start? Oh, yeah, the hosts. I love Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, but watching them trying to coax laughs out of the wheezy one-liners they were given was painful. It was a buddy comedy gone wrong, a lot like watching Tracy Morgan and  Bruce Willis flail around in "Cop Out," hoping to make a scene work without any good material to draw on. Oscar hosts don't do improv. They need a good script and Bruce Vilanch (and whomever else was crafting material this year) let them down. 

The direction of the show was especially awful. It felt like whenever there was a potentially dramatic moment happening on stage, Hamish Hamilton, the show's director, managed to miss it, starting with seeing Jim Cameron's reaction to Kathryn Bigelow winning best director. Hamilton did an especially inept job of shooting the John Hughes tribute, which felt surprisingly flat and unemotional, in large part because it was staged so awkwardly, with Hughes' old actors (now actually starting to get old) lined up on stage like beauty contestants. And when Mo'Nique finished her full-throated supporting actress acceptance speech, Hamilton cuts away to -- ouch! -- Samuel L. Jackson, who had nothing to do with the movie and presumably was picked for a cutaway after someone in the booth yelled, "Find me a black person for a reaction shot!" 

As soon as Jackson was on camera, he started derisively rolling his eyes, as if to say that he thought Mo'Nique's speech was totally over the top, forcing another awkward cutaway, since having a big-time actor being underwhelmed by an acceptance speech would clearly spoil the moment.

And when it came to spoiling the moment, nothing was worse than having Barbra Streisand present best director to Bigelow. First off, Streisand was clearly picked after the producers knew Bigelow had won as some sort of symbolic passing of the torch moment although, once again, the producers couldn't manage to find any drama in the moment. Even worse, it was demeaning to women directors everywhere, since Streisand was clearly chosen for her star power, not her directing chops -- I mean, this is the woman whose last two films were "The Mirror Has Two Faces" and "Prince of Tides," which would put Streisand about No. 47 on the best women director's list.

I won't even touch the Neil Patrick Harris opening number, since others have weighed in with far better assessments, the best being from Emmy-winning TV writer-producer Ken Levine, who wrote in his blog post: "The Oscars were very elegant this year all the way up to the opening number. Then Neil Patrick Harris sang about sodomy, masturbation and prison and Hollywood's classiest night was underway." 

And how about that horror-movie tribute montage? First off, why horror movies? I mean, in a year when we had, for the first time ever, two sci-fi movies among the best picture candidates, why not do a sci-fi montage sequence, which would've far more timely? And why have two young pups introduce the horror segment (and yes, I get the "Twilight" young demo tie-in) when you could have had two great scream queens do it, like Jamie Lee Curtis and Kathy Bates, who could have offered a couple of funny anecdotes about the glories of low-budget horror filmmaking?

I could go on and on. The show had a few nice moments -- Ben Stiller made me laugh, the hosts had a couple of good zingers and it was especially apt to have James Taylor play such a lovely version of John Lennon's "In My Life" over the In Memoriam segment. And yes, Sandra Bullock's acceptance speech was a pip, more than making up for Jeff Bridges' interminable, Dude-like ramblings. 

I hear the early reports say the show's ratings went up as much as 15%, but considering the presence of "Avatar," the world's biggest-grossing movie, that still has to be cause for some concern, since it was just a month ago that the Grammy show was up 35% over the previous year. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- what the Oscar telecast needs is real TV producers, since they actually know how to put on a TV show.

My first choice remains Tommy Schlamme and Aaron Sorkin, since they bring built-in writing and directing talent with them, but there is plenty of other savvy TV talent to choose from. It's time the academy realized that a few patches here and some fresh paint there won't do the trick. This is a show that needs a complete makeover.

