"Billy Crystal, hosting his ninth Oscar show, seemed to be overseeing a cruise ship dinner show designed to appeal to the over-50 travel club. Early on, it hit the rocks and started to list. Almost everyone drowned."---Hank Stuever, The Washington PostI was bullied into watching the Oscars.
My husband, visiting relatives, pestered me on Facebook until I joined some friends on Twitter to watch 'together' and provide a running commentary on the proceedings. I had no intention of watching them; seeing people congratulated for their work on movies I hadn't seen (and this year, for some reason, I managed to not see a SINGLE ONE of the Best Picture nominees) didn't strike me as a good time. I should have followed my instincts.
The tedium started straight away. It is marginally fun to watch actresses (because, really, a tux is a tux so who cares about actors) cruise the red carpet and see the pretty dresses they bought, the jewelry they rented. Its a bit like an abbreviated parade. Penelope Cruz walks by. You say, "Oooo." And then promptly forget why. Because look, more tulle and sparkles! Do I, Jane Q. Citizen, need to hear a distracted mini-interview about who she is wearing? I do not. I bought one expensive dress in my life, it was white, and I only wore it once. Stop, turn, wave, smile, and move on.
Apparently there was some issue last year with the hosts being poor choices. They are both people I like to see in movies, perhaps they were unfunny, I have no idea. I didn't watch it last year. So heads got together, dug deep, and decided that someone who seems to do his best work when you don't have to look at him (Cars, Monsters Inc) should be the face we have to look at for three hours. There was an interminable montage in which his relevance was argued. I don't think the Academy did itself any favors joking about how they had to work hard to convince Billy he had 'enough jokes' to host again. Billy has plenty of jokes. He helpfully lets you know when he's telling one by laughing at it himself.
I don't know if this was a new thing or not, but the banter has changed. Gone is the 'witty' exchange between some lovely actress and random self deprecating actor, the fake flirting and then finally getting down to business, though the formula for this time-honored bit of nonsense was rightly lampooned by two presenters (I should remember who they were. If I cared, I would.). Instead, each presenter was compelled to read a scripted ode to each nominee that was as lame and unbelievable as it was irritating. There has to be a way to present awards without sounding so forced and awkward. Watching people pretend to laugh because there is a camera on them, and looking progressively less convincing over the course of three hours, is not at all entertaining. The close-in audience shots were like watching the less invested relatives of talentless children endure a terrible dance recital.
The ode to fabulous movies of the past was predictable and unnecessary to anyone who has ever seen it done better in an AFI Top 100 Films special. Watching Cirque du Soleil elicited the usual response; worrying that someone would fall, hoping they would, concluding that I am a terrible person. Though I am grateful that they dialed down the usual trippy creepiness several notches.
An awards show is what it is; wealthy people patting each other on the back. I don't argue that the actors in films shouldn't be recognized for their hard and often brilliant and inspired work. I'm just not sure I need to watch. If it is a herculean effort to make the proceedings interesting and entertaining, maybe it is time to admit that despite best efforts, they simply aren't.