I’m sorry to have to say that, despite my love for Adam Shankman whose humor and wisdom is well-suited to So You Think You Can Dance, the 82nd Oscar telecast may have gotten more ratings as a result of the changes, but it deflated ever so slightly in the process. In fact, it made me yearn for last year’s tight-as-a-drum ceremony that brought back the thing about the Oscars that makes them unique: class and glamour. So, what worked and what didn’t?
1 ) The five acting nominees paying tribute to nominees and winners. That is still the best thing about the show.
2 ) Ben Stiller.
3 ) The dresses. Prettier than ever.
4 ) The horror montage. Very cool.
5 ) The occasional joke.
6 ) The clips explaining what categories are for those not in-the-know.
7 ) Sandra Bullock’s lipstick.
8 ) Meryl Streep sitting close to the front.
9 ) The floating things from Avatar.
10 ) Sandy Powell’s dress, hat and hair.
And what didn’t? It’s probably more fun to grip about the Oscars, an annual tradition, than it is to praise them, but I really do have a few major gripes. After the cut.
1 ) The acting nominees on stage at the beginning — terrible idea. It wasn’t enough that they had to suffer the long red carpet with people like Ryan Seacrest, who actually asked Kathryn Bigelow, “if you win, what do you want to say to Jim Cameron?” To her credit, she didn’t simply say, “next.”¬† So after the blaring cameras, the inane questions, the fashion judges — they have to stand there and wait for their applause from already an already tired audience? And then stumble down the staircase to find their seats before the show begins? Oy, did not work at all. We like, “lights up, host enters.” Billy Crystal preferably.
2 ) “And the winner is.” Meh. And the Oscar Goes To still sounds better to me, even though a winner is a winner.
3 ) They will never be forgiven for playing “I am Woman” after Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar. I was embarrassed for all involved. It was bad enough I had to stomach Barbra Streisand sucking up the moment for Kathryn Bigelow by making it all about her being a woman – I was somehow hoping she would get announced just as the winner without all of that other stuff that was bound to turn up in pieces like this one in the post-game wrap-up. Let her just be a winner and for godssake, don’t play her off with Helen Reddy.
4 ) Ditto “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” being played for Carey Mulligan’s entrance. I didn’t hear that but someone wrote in to tell me they did it.
5 ) Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin bombed. I don’t know if it was the setting, the writing, or the awkward opening but it was only mildly funny, not even up to their usual level of banter one might see on the Saturday Night Live opening monologue.
6 ) The dancing to the musical scores. The dancers were great, the music was great. The dancers and the music together? Not so great. I think I’d rather have seen the best songs perform. So serious, James Taylor singing In My Life was pretty cool … but … can’t we see/hear Ryan Bingham and T. Bone Burnett singing The Weary Kind? Or better yet, Jeff Bridges?¬† No offense to JT, but I was getting the 1976 vibe from the show, not 2010.
7 ) The announcer. Who was the announcer? And did they really have to tease the audience with “find out if the next woman or African American will win an Academy Award!” Really ABC?
8 ) The “having one person talk and making them say something dramatic” did nothing but terrify the winners. Having to tell a memorable story, pressuring them into that? Bad, bad idea. The Oscars are best when they happen spontaneously. There were too many times some sad person trying to make the moment memorable by stepping up to the mic only to be ruthlessly cut off by the fascist producers. Someone did not know how to drive the Love Boat. I’m sorry to say it, but that came off badly.
9 ) No original song nominees playing on stage but we get organic dancing? Yeah, didn’t work.
10 ) Not having the Honorary Oscar recipients on stage to accept their awards was downright shameful. I loved John Hughes too. I loved that they devoted a whole section to John Hughes. But Roger Corman and Lauren Bacall had to stand up and wait for the house to lumber to their feet, “oh, we’re supposed to stand?” Hardly a moving tribute.
I hope that next year they fix these problems. Of course, even if they do I’m sure we’ll all have something to complain about.
Meanwhile, in case you were wondering about the dust up over Doc Short, this handy article in Salon explains what happened:
People are already saying you “pulled a Kanye.” What happened?
BURKETT: What happened was the director and I had a bad difference over the direction of the film that resulted in a lawsuit that has settled amicably out of court. But there have been all these events around the Oscars, and I wasn’t invited to any of them. And he’s not speaking to me. So we weren’t even able to discuss ahead of the time who would be the one person allowed to speak if we won. And then, as I’m sure you saw, when we won, he raced up there to accept the award. And his mother took her cane and blocked me. So I couldn’t get up there very fast.
Can you explain the reason behind the conflict?
BURKETT: The movie was supposed to be about the entire band, Liyana. And the [band members] were very clear they did not want to participate if it ended up being just about one person. The director and HBO decided to focus solely on Prudence . . .
And the other side:
How did that happen?
WILLIAMS: Only one person is allowed to accept the award. I was the director, and she was removed from the project nearly a year ago, but she was able to still qualify as a producer on the project, and be an official nominee. But she was very angry — she actually removed herself from the project ‚Äì because she wanted more creative control.
But couldn’t you decide ahead of time who would speak?
WILLIAMS: That was handled by the publicist for the academy. I don’t know what they told her. The academy is very clear that only one person can speak. I own the film. She has no claim whatsoever. She has nothing to do with the movie. She just ambushed me. I was sort of in shock.
Read the full deal over at Salon.