Nikki Finke’s Oscar Live-Snark: Four Hours Of Unfunny Seth MacFarlane; Unnecessary Michelle Obama; ‘Argo’ Wins Best Picture

I’m live-snarking the 85th Oscars for the outstanding film achievements of 2012 starting at 5:30 PM PT tonight. Comments will open when the show starts inside the Dolby Theatre. Come for the cynicism. Stay for the subversion. Add your opinion. WARNING: Not for the easily offended or ridiculously naive.

To understand the Academy Awards is to understand that Tinseltown is fueled by the green-eyed monster. Envy and spite will determine the winners. Because best productions or performances have nothing to do with the 24 categories awarded tonight. The negatives, not positives, will decide this year’s Oscars. That’s par for the course in Hollywood, where nastiness rules and niceness gets rolled. How else to explain why the horrible Harvey Weinstein is trying for his 3rd straight Best Picture?

Everything in Hollywood is agenda driven. That’s why I always say, when it comes to its biggest awards, what’s important are the scars, not the Oscars. Here’s how to handicap them: just look for whomever is envied most by members of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and bet those names probably won’t get called onstage tonight. That’s why few think Steven Spielberg has any real shot at Best Director or his Lincoln at Best Picture. Of course he thinks he deserves both. But when you’ve been moviedom’s legend for seemingly forever, the Academy voters can’t wait to knock you off your pedestal. OK, I’ll say it; Hollywood actually hates Spielberg. And denying him an Oscar is their unsubtle way of showing it.

By contrast, Argo‘s Ben Affleck has been guest of honor at his own pity party ever since the Directors Branch denied him a nomination. So naturally he and his film come into tonight as the favorites. And he has the advantage of having made a movie in which Hollywood types are portrayed as heroic. How often does that happen in real life? Like never. So the Academy voters are congratulating themselves if it wins tonight.

And if Silver Linings Playbook takes Best Picture, it will demonstrate once again that Harvey is Hollywood’s best con artist. Oscar voters used to require intellectual heft, however half-baked, in their Best Picture winners. Which is why even the most deserving comedies almost never get nominated. But Weinstein fooled nearly everybody into thinking that this little film was really about mental illness. Puh-leeze.

So that’s my primer about the 85th Oscars. Recognize that to understand this Hollywood process, you have to think like a voter. Which means being cruel, quirky and cracked. Now let’s begin:

Related: Longest Oscars In Hollywood History? Yawnfest Instead Of Usual Snorefest?
Related: Nikki Finke Live-Snarksing Golden Globes

Uh-oh. Seth MacFarlane opens the show with a lame joke. No one laughs. He does an impression. No one knows who he’s imitating. Does this guy even have any experience doing standup? Obviously not. This is one of the lamest show openings I’ve ever watched. The worst part is that Seth is killing every punchline by laughing over it. And here comes the inevitable Mel Gibson putdown.

This is going to be a loooooong night. “The room is dead,” says one agent from inside the Dolby Theatre.

Thank God, William Shatner (as Capt Kirk) is saying what I’m thinking; “The show is a disaster.” And I agree with that newspaper headline, “Seth MacFarlane Is Worst Oscar Host Ever.”

This is supposed to be an edgy song about “Boobs”. (Though cute when Jennifer Lawrence fist-bumps the air. Damn straight she’s keeping her clothes on.) Ohmygawd, that’s really the Gay Men’s Chorus Of Los Angeles singing about tits.

Why are Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron ballroom-dancing on stage? Is this a thinly disguised house ad for ABC’s Dancing With The Stars? Both stars should fire their publicists.

This show opening is just interminable. It has nothing to do with the movies. It has nothing to do with the Oscars. It’s just an incredibly annoying self-indulgence on the part of MacFarlane and show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron who have many musicals on their resumes.

But it gets worse. Now MacFarlane is satirizing TV dressed as Sally Field’s The Flying Nun. That’s the point: he’d be a modestly good Emmy host. But let’s get the hook out and drag him off the 85th Oscars.

I can NOT believe the telecast has wasted 17 minutes already on this dreck. Thank god Academy President Hawk Koch can only serve a year. And AMPAS top exec Dawn Hudson should be fired immediately. Presumably they both thought this was riveting stuff. How can everyone associated with tonight have such awful taste in material?

Deadline Comment: ‘These are the best CableACE Awards I have seen in years! Great job Hawk Koch & Dawn Hudson!’

Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz

What a shocker. I don’t think many thought he’d win again, last time for Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and this time for Django Unchained. With favored Tommy Lee Jones not winning for Lincoln, this is going to be a miserable night for Spielberg et al. What did I tell you?

Best Animated Short Film
PapermanJohn Kahrs

Best Animated Feature Film
BraveMark Andrews and Brenda Chapman

You have to excuse me. That show opening was so lousy, I’m still in a state of shock and dismay.

Tweet from veteran TV critic Tom Shales: “For first time ever, the Oscar show is worse than the Red Carpet crap that preceded it.”

Seth MacFarlane has now officially become Jerry Lewis. The smarmy egotistical Jerry Lewis who can’t sing or dance but thinks he’s just as good as Dean Martin. Oh barf.

Even the Academy Awards audience is now embarrassed for Seth. That half-smile plastered on George Clooney’s face is hiding what he’s really thinking: that MacFarlane needs to walk off the stage for the good of the show now. It’s like all the air has been sucked out of the Oscars. What a disaster.

He really is The Worst Oscar Host Ever. I can’t think of anyone who even comes close.

Deadline Comment: “Chevy Chase goes down in history as a better Oscar host than Seth MacFarlane. And we all know how that turned out.”

I just found out that Channing’s reps didn’t want him doing that dance bit. In fact, he didn’t even tell them he was doing it. He said only that what he was doing was a secret so even they didn’t know anything beyond that it was the opening piece in the show. But Tatum wanted to do it. Bad, bad, bad, idea.

Achievement In Cinematography
Life of Pi – Claudio Miranda

Achievement In Visual Effects
Life of Pi – Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott

Blasting the Jaws soundtrack to shove the Life Of Pi visual effects team offstage shows just how far Spielberg has fallen. Tacky.

Achievement In Costume Design
Anna Karenina – Jacqueline Durran

Achievement In Makeup And Hair
Les Misérables – Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

OK, here’s what really happened with this tribute to 50 years of James Bond films. (Besides the fact it looks like it was edited with a blunt meat cleaver.) The Academy and the show’s producers hoped to gather together all the living 007 actors. But Sean Connery refused to come because he hates the Broccoli family. Something about how he thinks they cheated him out of money he was owed. Then Pierce Brosnan refused to come because he hates the Broccoli family as well. Something about how he thinks they pulled him from the role too early. Roger Moore was dying to come because, well, he’s a sweetheart. And Daniel Craig would have come because he does what he’s told by the Broccoli family’s Eon Productions whose Bond #23 Skyfall just went through the box office global roof. So there you have it.

The 76-year-old Shirley Bassey gets the first standing ovation of the night. But a couple of clips and one song is all there is to the Bond tribute? Is it coming in waves? More is needed to save this drowning telecast. Even before she sang a note, Shirley brought more real glamour to this year’s Oscars than the previous hour of bland jokes and bad dancing.

Best Live Action Short Film
Curfew – Shawn Christensen

Best Documentary Short Subject
Inocente – Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

I don’t recall ever seeing the winners in the non-marquee categories look more terrified of the time limit for speeches. What the hell did the Academy threaten? (“No Oscar Swag Bag for you!”)

John Wilkes Booth and Kardashian jokes? Please, somebody, untie Seth’s writers who must be kidnapped in a dark closet somewhere in the building.

Deadline Comment: “Spielberg just texted Lucas with a $50,000 offer to the actor who played Boba Fett if he’d take MacFarlane out for that John Wilkes Booth/Lincoln joke.”

Another Deadline Comment: “If only this Oscars Show was April 14, 1865 at Ford’s Theater. Mr. Lincoln would have walked out early due to boredom and John Wilkes Booth would only have had Seth MacFarlane to contend with.”

Ben Affleck lets slip the truth. “Maybe you can turn it around,” he tells MacFarlane about how bad the show really is.

Best Documentary Feature
Searching for Sugar Man – Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn

So far this feels like the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon. Circa 1966.

The show already is running 3 minutes behind. No wonder Bob Iger looks like he just screened John Carter.

Best Foreign language Film
Amour – Margaret Menegoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, Michael Katz

Tonight is so embarassing that they need to make Brian Grazer the permanent producer of the Oscars. He saved the show once, he can do it again. Just give Billy Crystal another facelift.

Shameless plug now for the producers’ musical film Chicago during this tribute to the last decade of musical films. But, seriously, wasn’t that the worst decade for musical films ever? I mean, Hairspray? That creaky Chicago routine is exactly why Zadan’s and Meron’s NBC musical Smash is cratering in the ratings.

