“They must be nuts in France right now. Or whatever the French have in place of joy.”
After last year’s unimpressive awards show, poorly hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway, watching last night’s Oscar telecast was a treat. Billy Crystal returned for the ninth time to host and brought with him his traditional Best Picture nominee song and his opening montage, which immediately caused both outrage and confusion by the appearance of his Sammy Davis, Jr. character. If anything, I thought Justin Beiber was the one out of place. Crystal’s jokes throughout the night were often funny, though not risky (bar the aforementioned Davis bit).
Highlights of the show included a wonderful Cirque de Soleil performance that exemplified a great movie-going experience and Chris Rock presenting an award for animation, but not before he pointed out that being a voice in an animated film is the easiest job out there that pays a million dollars. Best was the “rare footage” video made by Christopher Guest and his reliable stable of actors (Jennifer Coolidge, Bob Balaban, Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara, and Eugene Levy) depicting a focus group from 1939 who had watched The Wizard of Oz and didn’t care for it. Willard’s character at least appreciated some of it, saying, “I didn’t like it ’till they got to the flying monkeys”.
JLo and Cameron Diaz, and Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey, Jr., all tried to be funny but failed. Also, what was up with Angelina Jolie and her awkward diva pose when she presented the writing awards? Was the guy who won as part of the writing team for The Descendants making fun of her when he struck a similar pose on stage (mere feet from where she was standing)? If so, I now like him despite not knowing who he is.
As for the winners and their acceptance speeches, they were pretty ordinary and predictable. Christopher Plummer became the oldest recipient of any (non-honorary) Academy Award at the age of 82, which was a nice bit of history-making. Woody Allen was still not around to accept his screenwriting award for Midnight in Paris. Meryl Streep won Best Actress for a movie nobody watched (yawn). I was, however, very excited for Bret McKenzie when he won for writing a song from The Muppets, mostly because a) I love Flight of the Conchords (the duo and the series), b) I enjoyed the song when I watched the film, and c) I like Bret more than Jemaine.
I didn’t see as many of the nominated films as I could have this season because the options seemed lackluster, and I have a hunch that neither The Artist nor 2012 will stand out in film history. However, it was still comforting to see Billy Crystal again, who I can recall as the host throughout my childhood.
Honorable mentions go out to Sandra Bullock for reciting part of her presentation for Best Foreign Language Film in German after setting everyone up to think she would speak Mandarin, and the JCPenney commercials (at least on the East Coast in the United States) starring Ellen Degeneres.