Photo of Neil Patrick Harris (fourth from left) and Oscar dancers by Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (47)

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The people who write/produce/direct the Oscars are not exactly on the cutting edge of wit and entertainment. I believe only Johnny Carson and Jay Leno lovers would be entertained by this. Case in point, your analysis of the cut away to S. Jackson after Monique's speech. And I thought having B. Streisand give away Best Director was very contrived. When she announced "we have a first" or whatever the hell it was, it sounded lame, like this was just about getting female in there, rather than anything else. It's like they were making up for Hillary not getting the Dem presidential nomination.

Personally, I thought Neil Patrick Harris was the only GOOD thing about the show. It was one line-up after another of actors with poor connections to whomever they were supposed to eulogizing (Julianna Moore's three days with Colin Firth truly show a cemented friendship.) I will admit I liked Tim Robbins but out of a whole show that isn't saying a lot. You LIKED Ben Stiller? I couldn't wait for that segment to be over. All in all, it was a terrible broadcast. And if ratings were up there's no chance it will ever be fixed.

The Oscars were boring this year, but hardly deserving of Goldstein's mean negative comments. Get a life, Patrick, you're just unhappy.

Where do I start? The hosting duo, well lets just say third rate at best. Each bit was contrived and was absolutely not funny. Racist comments but two has-beens.

If they host again, I will not watch

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, FOR TELLING THE TRUTH. THE OSCARS AWARD SHOW WAS A MEDIOCRE, SOPHMORIC PRESENTATION FULL OF AMATEURISH VERBAL AND NONVERBAL BEHAVIORS. THE TOTAL LACK OF ENTHUSIASM FROM PERFORMERS AND AUDIENCE ALIKE, THE DULL, DARK LIGHTING OF THE THEATRE AND STAGE, THE INSIPID TELEPROMPTER SCRIPTS AND OVERALL LACKLUSTER PRESENTATION MADE THIS ONE BORING, CHEAP EXPERIENCE. JUST LIKE REAL TV THESE DAYS. IT WASN'T FUNNY. IT WASN'T ENTERTAINING. BUT IT WAS DEFINITELY CRAPPY. A REAL REFLECTION OF AMERICA AT THE MOMENT...

Barbra Streisand was wearing the doily from the Lincoln Bedroom and looked like she just woke up. With all the hairdressers standing by surely someone could have given her wig agh hair a toss. Old Skank.

You nailed everything I noticed except the big male stars who were relegated to some sleazy little platform away from the big stage. One camera? And it's immobile? What?? I think that was John Travolta, but can't be sure it was, nor can I be sure any of the other big male actor names were really there. And my eyesight is 20/20.

That ridiculous dance number would've been better with just that one great guy dancer. The others were distracting and looked like a bunch of escaped yo-yos.

I wanted to see Cameron's face when Bigelow won, too, but nothing at all on that; today, the spin was in and said he had jumped to his feet when she won. Yeah right.
And what's up with the current wife, the one from Titanic. She looked like she died ten years ago and had been revived by a taxidermist.

Really bad show, except, as you say, a few lines from Martin & Baldwin.

They left Farrah Fawcett out of In Memoriam and put in Michael Jackson? They added a bunch of people nobody ever heard of and the split screen fell flat, without enough time to absorb what they wanted us to see. Not to mention the omission of Bea Arthur and others known to the public. Writer Budd Schulberg and David Brown, sure, but those other producers?
And who was that fat redhead who Kenya'd into the short film producer's speech? As distasteful as she was, that was the only unexpected moment all boring night long. I'm sorry this was such a cr*ppy show, because it's the last Oscarcast I'll ever watch.

Glad to see that others thought this was a disappointment. I thought the James Taylor accompanimnet was a huge mistake; the "In Memoriam" segment is always the most moving of the show, but only when a beautiful orchestral piece underscores it. Reducing this montage to nothing more than a backdrop video to Taylor's performance (rather than vice versa as it should be) was a huge distraction and a disservice to those who were meant to be honored.

sophomoric not sophmoric.

I also did´t like the Oscars. To watch this ceremony was as hard as to watch the Hurt Locker.

 
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