The great thing about the Oscars this year was … the movies themselves. It was an amazing year. Virtually all of the 9 movies nominated for Best Picture were excellent (even though I walked out of Les Mis because I couldn’t handle its overly-engaging visual style, I recognize it had merit http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/28/les-miserables-and-irony/) And not only were the movies great, but people actually saw them! Seven of the nine nominated movies grossed more than $100 million. It worked out well that Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for Best Director, this garnered a huge sympathy vote and also allowed Ang Lee the recognition he deserved for Life of Pi. As Hollywood Insider Nikki Finke notes, Hollywood hates Steven Spielberg, which is why his movies rarely win. (http://www.deadline.com/2013/02/oscars-2013-live-coverage-commentary-nikki-finke-live-snarking/)
I thought Seth MacFarlane was … fine. Not horrible, not amazing. His opening “we saw your boobs” number was offensive but that was the point, he was hired to be offensive, to appeal to younger viewers. My kids, who normally drift away from the ceremony after 10 minutes, stayed with it, which indicates that the strategy worked. Liked the riff that Seth MacFarlane was “the worst Oscar Host ever,” because it is true that hosting the Oscars is a no-win job and every year this headline resurfaces. Sock puppet reenactment of Flight – hilarious. Loved Adele and Barbra and Shirley “Goldfinger” Bassey but thought the Chicago and Les Mis montages were both overlong. Fun fact: the producers of this year’s Oscars produced Chicago so plugging it seemed more than a little self-serving. HATED the Michelle Obama live feed for Best Picture – do we really need to give conservative Republicans more evidence that the White House is in cahoots with Hollywood? Other than Daniel Day Lewis, and to a lesser degree Quentin Tarantino, virtually all the speeches were dull, dull, dull. This speaks to the wisdom of serving alcohol at other awards shows, most notably the Golden Globes, where speeches are often loopy. Many of the presenters’ intros were long and lackluster (I’m talking to you, Kristen Stewart, Channing Tatum, and Melissa McCarthy!)
Most of the gowns were safe and publicist-approved, good but not great. Lots of strapless, lots of sequins. Loved Octavia Spencer and Queen Latifah, hooray for plus-sized women looking fabulous in white dresses! Also liked the sculptural quality of Naomi Watts’ dress, and Charlize Theron, who has a perfect record of consistently Killing It on the red carpet. Halle Berry looked lean and mean, fitting for a Bond Girl. Bad dresses were mostly due to overly decorated bodices – Anne Hathaway’s dress was ok except when viewed from certain angles in which the stitching looked pornographic. Nicole Kidman, Zoe Saldana and Kerry Washington all suffered from overly glittery bodices. Thought Jane Fonda’s dress the worst of the evening. And let’s not even talk about Melissa McCarthy.
I correctly predicted virtually all of the major categories other than Best Supporting Actor, which was by all accounts a toss-up (although I’m glad Christoph Waltz won, albeit for an identical role he played in Inglourious Basterds, for which he also won.) Despite the predictability of the major awards, (see Nate Silver’s blog describing how prior awards show wins handicap Oscar races (http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/22/oscar-predictions-election-style/) it was great to see the lesser awards evenly distributed among a breadth of high-quality movies.
Back to the movies, because to repeat, the Best Picture nominees were of unusually high quality this year. Amour is devastating. Life of Pi and Beasts are visual marvels which defy categorization. Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty dramatize major historical events, albeit imperfectly. Django is great, great, fun, particularly the first half. And Silver Linings Playbook and Argo are well crafted, enjoyable films. Go!