It takes a lot to pull me away from the NFL Combines and certainly the 3-hours televised today by NFL Network was riveting television (COME ON JEFF VAN KAMP – GIVE ME A REASON TO CARE!). I really could spend hours watching Cam Newton overthrow receivers while Mike Mayock opines “He might not be a guy who does well in workouts” but I did decide to take a break to tune into this year’s Oscar’s telecast from the Kodak Theater – you know, home to the 2008 Latino Laugh Festival. I was curious, like many, to see how the sneakily sexy Anne Hathaway and the not nearly interesting enough James Franco would do as hosts. And the answer…
Worse than one could imagine. In fact I don’t think I’m going out on a limb (nor will I be the last to say) that this might have been the worst Oscar’s telecast ever. And that’s including the ’67 Oscars when Bob Hope told Liz Taylor to go fuck herself.
The show’s failure was not entirely Anne and Jimmy’s fault, but they certainly did little to stop this 3-plus hour award show abortion from going right down the toilet. Ultimately, however, it’s the producers (and writers) fault for a show that was so disjointed, so misguided, so without purpose or singularity of theme that it made viewers in Washington D.C. have flashbacks of Jim Zorn’s play calling in that Redskins-Giants game from 2 years ago…or that Redskins-Cowboys game from 2 years ago…or that Redskins-Eagles game from 2 years ago…or – you get the picture. (For my non-NFL readers out there, Jim Zorn was a former head coach of the Washington Redskins who was not particularly good at his job).
However, let’s start with the hosts because how can you not. The show opened the way it seems to always open these days ever since Billy Crystal hosted with Hathaway and Franco turning up in scenes from some of the Best Picture nominees starting with Inception. The bit was dead on arrival and about as non-sensical as Inception to boot. Not even Alec Baldwin could save it from itself and while the opening was apparently meant to highlight each of the films nominated for Academy Awards it didn’t (uh, wouldn’t having CGI images of the 2 hosts in Toy Story 3 been kind of creative – or at least have James Franco shoot up some meth in a Winter’s Bone scene as he clearly was high on something during the show). It was a fascinating opening because you could actually see it spinning out of control right in front of you as if it was live and there nothing could be done to stop it. They ended (for no apparent reason) on a scene from Back to the Future, a film 25 years old. I kept waiting for Michael J. Fox to pop up out of the DeLorean with a message about donating to Parkinson’s research which would have been less painful television to watch than what we ended up with.
Soon after the girl who got nude in Brokeback Mountain and the guy from Freaks and Geeks emerged with a monologue and banter who’s only saving grace was that it was mercifully short.
All in all, Hathaway and Franco turned out to be a bizarre pairing. Hathaway was trying way too hard, gushing after announcing (or more accurately screeching) the name of each presenter and often times – as if her excitement wasn’t registering with viewers and audience members alike – whooping it up in the background as the presenter walked out on stage. She was kind of like the kid at a college basketball game cheering for a home team which isn’t very good in a half-full arena (think TCU basketball). She just tried so hard to single-handedly illicit excitement that just didn’t exist. Rupert Pupkin got more feedback in his mom’s basement.
But like Jesse Palmer’s 3 starts with the Giants years ago, you can’t fault enthusiasm. And enthusiasm is certainly something James Franco will never be accused of possessing. I haven’t seen a performance this uninspired since Veronica Jett half-assed it in a threesome with Sativa Rose and some guy.
Franco’s too-cool for school attitude was far more off-putting than David Letterman conducting a Stupid Pet Trick during the show. Not only did Franco act more stoned than his character in Pineapple Express, but his timing was off and even the jokes that were written for him were bad. It was as if even the writers thought to themselves “He’s not going to try so why should we.” In the podcast “Dinner Party Download” one of the hosts poses the question that James Franco is either really making a statement about the banality of celebrity or he’s a complete tool. After tonight’s show I would lean towards the latter.
