I’ll remember this 79th Academy Awards show as a mostly black-and-white amateur hour shot in the style of the 1950s. I feel compelled to ask whether the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is aware that the world now has color television? Where James Taylor singing Randy Newman’s song “Our Town” from Cars performed on a bare black stage with just a piano and a guitar. (At the very least, Sweet Baby James could have taken off his shirt and shown some middle-aged eye candy.) Where Ellen was performing shadow puppets behind a white screen to simulate a lame joke about Snakes On A Plane. (Looked more like Lobsters On A Plane To me. I’ll be seeing those shadow-puppets in my nightmares tonight.) Where the monologue and the commentary ignored topical jokes ranging from Bald Britney to that other dead blonde bimbo, Anna Nicole Smith. As a friend emailed me, “this was like a Reagan era show.” That was the low-tech level of this year’s broadcast. Which makes me wonder in disbelief why the very rich Oscar telecast seriously stinted on tonight’s production values. For chrissake, it didn’t even spring for a translator for lifetime achievement award winner Ennio Morricone, leaving poor Clint Eastwood to make sense of all that Italian. Tell me: Did Bernie The Accountant abscond with the show’s hefty budget? It was lacking in razzle-dazzle. It had no trash and flash. Halfway through this snore-fest, ABC was about to voluntarily pay the FCC $500,000 just to make Beyoncé’s boob pop out.
Nor did Sacha Baron Cohen appear. Asked to be a presenter, he said he would do it only if he could be in character as Borat. But the Powers-That-Be said, “No way,” thus eliminating what surely might have been an oasis of humor in a desert of mediocrity. Morons. (Click here for my live-blogging of the Oscar telecast.)
In summary, it was the night that the Academy finally killed off what used to be its show-stopper of a movie awards. The problem is that I and the rest of America are the ones who bear the scars of Oscars tonight, while Hollywood skips out the next morning to the doctor’s office for an emergency round of Botox. (Will someone please send me the name of Sherry Lansing’s plastic surgeon? He did a fab job. Or maybe people just look great when they’re no longer brow-beaten by Viacom’s Sumner Redstone.) Well, I say enough is enough. Who isn’t sick of getting stuck sitting through an ass-killing show that runs on and on beyond reason with no entertainment within it to speak of? Or waiting a full 15 minutes for even the first film clip to be shown? As a comedian friend told me: “If this goes on any longer, they’re going to be reporting next weekend’s Friday night box office, the obituary package is going to be out of date, and the ballots will be going out for next years’ awards.” Frustration echoed by this emailer: “If they show another montage, I think it should be of people killing themselves while watching the Oscars.”
Erroll Morris’ interviews of the nominees kicked off the show. And it laid a huge egg. The package was way too “inside the Industry”. The TV viewing audience had no idea who most of these people were on screen. And the opening wasn’t even original: I’m told Morris did the same thing for the Oscar telecast a few years ago. What was this: The Sequel? Thus began what is supposed to be an international broadcast reaching out to 1 billion people, and instead comes off like Hollywood’s really boring home movie. And, by the way, everyone winning an Oscar tonight sounded foreign. Does this qualify as outsourcing? Are there actually Hollywood jobs that Americans don’t want to work? Or is this the byproduct of runaway production that Hollywood studios are more and more filming in foreign countries, to the detriment of our home-grown movie industry.
About Ellen, I thought she’d make a great host. I thought that — and I was wrong. Dressed in her maroon velvet pantsuit and white wingtips, she looked like she was in a smoking outfit worthier of Joan Crawford. (Now, Joannie would have gashed someone with a wire hangar to get this party started!) I kept waiting and waiting for DeGeneres to crack a few jokes, or at least any jokes. But none came out. Instead she stood in center stage and did her “I’m cute and lovable” impression. Criticizing her when she’s like that is like kicking a dear but retarded puppy. But she’s also piddling in millions of living rooms.