No snark about my girl Jennifer Hudson. She rules. (Beyonce who?) That Dreamgirls music usually gets me every time although tonight it lacked the power and emotion because it was overproduced. Having the orchestra down the street at the Capitol Building also wasn’t the greatest idea.

“Jennifer Hudson just broke all the wine glasses at the Vanity Fair party,” tweets Steve Martin.

Can Russell Crowe actually hear himself croaking … um, er, singing?

“Oh. We’re up to the gay part of the show,” Bill Maher says via Twitter.

Deadline Comment: “Allen Carr’s soul can now rest. Rob Lowe can hold his head high again.”

It’s been 90 minutes and I’m still waiting for the show to kick into gear. Any gear.

My sources say the mood inside the Dolby Theatre has turned ugly. “The audience is fed up with this self-promoting musicals sequence.  Emails galore asking: ‘WTF'”?

Deadline Comment: “If MacFarlane had any friends in the industry before tonight, he just lost all one of them.” You have a lot of explaining to do for foisting him on us as host, Ari Emanuel.

Even the Ted sequence is beyond redemption. Nothing like losing a worldwide opportunity.

Related: How ‘Ted’ Made It To The Oscars

Achievement In Sound Mixing
Les Misérables – Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes

The show has swung at every hot button issue – gays, blacks, now Jews – and missed by a mile. Nazis? Really? After all the Jews-run-Hollywood jokes in the Ted and Mark Wahlberg segment, there’s a guy in full SS uniform running into the auditorium and screaming, “They’re all gone”, as a way of introducing The Sound Of Music star Christopher Plummer. Yet I just received this text from inside the Dolby: “People all around me like the show a lot. They say best in years.” Which just demonstrates the infinite ways that Hollywood types can fool themselves.

Obviously nobody told MacFarlane’s writers that Plummer hates everything to do with The Sound Of Music. No doubt that’s why he made a short joke at Seth’s expense. Even the presenters have turned on MacFarlane. Are the villagers with pitchforks and torches next?

Achievement In Sound Editing
(Tie) Skyfall – Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
(Tie) Zero Dark Thirty – Paul N.J. Ottosson

Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role
Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables

How can Anne Hathaway possible keep faking surprise that she’s won – again? She’d have to be a much better actress than this. So sick of her humble act. Enough already.

Just heard there was a burst bathroom pipe in the Dolby Theatre lobby before the ceremony started. Officials redirected guests to elevators to get them inside. No wonder this year’s Oscars stinks.

I hear show is now 6 minutes over.

Achievement In Film Editing
Argo – William Goldenberg

I just received an email from inside the Dolby explaining that Ben Affleck was furious about the Gigli reference – which explains the looks-that-kill he shot MacFarlane onstage.

Deadline Comment: “They should play this during dental surgery to take patients’ minds off of the pain.”

Seth’s first dig at the “Christian Right” hatred for Hollywood. Normally, I’d say half of America’s TVs just turned the channel. But the reality is that no Red State resident is still watching two hours into the show.

Achievement In Production Design
Lincoln – Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Well, CNN host Piers Morgan likes Seth and tweets: “This is unbelievably, unacceptably, gob-smackingly, hilariously inappropriate. Keep going…” Yet one more reason why Jeff Zucker needs to fire Piers.

Academy should have included MacFarlane’s hosting stint in its ‘In Memoriam’. The Academy usually screws up this segment so let me know who was overlooked. [UPDATE: Missing are Larry Hagman, Andy Griffith, Harry Carey Jr, Ann Rutherford, David R Ellis, Nagisa Oshima, Donna Summer, Susan Tyrrell, Alex Karras, and Gore Vidal – although they earned non-broadcast mentions on the Academy’s website. But Phyllis Diller, Russell Means, Lupe Ontiveros, Robin Sachs, and Jerry Nelson were snubbed even from the Academy’s expanded ‘In Memoriam’ gallery online.] 

Breathy Babs giving breathless tribute to Marvin Hamlisch. I don’t care what anybody says: that dame can sing. I never get tired of this song or Barbra Streisand’s rendition. But I do get sick of her waving those talon-like nails.

This is the point in the Oscar broadcast when I tell you to kill me now.

Clips from last fall’s Governors Awards. Deadline Comment: “And thousands of Dreamworks and Disney employees laugh hysterically at Katzenberg named a humanitarian.”

