Oscar Night in Review: Winners and Losers

Posted: February 25, 2013 in Award Season, Personal
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Another year, another Oscars. The Academy made the decision to make a number of changes this year that may or may not have been noticeable. The first, which was a major change, was that the “Academy Awards” label has been dropped from the name. Part of the rebranding of the awards to grab onto a younger audience meant drop the classic/double title. To go with the name change, there was also an attempt to make more youth-relevant choices in the host, presenters and production. While Seth MacFarlane was the host and the more youth-focused talent was on display, so were certain classic elements that kept the award show a little more relevant for an older audience. It would be easy to say that it was a balance, but the long show time and classic elements detracted away from the more youthful attempt.

But I digress…

Oscar night was still a huge success. There were surprises, upsets and memorable moments abound. The red carpet did serve a bit as the prelude to come of the events of the night (and not based off of who was wearing what). The big stars were out and there were some fun interactions that set the stage for the coming entertainment. Quvenzhane Wallis did not have to win anything to still get the attention and respect from the crowd. Jennifer Lawrence was in line to win the category, but she also found an opportunity to playfully take it to Emma Stone to let her know to watch her back. Jamie Foxx brought his daughter and presented himself well as an invested parent. Kristen Stewart showed up with crutches and attempted to balance herself for a few moments to pose for photographers. Numerous actors also hinted at their involvement in the night’s festivities.

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Now to the actual award night. Here are my impressions of the wins and losses for the night at the movies…

Host: Seth MacFarlane

  • Win: During the times when Seth was ad-libbing, he was actually quite funny. He showed a bit more humility when he recognized that a joke may have missed its mark, but the script was also not a complete loss. While the crowd seemed a bit lost, his Sound of Music bit with the Von Trapp family was rather amusing. He also could have easily focused more on his song and dance routines. Another win for Seth was in his presentation with Mark Wahlberg as Ted (less so for the content and more for the avenue of presenting himself as an animated bear). He had a truly gem with the opportunity to do what he does best…animated voices.
  • Loss: It may not be his fault completely, but the writing suffered from being borderline or even totally offensive. It was not a surprise that he would push the line, but the “boobs” song, joke about Chris Brown and Rihanna and mention of Clooney chasing young women were failures in the script. The line about Clooney also destroyed the innocence of Quvenzhane, who was the target of a sexually-charged disaster. His opening also failed to seem cohesive or relevant. Besides the song, he had William Shatner playing his Star Trek role bouncing back and forth from inappropriate jokes to unrelated song and dance.

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  • Final Thoughts: If Seth were to be given another opportunity to host, he could easily take more of a Billy Crystal-like approach with a musical number with puns or quips about the nominees to start the show (though he apparently received some coaching from Crystal prior to the show). He could have even done something more with his vocal work besides Ted and made a better impact. As controversial and negative as some critics were about his performance, there was also a lot of support for his willingness to be controversial and perceived attractiveness (not exactly redeeming qualities for a possible repeat host).

Presenters

  • Win: The Avengers may not have been nominated for anything, but the cast made an appearance to present a pair of awards with a little banter and self-defamation. Jean Dujardin was his fun, simple self and still posted a quick comment and tribute to the grace and majesty of the best actress nominees. As mentioned previously, Mark Wahlberg and Ted presented to a rather receptive crowd, sparking conversation that Ted (rather than Seth MacFarlane himself) should host the next Oscars. To reduce the time needed to present the best picture nominees, Reese WitherspoonLiam Neeson and Nicole Kidman each highlighted three nominees apiece with brief bios and a quick video montage. The biggest surprise of the night included Jack Nicholson and Michelle Obama. While they may have different political ideologies, they supported the arts with their joint message and Michelle got the chance to make the official announcement.
  • Loss: First up…Melissa McCarthy and Paul Rudd. Attempting to awkwardly exhibit how to do voice acting, they looked confused and completely out of it. As bad as they were, there was worse. Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere appeared to forget how to read and seemed like they did not want to be there. Worst of all was Kristen Stewart. In her appearance with Daniel Radcliffe, she appeared either drugged, drunk or in some way disheveled.

