I knew about five minutes into James Franco and Anne Hathaway's opening monologue at the Oscars last night that we were in for a long evening. Scripted within an inch of it's life, their words hung in the air momentarily before dropping like lead weights at their feet. The monologue became symptomatic of what would be an odd and listless ceremony. One that commanded the bare minimum of my attention.
Franco has done a good job of cultivating a very relaxed, go-with-the-flow vibe in the last year and a half. But he was practically sleepwalking through his hosting duties. That is, when he could be bothered to show up at all. From where I was sitting, it looked like Anne Hathaway was doing all the heavy lifting.
As a matter of fact, she may have been over-exerting herself. Yelling with unrestrained glee in a desperate pitch to compensate for Franco's lazy-eyed delivery. Hathaway literally yelled "WOOOOO!" like a sorority girl after almost every presenter she introduced. When she was giving high fives to the kids from P.S. 22 in Staten Island after their performance of "Over The Rainbow" at the end of the show, I was convinced the force of the blow was going to knock some of them off the stage. Franco may have been on auto-pilot, but at least he was being authentic. Not that I blame her for trying, but Hathaway was trying way, way to hard to inject energy into the ceremony where it didn't need it and it came off as unnatural.
On several occasions, Hathaway referred to her hosting alongside with Franco as an effort by the Academy to make the show "young" and "hip," but she was undone at nearly every turn. Bringing back 8-time host Billy Crystal to introduce a package showcasing the first Oscar telecast in 1953? Nothing screams "young" and "hip" like projecting footage of Bob Hope behind a podium for 10 minutes.
As far as the awards themselves, there weren't too many surprises for me. I scored 18 out of 24 on my Oscar scorecard, which I think is the best I've done in a few years. I missed the boat on Cinematography, Best Foreign Language Film, Documentary Short, Documentary Feature, Visual Effects and Supporting Actress.
I'm kicking myself for thinking Alice in Wonderland would win Best Visual Effects and not Inception. That rotating hallway fight sequence was legendary. I guess I assumed since every last frame of Alice had be manipulated in the computer in some way that it would be film the Academy would recognize.
I also should have known better regarding Supporting Actress. I picked Helena Bonham Carter for her work in The King's Speech even though I knew Melissa Leo had the inside track for The Fighter.
Typically, Best Supporting Actress seems to go to a Brit while the Academy saves Best Actress for an American. I mean, is there really any other reason Sandra Bullock has an Oscar? I was also certain that Leo's unprecedented individualized campaign would torpedo her chances. Actors NEVER campaign for themselves by taking out ads in the trades. They let the studios do that on her behalf.
Proactively battling against what Leo identified as ageism in the industry, she submitted two ads to industry publications asking them to "CONSIDER... Melissa Leo." It was an odd (if somewhat narcissistic move) that immediately turned me off to Leo as a contender.
I think that knee jerk reaction was somewhat justified when Leo went on stage to collect her Oscar from presenter Kirk Douglas. I found her feigned shock completely contrived and was amazed she was being awarded for acting, considering how badly she was hamming it up on stage. Even dropping the f-bomb felt like a calculated move to me. Cynically, I can imagine Leo thinking of ways to draw attention to herself that would guarantee prominence in post-Oscar analysis. She came off like a classless outsider trying way to hard to act genuine.
If these observations sound like sour grapes, I apologize. I caught myself at the end of the night being excessively negative about the evening on Twitter. But it looks like those criticisms have become justified in the morning light. Several reviewers are calling this year's telecast one of the worst in recent memory. In the words of Roger Ebert, "This was the worst Oscarcast I've ever endured. It's time for the Board of Governors to have a long, sad talk with itself."
What were your take-aways from this year's ceremony? Am I being unfairly harsh? Leave your comments below!
Why did the academy thing they'd be good hosts?
They probably thought Hathaway would go topless and Franco would score the good weed!