The whole show itself was a disjointed mess regardless of the hosts ineptitude. At first, beginning with the opening award, it seemed as if the theme for the Oscars was going to be to introduce each category with mention of a past winner from that category. Thus we get Tom Hanks talking about Gone with the Wind and Titanic (two movies he had nothing to do with, but we’ll just let that pass) before introducing the winner for best Art Direction (I think). However, the show was so random that sometimes categories did refer to past winners and sometimes they didn’t. So for best costume design (I think it was) we end up with the winner from Alice in Wonderland accepting her award in front of an image from Lord of the Rings.
We get to see Justin Timberlake try to be funny while Mila Kunis (not really looking her best) giggles inside jokes with him. I guess what Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law did was an attempt at witty repartee but all it really reminded the audience of was just how bad Sherlock Holmes was. And I actually like Gwyneth Paltrow (my wife, I might add, does not and calls her a horrible person because she has the audacity to post a blog about raising a child) but her singing performance was, what’s the word, bad. I haven’t seen a final line peter out like that in song since BK’s Air Supply tribute to his CK1 back in aught seven.
Ultimately, the show had no flow, no theme, no sense of purpose. We get to see Anne Sweeney come out and announce a contract signing between the Oscars and ABC (like anyone gives a shit including the people at ABC none of whom still want to be working there by 2020) but Francis Ford Coppola isn’t allowed to speak and instead his tribute is rolled into a montage featuring Eli Wallach, Kenneth Brownlow and Jean Luc-Godard. So is that the new thing – the Thalberg winner doesn’t get a tribute or a chance to speak anymore?
The show actually got better towards the end as it sped up. Both Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock did a good job presenting the Best Actor categories and the Oscars were wise to eliminate the painfully embarrassing spectacle of actors complimenting other actors as we were forced to sit through the two previous years. (I mean really, who wouldn’t have wanted to see Anna Paquin waxing philosophic on Jennifer Lawrence).
And to its credit the Oscars managed not to repeat last year’s embarrassing tribute to the deceased when the camera spent more time on Queen Latifah singing and bad angles pointing to the screen on the Kodak Theater stage which didn’t allow viewers to actually see who was being honored. This year we were spared Celine Dion’s disturbing long French-Canadian looks and instead just saw the names of those who passed. Also, kudos to the audience for not clapping for some dead people while ignoring others like in year’s past. That’s always so disrespectful to the dead guy who doesn’t get cheered. It’s like the unpopular kid in high-school during graduation who’s own parents didn’t even bother to show-up and no one cheers for him. At my high-school, we called that “being BK’d.”
Most people will talk about doddering 90-plus Kirk Douglas’ presentation for best supporting actress. Considering that’s he’s 94, applied more skin creme on his face than a sober Snooky, and almost can’t speak he still managed to pull off better comic timing than James Franco. However, during that whole spiel of his it kept looking like tragedy was going to strike – such as he would slip, or have a TIA, or have a bout of incontinence. But the ol’ man held it together which is more than can be said about Melissa Leo who had incontinence of the mouth. Her faux “I’m so shocked” speech was the most disengenous thing I’ve heard since Eric Canter stated he doesn’t use hair product. Considering that she had won practically every major award prior to this and she bought full page ads for herself in the trades (and had been nominated once before) am I really supposed to believe that she was shocked to learn that the Kodak Theater had an upper-deck. I haven’t seen an overacting job that pronounced since Melissa Leo in The Fighter. I recently heard her interviewed on “Fresh Air” where she stated she was fired from her role on the TV series Homicide because she didn’t wear enough make-up but after seeing her tonight I’m guessing it had more to do with the fact that she’s insufferable.
The rest of the speeches, however, were generally fine but lacked a lot of fire in a show that itself could have used a few matches. Unfortunately the producers of this year’s Oscar’s show served up a cold dish with a couple of hosts who turned out to be all wet.