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Oscar Review: Awards As Bland As Oatmeal

by Caryn James
February 27, 2012 12:28 AM
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Crystal Oscars

Well don’t James Franco and Anne Hathaway look better now? Last year’s Oscar show may have been a headlong collision, but at least a crash has curiosity value. This year’s show was as lively and colorful as cold oatmeal. You know it’s a dull show when even the Best Dead People “In Memoriam” sequence is chilly, unemotional and flat.

Billy Crystal’s opening filmed routine was lame, putting himself in the nominated films just the way he used to, but without a touch of cleverness this time. The whole evening felt designed to be comforting, as if the audience needed to be soothed. Crystal can make all the jokes he wants about the show’s senior demographics (and he did) but that doesn’t change the fact that it was a snoozy, geezer-friendly show. Hello! Putting Justin Bieber in the opening montage to joke about needing a young audience doesn’t bring in a young audience.

At best we can be grateful it was just dull and not actively painful, except for the moment when Cirque du Soleil began its acrobatic homage to the movies. (And whose brilliant idea was that?).  Against a screen projecting a clip of North By Northwest, men in gray, Cary Grant suits flew across the audience. Just what we want: Cary Grant, bungee-jumper.

There were very few funny or unscripted moments. Pretending to read people's minds, Crystal just growled when he came to Nick Nolte. It was weirdly funny, and Crystal said, "Thanks, Nick" as soon as he'd finished. Unlike Ricky Gervais or Chris Rock, he works in a relaltively safe, no-offense zone.

Jolie Red Carpet

Angelina Jolie came out to present the writing awards and stuck her leg out of her slit skirt, posing as she had on the Red Carpet, like a 1940’s pinup. Then Jim Rash came on stage to accept his award and posed just like her. Mean, but at least spontaneous. I'd guess his apology is on the way. (Rash, Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon – who were more polite - won Best Adapted Screenplay for The Descendants.)

The Awards themselves offered just a few surprises. The biggest: Meryl Streep winning Best Actress over Viola Davis. Streep, who started her speech in her usual, appealing smart-ass way, became quite sincere and emotional by the end, saying she absolutely realized it was the last time she’d be up there. True or not, she was touching, even though it was hard not to feel a little bad for Davis, who was the first to stand and cheer for Streep.   

But it was a long way to go for such a little surprise. Overall, the Oscar show told us what we already knew, and not just that The Artist was going to be the night’s big winner and that I'm pretty bad at predicting. (Yes I missed both Actor and Actress, so it's a good thing I'm not a gambler.) The show  reminded us that the Academy still doesn’t get how to move into the 21st century, hasn’t learned how to deal with the fact that the endlessly long awards season doesn’t make the Oscar show the glittering golden prize at the end of the trail. The Oscars are now the last gasp that comes when everyone is worn out (even the stars on the Red Carpet seemed tired rather than excited) and just happy the season is over.  If the show is ever going to improve it will have to find what was missing this year: enegy and imagination.

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  • catie | February 28, 2012 4:06 PMReply

    Caryn, Sure, why not, it was.. as bland as... your reviews for the NY Times? Or here, even. Gee, sorry, but seeing you have the sensitivity of a callous wart here, you kind of deserve it. Making up for what you thought you lacked, a point of view? Yours here is muddled, unfair, and it sounds like you walk in with a Norman Bates butcher knife. And, by the way, for the record, oatmeal doesn't have to be bland, it only is by the person who makes it and lacks the imagination of ingredients.

  • Edward Copeland | February 27, 2012 3:47 PMReply

    No. 1 Return the honorary awards to the show since they provided real emotion and admitted film history began prior to 1969.

    No. 2 A moratorium of at least 10 years on pointless montages of clips

    No. 3 Do we need a host really? Why waste the first half-hour on one? No one has ever decided whether to watch or not watch the Oscars based on who is hosting. An anonymous introduces presenters, they hand out awards, winners allowed to talk.

    No. 4 Back to five best picture nominees. Deal with it ABC.

    No. 5 Do not have anything on the show that doesn't have something to do with what's great about movies such as Cirque du Soleil or Adam Sandler

    No. 6 Think about what song you are singing with the In Memoriam segment. It took them until last year to finally figure out to turn off the audience microphones so it didn't become a popularity contest for which dead celebrity was most popular, but "What a Wonderful World?" What is that saying? "What a Wonderful World -- that you're dead?"

    No. 7 I won't bother listing the many film people who died this year who didn't make the In Memoriam segment while a woman who made three films did.

    No. 8 When they see ratings and Disney/ABC throws a fit and yells at the Academy to make more dumb changes for next year, all of them remember they will never see the ratings they used to again because the days of three networks are long gone and people have lots of other options. They need to accept that the Oscars are now niche programming and cater to people like us who are interested and give up chasing people they are never going to get anyway. It's like all the clueless newspaper publishers who have chased the phantom young reader that never existed even before the Internet instead of catering to the age group that is settling down and has driveways they can throw newspapers into.

    No. 9 None of these things will happen because the top paper pushers are, by and large, morons by definition.

  • Heather | February 27, 2012 2:58 PMReply

    Bring back Ellen Degeneres or Hugh Jackman to host. Enough Billy Crystal - same old same old. And why did they drop the Original Song performances in favour of the Cirque du Soleil act, which - while mildly intriguing - had nothing to do with movies at all? And I don't care how good "The Artist" is - it's a black & white silent film that most of us have no desire to see. I just kept watching all night hoping that "Hugo" was going to pull the big upset, but no luck. The best Oscars were in 2004 when Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won everything in sight. Here's hoping The Hobbit will do the same.

  • jmp | February 27, 2012 2:10 PMReply

    Caryn, I still don't understand why Anne Hathaway received some vicious reviews, because she was enthusiastic and happy to host. I still feel she should host with Hugh Jackman with better writing & much better production values . Now, Billy Crystal , at this year's Oscars, always looked bored out of his mind , extremely uncomfortable, and awkward. I felt sorry for Billy the whole night.

  • Just bored | February 27, 2012 1:41 PMReply

    Can't understand why they allow the winners the excessive "THANK YOU'S"
    especially to their wives, children, and mothers.
    Seems gratuitous and painfully uses up time and interest.

  • Movie Guy | February 27, 2012 1:29 PMReply

    Caryn has it all wrong again. Billy was fresh and funny. Had me laughing throughout. Totally professional. Doesn't that count for anything. Classy too!

  • FrancoWinning | February 27, 2012 11:27 AMReply

    So who will lead with the apologizes to James Franco. Couldn't believe the hate that man got ALL of last year especially with two people hosting not just him.

    Now with Billy's performance not being 100% solid proof (see no one is perfect), maybe the hate will now stop especially on James Franco (a 1st time host not a 9 times host).

    Last year was not the worst ever hosting gig ever NOT by a long shot as the world of twitter/critics have now time to reflect on this years - both last year and this year tried their best.

    I just hate the fact that some critics are being easy on Billy but went hardcore on James, seriously totally unfair.

  • peter | February 27, 2012 1:40 AMReply jim rash
    angelina jolie is so trashy and full of herself..i am glad he dissed her..her behaviour was just gross,as her skinny arms and chicken legs.

  • jingmei | February 27, 2012 12:53 AMReply

    Fair enough this post. Indeed the stars are exhausted by the end of the awards season, instead of being excited.

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