Last night when we turned our TVs to the Oscar telecast it felt like we were transported back 15 years. Since Billy Crystal last hosted in 2003 (Best Picture, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), we’ve had Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, and Hugh Jackman host. (Let’s forget Anne Hathaway and James Franco, shall we?) And though Crystal is a smart choice for the role, his shtick now feels old-fashioned and predictable (not necessarily words you want to hear when trying to get a younger audience). He’s safe; he’s the anti-Ricky Gervais. We know there will be a movie montage, probably a joke about a man kissing another man (always hilarious), songs, and good-natured bantering and jibes. But never does it feel fresh or dangerous, just professional.
However, kudos to Crystal and producer Brian Grazer for making this one of the shortest Oscars telecasts in years (3 hours and 10 minutes). With a night of few surprises (unless you count Meryl Streep’s win a surprise, even though she’s been nominated 17 times), the trim show was enjoyable but occasionally—dreadfully—boring. But with only one of the Best Picture nominees breaking the $100 million mark (The Help), the lack of energy isn’t exactly shocking. In regards to surprises, other than Streep, the only major upsets were in “smaller” categories: Hugo beating Rise of the Planet of the Apes for visual effects, The Artist beating Hugo for costume design, etc. Which for most, including myself, makes Oscar picks difficult. But here are my picks for this year’s Oscar highlights.
2012 Academy Awards: Best Moments
- “Edith Head once said, ‘Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show you’re a lady’.” Thus quoted by J Lo’s left nipple.
- The Wizard of Oz focus group, featuring Christopher Guest and several Best in Show alums, was one of the funniest and oddest non-sequiturs of the night.
- After the Cirque du Soleil performance, Crystal: “We’ve got puppets, acrobats — we’re a pony away from being a bar mitzvah.”
- The eloquent and gracious acceptance speeches (Best Makeup–Mark Coulier and J. Roy Hellard, The Iron Lady) in categories most watchers ignore.
- Despite Adam Sandler wearing a tracksuit, the montages of actors discussing film were interesting and surprisingly relevant.
- “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghaghrowl.” Crystal’s impression of what Nick Nolte was thinking.
- While accepting for Film Editing for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall cut their speech short with “Let’s get out of here.” Awesome.
- Christopher Plummer, to his Oscar: “You’re only two years older than me darling, where have you been all my life?” Attention future award winners: Study this acceptance speech. This is how it’s done.
- Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Melissa McCarthy now join Tina Fey as the go-to funny women for awards shows.
- Studios, after Octavia Spencer’s performance and graciousness, she deserves better roles.
- Strange to say, but the In Memoriam was the best ever. Simple, understated, touching.
- Most people probably missed it, but it looked like Bérénice Bejo was translating Natalie Portman’s Best Actor introduction to Jean DuJardin. J’adore.
- The fact that Jim Rash, who plays Dean Pelton on Community, is an Oscar winner for co-writing The Descendants screenplay.
2012 Academy Awards: Worst Moments
- Except for the cameo by Justin Bieber, the opening film sequences felt a little lame.
- I know many viewers still like the individualized introductions to the Best Actors and Actresses, but I do not. It’s a little too self-important during an awfully self-important event.
- Certain movies just don’t lend themselves to musical teasing; ergo, Crystal’s lame songlet “Hanks is a memory” set to “Thanks for the Memories.”
- Louise Roe’s red carpet interview with Nick Nolte on ABC was one of the oddest, most unbearably awful/amazing things ever. It started with questions about his crow and ended with a strange discussion of his pinball machine.
- Though nowhere near as atrocious as the Emmytones, I am still perplexed by the ever-expanding musicians in the balconies. And was that Oscar-winner A. R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) providing vocals at the end?
- Robert Downey Jr.’s banter about making a documentary about being a presenter for Best Documentary suffered from being overly long and involving Gwyneth Paltrow. Gwyneth doesn’t do whimsy.
2012 Academy Awards: The Truly Cringe-Worthy Moments
- Okay comedy writers: enough with the man (Clooney) kissing another man (Crystal) bit. It isn’t funny.
- At first I thought it was just me, but others quickly reported hearing the same nails-on-a-chalkboard, tinny feedback from Oscar microphones.
- Again I ask: Anyone at E! who believes Kelly Osbourne—with her purple hair and weirdly funereal dress—has any right to be a fashion “expert,” should be fired.
- Bad enough that The Muppets didn’t perform, but they had to introduce Cirque du Soleil?
- Jane Seymour was at the Oscars. She didn’t do anything other than show up on the red carpet, but her “jewelry” invariably puts her in this category.
- Sacha Baron Cohen. Of course the Oscars are all about self-promotion, but him showing up as Dictator felt distracting and tasteless—especially since he should be representing the Oscar-winning and charming Hugo. And though I’m no fan of Ryan Seacrest, Cohen dropping Kim Jong Il’s “ashes” on Seacrest was tacky.
More Oscars 2012: Here are Philly Mag fashion editor Emily Goulet’s picks for Oscar night’s best dressed and worst dressed.