Boo! Hiss! The 81st Oscars another yawner
Our traditional episodic invective has had to subside a bit for the Oscars, but here's what's going to print Monday, in case you have no desire to work in your cubes this morning.
A real fashion faux pas
Bizarre moments abounded on the red carpet, but the strangest were not Anne Hathaway's refusal to say what kind of accessories she owned (we theorized jewelry for unnameable piercings) or Mickey Rourke's ackowledgement that he had a tuxedo made for his recently deceased 18-year-old chihuahua, Loki. No, it was E!'s Ryan Seacrest telling members of the Slumdog Millionaire cast and crew -- including all those adorable kids -- that he couldn’t even begin to pronounce their names, so they would just put up their name cards. Wow, way to be a modern red carpet host there, Ryan. Did you make fun of Kunio Kato's acceptance speech for best animated short, since he was Japanese and could obviously barely speak a word of English?
Five presenters are a crowd
The collection of five past winners presenting the main acting categories was a bizarre addition, considering the ceremony runs long enough without people recounting the life stories of every actor and actress nominated — however humorous it may be. The time they saved by having mostly pairs of actors present related minor categories (like Steve Martin and Tina Fey, Jennifer Aniston and Jack Black, Daniel Craig and Sarah Jessica Parker and show stealers Natalie Portman and Ben Stiller, poking fun at Joaquin Phoenix by dressing as a refugee from "a Hasidic meth lab") was wasted on this orgy of self-importance.
The host missed the most
Hugh Jackman showed promise, playing part host, part roast club emcee. He opened the show with a musical number that poked fun at the Academy for loving Holocaust movies when no one else does, not recognizing The Dark Knight and cutting costs during the economic downturn — because of budget restrictions, the Aussie actor who starred in Australia said that next year he will have a role in New Zealand. He then largely disappeared until just before 10 p.m. for a musical medley with Beyonce Knowles, Vanessa Hudgens, Zac Efron and a couple people from Mamma Mia!. At first we thought he was bringing the glam back to the Oscars and getting out of his fellow actors' way. But then when we got to the 17th tribute montage and Hugh was nowhere to be found, we realized the truth (Will Smith even said Jackman was "napping" as Big Willie presented four technical awards). In fact, we barely saw him again until the very end. It made us that maybe getting a multi-faceted, Tony-winning actor/singer to host still isn't as good as getting Billy Crystal to come out on stage as Hannibal Lecter.
They wore white ribbons
California's Propostion 8, which repealed gay marriage rights, popped up a couple of times during the night, most vocally from original screenplay winner Dustin Lance Black, who said his life was changed at 13 by the story of Harvey Milk, the subject of his movie. "It gave me the hope to live my life. The hope to one day I could live my life openly as who I am and maybe I could fall in love and one day get married," he said. "If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he'd want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches or by the government or by their family, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value. And that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon I promise you you will have equal rights, federally across this great nation of ours." Too bad such a strong message came so early.
Putting the zz in buzz
Mostly the problems for this round of the Oscars are the same as before: no one really cares about endless tributes and song performances — this isn't the Tonys (we're looking at you, Hugh Jackman). But what do we really expect from a three-hour awards show? Maybe the problem is The Dark Knight, which was just as acclaimed as other flicks, got hardly a mention. Maybe it was because Slumdog Millionaire took the top prize, best director for Danny Boyle and six other awards, but didn't showcase any big-name actors. And how can a ceremony that focused on such a colorful movie be so vanilla? Even Kate Winslet's win for The Reader (and telling Meryl Streep "to suck that up") or Sean Penn calling everyone "commie, homo-loving sons of guns" couldn’t save it. Maybe Peter Gabriel was right to sit out.