For what it's worth, the ratings for last night's Oscar show look to be up, suggesting that the Academy's gamble with Seth MacFarlane paid off (although, the fact that six of the Best Picture nominations made over $100 million is probably the most significant factor; see all the winners here). But creatively, things were a little more mixed, most can agree.
It certainly wasn't as bad as the James Franco/Anne Hathaway-fronted disaster of two years ago, and we'd argue that it marked an improvement on last year's Billy Crystal-hosted throwback affair, but certainly didn't come close to either of Hugh Jackman's shindigs, or even one of the Jon Stewart years. There were good points, but plenty of bad as well, so below, we've run down what we thought worked, and what we thought didn't, about the 85th Academy Awards broadcast. Let us know your own thoughts in the comments section and check out our list of the way things can be improved next year.
We have to say, despite the eagerness to keep speeches on the short side (see below), we ended up with a pretty good selection. Christoph Waltz was heartfelt and quick to acknowledge his fellow nominees, Anne Hathaway (who got some hate on social media, but mainly from the people who would hate her whatever she said) walked the fine line of not looking surprised, but still being gracious, Michael Haneke proved that he's a secret romantic, Adele was teary and true to herself, Daniel Day-Lewis continued his charm offensive as he became the first person in history to win three Best Actor trophies, and delivered some of the best jokes of the evening, while Jennifer Lawrence was the Jennifer Lawrence we've all come to know and love, tripping up the steps and all. Perhaps the best of them all were left til last, with Best Director and Best Picture. Ang Lee was clearly a popular winner on the night, warmly received by the audience, and managed to top his previous speech, while Affleck was clearly touched, endearingly speeding along, speaking from the heart about his career arc from his mid-'00s drought to his current success. And props to George Clooney too, who'd not only added some much needed-class earlier in the evening when introducing the In Memoriam section, but also was generous enough to know that this wasn't his moment, letting Affleck and producing partner Grant Heslov speak instead of him. Watch the speeches here.
The musical elements were decidedly hit-and-miss, as we'll see throughout this piece, but one thing that worked like gangbusters early on were the dance sequences featuring A-list talent. Part of the joke of the endless William Shatner bit was that these scenes would save the night, and it wasn't far off the case, as Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum danced (impressively, and very sexily) together, before Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe joined MacFarlane for "High Hopes." They might have been thin excuses for MacFarlane to do his B-list Robert Goulet thing, but the charm and talent of the actors involved shone through. Maybe they should all host together next year? The choreography, by stage veteran Rob Ashford, was pretty swell too.
A lot of MacFarlane's skitty-bits didn't work, but we did enjoy the non-sequitur element of his sock-puppet tribute to "Flight." It was a funny pick because it was quite random (the film was only nominated twice), but also featured the oddity of a sock version of Brian Geraghty, and the excellent gag of cutting to a tumble dryer as the plane crashes. A throwaway bit, but funnier and more charming than most of what we had to sit through.
Among the more effective musical moments were the ones that actually tied into this year's nominees. While the Bond tribute was a bit of a washout in general, Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger" was an undeniable highlight, the 76-year-old Welsh chanteuse nailing the song as if it was forty years ago. And she was matched by Adele's "Skyfall." It was the first time the singer performed the song live, but it killed, reminding us slightly ahead of the fact that it's the most deserving winner of Original Song since Eminem's "Lose Yourself." Finally, while it might not be popular with everyone, I personally really enjoyed the "Les Miserables" production number. For all the problems with the film, the cast were not one of them, and letting them do their thing without have cameras ten inches from the faces was a reminder of their talent (even if it looked for a moment that one of the waiters had stormed the stage; that was the relatively-unknown Aaron Tveit). Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Samantha Barks were were all in fine form, and Russell Crowe deserves props too for ignoring the snark and doing a pretty decent job too.
Most of the "funny" hosting bits didn't really work, and while I might be in the minority here, I thought Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy delivered the best of them in 2013. Presenting the animation categories, it kicked off with Rudd headbutting the mic, before the pair delivered an anti-comedy riff on their own vocal skills, and how no one's hiring them for animation. It's not one for the ages or anything, but it made us chuckle, and that was something lacking for much of the rest of the show.
If it wasn’t already the case, Jennifer Lawrence cemented her position as America’s Sweetheart last night. From her fangirlish introduction of Adele, to her trip on stage (gallantly offered help by both Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman, she picked herself up, made a joke and got on with the speech), she was consistently ace throughout the ceremony. And she was even more endearing backstage, meeting and flirting with/knocking back Jack Nicholson, and giving cutting, smart put-downs during her backstage press conference, while admitting that she’d just done a shot. Lawrence has long promised to be the most interesting and wildly popular new movie star in a long time, and seemed to fulfill her promise last night.