Here is the evening’s only mildly amusing Seth MacFarlane joke: “In a moment Rex Reed will be out here to give a review of Adele’s performance of Skyfall.”

Are you effing me? There’s yet another shameless Chicago plug by Zadan and Meron?

Here’s an email I received tonight: “The entire show was a Zadan/Meron self promotional exhibition… John Travolta and Hairspray… The boring cast of Chicago presenting… Kristin Chenoweth (she starred in Z/M’s Promises Promises)… McFarlane calling them genius producers on air. (When did that ever happen before?)… This was the worst EVER!!!!!”

Deadline Comment: “Zadan and Meron are doing the Tonys at the Oscars all in attempt to win an Emmy.”

Achievement In Music Written For Motion Pictures (Original Score)
Life Of Pi – Mychael Danna

Achievement In Music Written For Motion Pictures (Original Song)
“Skyfall”  – from Skyfall
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

If one more note is sung, I’m going to trash my iTunes library filled with Kelly Clarkson and other warblers who sound like cats being strangled.

From inside the Dolby: “This isn’t even a good Tonys. Whoever said audience loves it is lying or Seth’s agent. Bar is going to run out of liquor. Not enough seat fillers.”

Deadline Comment: “This is the cruise ship edition of the Oscars… Carnival Cruise… Without power…”

Adapted Screenplay
Argo – Screenplay by Chris Terrio

Original Screenplay
Django Unchained – Written by Quentin Tarantino

Authentic heartfelt moment for Quentin Tarantino giving onstage kudos to both actors and writers. But, of course, the orchestra tried to play him off with the theme to Gone With The Wind. Quentin talked through it.

Achievement In Directing
Life Of Pi – Ang Lee

Toldja that Hollywood hates Spielberg. Even though he’s won before, Ang Lee was thought to be the favorite in this category after Ben Affleck was snubbed by the Directors Branch. At least we now know for sure that Harvey Weinstein couldn’t hack the Academy’s online voting.

Oops, maybe I spoke too soon.

Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role
Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook

Like it would have killed the Academy voters to give the Oscar to the Frenchwoman who turned 86 today? How many more performances does the Amour star have left? Oh well…

Nice shoutouts all night long for CAA.

Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role
Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln

Completes his hat trick. No surprise for this 3-time Best Actor winner. Shocking that Daniel Day-Lewis is making jokes up there. “Three years ago, I’d actually committed to play Margaret Thatcher. And Meryl was Steven’s first choice to play Lincoln.” Daniel also says he had to convince Spielberg not to do Lincoln as a music. Truly the only funny line from tonight. Hey Hollywood: pair this cutup with Melissa McCarthy in yet another derivative odd couple comedy!

Hang on: the end is mercifully near.

As if Hanoi Jane weren’t fuel enough. Oh My God – the Academy actually fans the fire by drafting First Lady Michelle Obama to help present Best Picture from presumably the White House? So unnecessary and inappropriate to inject so much politics into the Oscars yet again. Hollywood will get pilloried by conservative pundits for arranging this payoff for all the campaign donations it gave the President’s reelection campaign. I don’t understand this very obvious attempt to infuriate right-leaning audiences. Clearly the studios only want to sell their movies to only half of America. And here I’d thought Spielberg had overreached at the Golden Globes by bringing Bill Clinton onstage…

Related: How Michelle Obama’s Surprise Appearance Came Together – Video

Best Motion Picture Of The Year
Argo – Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers

Anticipated but not certain. As I toldja, Hollywood hates Spielberg. (Is that Steven looking pissed even as Ben calls him a genius?) And everyone’s sick of Harvey winning. Affleck’s pity party made for a perfect win. He says, “You can’t hold grudges. It’s hard. But you can’t hold grudges. All that matters is you have to get up.” Hollywood would do well to remember that when the green-eyed monster stalks Oscar voters next year all over again.

Since the show is ending with a “Here To The Losers” song, then Seth should be singing solo. I mean who couldn’t wait for the musical number after Best Picture as the cameras scan the sad faces of all the non-winners.

This wasn’t the longest Academy Awards on record but it was still a 4-hour Oscars including the Red Carpet show – and felt like it. Seth, can I have those hours of my life back? Please at least promise to never, ever, host anything again. Unless it’s the Emmys. And Zadan and Meron, the Tonys called. They want their show back.

And I’m done live-snarking for tonight.

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