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  • Final Thoughts: There was an opportunity for Meryl Streep to present the Best Actress award to Jennifer Lawrence, but opportunity missed. Regardless, many of the choices were good, but some were clearly not that interested or impressed with the opportunity to be up on stage honoring other actors and moviemakers. The Academy needs to be more aware of who is going to appreciate the opportunity.

Musical Performances

  • Win: The quick and easy answer here was Jennifer Hudson. Although she is amazing in nearly every performance, I’m Telling You is honestly one of her best songs. She brought the house down. Adele also wowed people with Skyfall, although she was also victim of some unbalanced audio during the chorus. The cast from Les Miserables came out for their performance of Suddenly, even with Russell Crowe. Also notable was Nora Jones, out there to sing Everybody Needs a Best Friend.
  • Loss: While the performances themselves were not bad, they missed the mark in terms of capturing a younger audience. Dame Shirley Bassey came onto the stage to sing Goldfinger, which seemed to drag on and could have been replaced by a more modern vocalist and Bond song. Barbara Streisand did a fitting tribute along with the In Memoriam but just seemed to drag out the segment and again disconnect from the younger viewers. Catherine Zeta Jones did an okay performance with All That Jazz but she seemed a little lackluster energy for the first half of the performance.

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  • Final Thoughts: I like the idea of doing a tribute to music in film but shouldn’t that be every year? Music is such an important part of movies and should be celebrated.

Nominees & Winners

  • Win: There were some winners that were expected. Daniel Day-Lewis was the clear frontrunner for Best Actor, but he also caught people off guard with his comedy during his acceptance speech. Jennifer Lawrence tripped going up the stairs to receive her Best Actress award but showed some humility and surprise after walking off stage. Quentin Tarantino was his usual wild and crazy self, which also makes for good television. Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine both were able to show their gratitude and promote the support for the arts through the opportunity they were able to provide for the focus of their film. Christoph Waltz snuck one away from Tommy Lee Jones with another gripping performance in a Tarantino film. Ben Affleck may have been snubbed for Best Director but his film still took the biggest prize of the night. And out of the category for best upset, Ang Lee surprised many with both the success of Life of Pi and his win over Spielberg.
  • Loss: On the flip side of the Lee, Spielberg put out the movie everyone hoped and expected him to direct to only fall to disappointment and shock. Life of Pi had a late surge that took out the momentum Lincoln had originally produced (also losing some of that steam to Argo and the Best Picture category). Lincoln did get a bit of revenge when it won for Best Production Design, even though it had been tracking in 4th place behind Life of Pi, Les Miserables and The Hobbit. Not even nominated for any category, Cloud Atlas should have at least been up for Best Makeup, Best Original Song and Best Original Score. Wreck-It Ralph fell victim to Disney’s stranglehold on the animated category, which also took the animated short category. There were a few acceptance speeches that ran long, but that also served as an enjoyable experience with Jaws playing in the background.

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  • Final Thoughts: While the awards may have been spread out, there were too many surprises. Ang Lee did walk away the big winner, even without the Best Picture win. Seth’s song and dance at the end to honor the losers was really a bit of a fail, as it did nothing to consul or entertain people. Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook could have won more categories but there was stiff competition with Lincoln and Life of Pi. There are actually a few challenges with the award’s setup though. There is no suspense for certain categories when you have a film like Amour nominated for Best Picture and Best Foreign Film. There is no way it can be nominated for the biggest category of the night but then lose in its smaller category.

The Oscars were entertaining but I have a few final suggestions for future award shows. Get presenters that care about recognizing other people’s talent. Consider bumping the show up to 6:30pm EST so the show does not run so late (midnight). Avoid the crazy gimmicks to start the show and keep it shorter and simpler. If Seth is going to come back, reconsider how much leeway he gets or reduce the vulgarity. If you are going to keep the 9-10 nominee increase for Best Picture, the same allowance should be made for Best Director (only).

I will be back in the theaters soon, so stay up with the blog and I’ll see you at the movies.

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