So, did anyone else stay up to watch the Oscars last night?
For a highly ornate ceremony that has to pander to the vanity of the Hollywood elite while coming under fire from tens of thousands of real-time opinions bombing in from Twitter, it seems to have gone pretty well. Argo won Best Picture, Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor for his performance in Lincoln, Ang Lee won his second Oscar as a director; there were actually very few surprises when it came to the big prizes. But that didn’t mean that there weren’t plenty of intriguing things happening at the Dolby Theatre last night.
First of all, Seth MacFarlane turned out to be a reasonable host: many people were expecting his jokes to be off-colour — and of course some of them were. A joke connecting cruel and unusual punishment in Django Unchained to Rihanna and Chris Brown drew a gasp from the crowd but by and large, the gags felt like they were in the wheelhouse of a 60s TV comedian. While this might not necessarily be a bad thing, it wasn’t what everyone was expecting from the edgy creator of Family Guy. There were a few of his trademark retro pop-culture references, but very little that could be seen as taboo.
There was a section at the opening that saw MacFarlane talk to William Shatner on a big screen, no doubt celebrating a film career that includes seven Star Trek films and Miss Congeniality. Then there was a recorded segment that saw the Ted director lampoon Sally Field’s Flying Nun character before turning the bit into a Smokey and the Bandit riff. The jokes he peppered between the awards were functional, and he delivered the sharper barbs with little sense of malice. If anything, he seemed a lot greener than his 39 years and incredible fortune would suggest. He was visibly relieved whenever one of his jokes landed — at heart, it looked like he wanted to please the crowd. We found this eagerness much more acceptable than whatever performance art piece James Franco thought he was sleeping through when he co-hosted a few years back.
The rest of the ceremony was incredibly skewed towards music, with Dame Shirley Bassey and Adele performing two of the most famous 007 themes. Bassey might be well old, but she can still hit these songs hard! Barbra Streisand also sang a tribute to film composer Marvin Hamlisch, a giant of the business who passed away in the last year.
There were also song a dance numbers near the beginning that saw Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron pay homage to greats like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Everyone was surely waiting for a punchline where the Magic Mike star would rip off his trousers to reveal sparkly underwear, but it never came. It was, for the most part, a pretty classy affair.
The only really incongruous numbers were when Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jennifer Hudson performed their signature songs from Chicago and Dreamgirls respectively. You would have thought that in a year when they wanted to celebrate movie musicals, they would have chosen numbers from good films instead of ones that have faded away in public memory. But as it turned out, the ceremony’s producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron were also producers of Chicago, which meant that they awkwardly organised this tribute in honour of themselves.
Of course this being the Oscars, at around the 3 hour mark the host will start to make jokes about how long the show is, a tradition that’s as old as it is unfunny. MacFarlane: “9 year old Quvenzhane Wallis is here tonight. And 86 year old Emmanuelle Riva, who was nine when this show started.”
In an effort to tighten up the show, the producers chose the Jaws theme to play recipients off when their speeches ran long. While this idea might have seemed funny in concept, they only really used it to run-off an effects supervisor trying to talk about the serious bankruptcy of a large visual FX company. On another occasion, Searching for Sugar Man director Malik Benjelloul was thanking the subject of his documentary when his mic was cut.
This unquestionably irked a lot of folk, as it meant that the Oscars were patently sending out mixed messages: while the presenters were waxing lyrical about the importance of technicians, sound mixers and makeup artists –at how film is a collaborative medium– the Jaws theme was sending a definite message to all non-celebrities that they should just shut the f*** up and know their place.
Throw in a couple of minor blunders involving the cast of The Avengers ignoring chunks of copy from the auto-cue and a slightly misconceived idea to get Melissa McCarthy and Paul Rudd to do some awkward comedy onstage. Oh yeah, and there was the small matter of Michelle Obama being beamed in by Satellite to announce Best Picture. These are all the sort of things that make live television events so exciting to watch.
But enough of what we think — what did you make of the Oscars ceremony last night? We didn’t even get into any of the dresses (although honestly, that’s not really our thing). Were any of them complete sartorial disasters? Should the Fashion Police have been alerted? Let us know on the comments boards below!