Her lone attempt at a political joke was toothless. She pointed out that “Al Gore is here. America did vote for him and…[HUGE APPLAUSE] …it’s very complicated”. By my calculations, Gore needs to reimburse the Academy and ABC for close to $3 million for this night’s free and over-the-top political advertising. Just send the check directly to Obama, Al, since I know you and Tipper can’t stand Bill and Hillary. By trying not to be controversial, Ellen delivered a truly forgettable performance. And that’s far worse than being Chris Rock- or Jon Stewart-type awful.
At least Ellen won’t have to worry about hosting here again. Clearly, Jerry Seinfeld was auditioning for the gig. Seinfeld now has motion picture bonafides: he was the subject of a documentary about comedy and is making the animated Bee Movie for DreamWorks. (Exactly whose idea was it to let Jerry insult the theater owners who already are going out of business because of the lousy films Hollywood produces? What, you guys have a death wish?)
Will Ferrell singing, “A comedian at the Oscars, the saddest man of all; your movies make millions, but your name they’ll never call,” was at least a way for the Academy to get a few comedians into the Oscars act. Jack Black joined him on stage and threatened all the nominees. (“I’m going to beat you down with my Nickolodeon award. Mark Wahlberg, I’m not going to beat you down. You’re actually kind of bad-ass.”) But, again, this segment had no production values. Are we sure this is the Academy Awards and not Friday night at the Friar’s Club? The last anyone knows, accountant Bernie was seen living in Panama.
When Will Smith’s son (and who acted with him in The Pursuit of Happyness) and Abigal Breslin introduced the two “Short Film” categories, it was hard not to picture them in campus sweatshirts years from now: Class of 2015, Drug Rehab University.
I kept thinking: what do the Oscars need most? And I realized: less white men in tuxedos accepting awards and thanking their lawyers and loved ones. At least this Oscars was more international than ever before. But where are the streakers and David Niven’s wit? Where are the actors posing as Indians and accepting awards for Marlon Brando? Where is Cher? There’s a whole generation out there that can’t remember a good Oscarcast. It used to be that Supporting Actor got a great reaction from the winner. Remember Jack Palance and his push-ups? Tonight, Jack was in the downer obits.
I kept hearing all weekend how the show was being cut, cut, cut. Well, congrats, Laura Ziskin: you produced a show that was NO FUN whatsoever. Is this the Oscars, or is it the last race at Santa Anita being called by a rapid-fire announcer? Hey, where’s the entertainment? Where’s the excitement? I’ve had a better time watching my clothes in the laundromat dryer. This show was officially painful. I lost the will to live watching it. Does the Academy realize they’ve got four hours-plus to remind audiences around the world that going to the movies is fun and not a chore like sitting through this show? Not even a newly svelte Tom Cruise, after looking chunky when he got married to Katie, could have fun with his new diet. SlimFast? Jennie Craig? The “I’ve-been-thrown-out-of-Paramount diet”? The “PR-people-claim-I’m-the-head-of-United-Artists” regimen? Why didn’t Scientology lay claim to a wonder cure for fat and let Tom do the infomercial tonight?
Ellen could have made a joke about where Gwyneth Paltrow has been hiding these months and years. Or even name what bad movies she’s disappeared into. (Now there’s a career gone downhill.) There wasn’t one remark that, apparently, the audience saw too much of Gwyneth tonight. The Internet said there was visible nipple. (I was blissfully unaware of that. Besides, how could anyone notice since she’s so flat up top.) Then John Travolta (whom I thought he perished in a tragic boating accident… he was harpooned in his bathtub) blurts out, “I love a full-figured woman who can stand in front of a camera and sing her heart out. But that’s enough about me.” It was a reference to his performance as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. But I think Travolta finally outed himself! Did anybody remark on it? No. Because everyone was clearly terrified — the presenters, the actors, the writers, and obviously Ellen — of doing anything that might make the Oscar gods (i.e. the Academy) angry at them. Which is why I say, free the Oscars … free the Oscars!