Monday, February 25, 2013

The 85th Academy Awards: Recapping a Bizarre, Disjointed Ceremony

The 85th Annual Academy Awards was one of the strangest and most uneven telecasts I can remember in the last twenty years of watching the ceremony.  I wrote last week about giving The Oscars a break and enjoying them as a celebration of film.  That was before I knew what the producers of the show had in mind. Easily one of the more laborious and slow-moving broadcasts in Oscar history, the decisions by the producers of the show are baffling, and the awards themselves seemed to be voted by throwing darts at a dartboard.

Seth MacFarlane was the host, and he began the show with great creativity and humor that was equally cutting and witty.  But his 18-minute opening sequence, co-starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk from the future, went on entirely too long.  Going on too long was the theme of the night.  MacFarlane seemed at ease in my opinion, and his quips throughout the night at least generated a laugh.  For some inexplicable reason, this Academy Awards presentation carried with it a theme of celebrating "the best musicals of the last decade."  That celebration included a grand total of three films: Chicago, Dreamgirls, and Les Miserables.  Which brings me to Chicago, inexplicably one of the stars of the show.

Chicago won Best Picture at the 2003 Oscars, and two different musical numbers celebrated this fact.  But Chicago, and the telecast in 2003, is still the lowest-rated show in the history of the Awards.  Which makes celebrating the mediocre musical all the more baffling.  Music was a big player on the night, but instead of having all five original songs performed we got a Chicago musical number from Catherine Zeta-Jones and a Dreamgirls song from Jennifer Hudson.  Then, we had two of the original songs performed and the other three merely mentioned in passing.  It makes no sense whatsoever.  These musical numbers were drab and lifeless and carried the length of the ceremony well beyond three hours.  There is no reason why The Oscars should run past the three-hour mark, and there was an unimaginable amount of fat needed to be trimmed from the proceedings.

And now to the awards.  The lack of momentum must be, at least in part, due to the scattered awards.  I am all for surprises, and Christoph Waltz and Ang Lee were the largest shockers of the night, but none of the big films of the night could gain any traction as director and picture and all the technical awards were scattered about.  If Argo is the Best Picture, how is it that Ben Affleck is not nominated?  Beats me.  And the winners of the night all delivered lackluster acceptance speeches, aside from Daniel Day-Lewis and Ben Affleck who had great wit and comedy and humble, warm deliveries.

This was one of the worst Academy Awards I have ever seen, and the producers behind the scenes must learn from this to try and trim the fat for next year.  And the themes must make sense in the future.  Otherwise, the ratings will continue to plummet.