It is not Neal Patrick Harris’ fault that the Oscars were terrible. He tried. It is an impossible job. Here are the problems with this year’s Oscars:
- Few people had seen the movies. When big budget pictures (Lord of the Rings, The Blind Side) are in the mix, there is more interest.
- Everything was overproduced. The production numbers extended an already dull broadcast (see point 1). Example: every year, famous movie people who have passed away over the past year are honored. Meryl Streep provided a moving intro, followed by the customary photo montage. All good. But then, the tribute was extended when Jennifer Hudson sang a post-tribute-tribute. They lost me for good when Lady Gaga performed a The Sound of Music Although to her credit Lady Gaga did a nice job, it’s hard to imagine two more incongruous singers than Lady Gaga and Julie Andrews, who gamely appeared to awkwardly thank Lady Gaga. The Lego Movie song “Everything is Awesome” should have been performed by, well, Legos. It started off this way, then live people got involved and the whole thing jumped the shark.
- Incongruous songs (“The Look of Love,” “Endless Love,” “Moon River”) were played each time presenters appeared. I kept thinking, what does this song have to do with these presenters? Then I figured it out – nothing. The producers were again trying to musicalize the Oscars, to bizarre effect.
Here is what I liked about this year’s Oscar ceremony:
- The opening production number. Bravo.
- The riff about Octavia Spencer guarding Neal Patrick Harris’ predictions, which I initially thought was awkward and pointless, was fun in the end when the predictions commented on the (relatively) interesting points in the ceremony (i.e. Terrence Howard was strangely emotional, John Travolta touched Idina Menzel’s face).
- The guy who accepted for Ida (foreign language film) kept at it, doggedly finishing his lengthy speech even as the orchestra tried to play him off. That this was a high point indicates a snoozefest of a ceremony
Were good, not great. The Grand Budapest Hotel was my favorite film of those nominated but I am a Wes Anderson fan and I get that he is not everybody’s cup of tea. The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything were similar movies, historically based films that were good, if somewhat plodding at times. Boyhood was really cool but let’s face it – it had no plot. And the fact that Birdman won Best Picture is the epitome of Hollywood naval gazing – let’s give an Oscar to a movie about actors! The movie had fantastic camera work and good performances, particularly by Edward Norton. But it made no sense. I can’t wait to see Whiplash, which was made in a month for a song and has great buzz. Still Alice is a Hallmark movie but Julianne Moore’s performance is incredible. Gone Girl should have been nominated for Best Picture, as it was very well done, but the Academy doesn’t view thrillers as award-worthy.
Why I am No Longer Going to Write About the Clothes
I have decided to hang up my hat on this topic. The Internet has enough haters. I am all over the campaign #askhermore, which is all about asking actresses about their work, and not their clothes. Actresses have legions of fashion and beauty professionals on hand to make sure they look fantastic, and for the most part succeed. Let’s stop carping about how they look. As Emily Nussbaum points out in her fantastic piece on Joan Rivers, Joan was a trailblazer, true, but a key part of her schtick involved tearing down other women. In 2012-2013 (the latest years for which this information is available) about 30% of all-on screen speaking characters in the top 100 films were women. And when it comes to directors, the story is much worse. Woman directors are a rarity in Hollywood despite some female studio heads. Read New York Times movie critic Manohla Dargis’ excellent 3 part series on the topic.
As Neal Patrick Harris noted in the beginning of the ceremony, “moving pictures shape who we are.” And what they currently show is that it’s a man’s world. Think about movies like Django Unchained, in which there is a slew of great roles for men, and then there’s Kerry Washington, who’s stuck playing The Girl. Let’s work to change that by focusing on actresses’ work, instead of their looks.