This Year's Oscar Ceremony Works Despite Mismatched Hosts
Yet Sunday's telecast on ABC was about as painless as these things get, relatively speaking. James Franco and Anne Hathaway didn't necessarily make a brilliant splash as co-hosts -- Hathaway seemed determined to overcome Franco's sodden, wooden presence through sheer perkiness -- but they acquitted themselves respectably.
All in all, the telecast, which saw crowd-pleasing yet thoughtful fare like 'The King's Speech,' 'The Social Network' and 'Inception' winning big, had a classy, low-key vibe. The tributes to film history were gracefully done, there were a few entertaining speeches and it was fun to watch the parade of gowns (including Hathaway's glam costume changes).
This was not an Oscar telecast for the ages -- Melissa Leo's F-bomb during the middle of her delightfully excited speech is probably the only moment we'll all remember a week from now -- but as awardsfests go, this was a mild but entirely watchable celebration.
Sure, the broadcast suffered from a lack of tension, but that was an inevitability given that many of the big acting winners were widely predicted in advance. But that wasn't the fault of Hathaway or the producers, who did their best to keep things moving along with more momentum than many Oscar broadcasts have displayed in the past.
As expected, 'The King's Speech' and 'The Social Network' picked up a lot of hardware through the night, 'The Fighter's' cast came out swinging and Natalie Portman won for 'Black Swan.' If those wins were somewhat predictable, they're also hard to argue with. It's also hard to complain much about an awards show in which, if I'm counting correctly, mothers were thanked even more frequently than agents.
It was that kind of night, in which not much went wrong (unless you count Franco's off timing and his tendency to squint quizzically at the TelePrompters). A mainstream, crowd-pleasing, well-crafted film ('The King's Speech') won four awards (best director, best actor, best original screenplay and best picture), and the winners from that film gave witty, self-deprecating speeches, as did many others. David Seidler, the rather mature 'King's Speech' screenwriter, had one of the best lines of the evening: "My father always said to me I would be a late bloomer," he dryly remarked.
Leo, one of the stars of HBO's 'Treme,' who won for her role in 'The Fighter,' received her award from screen legend Kirk Douglas, who got a standing ovation when he came out to give the best supporting actress award. Despite his advanced years, Douglas charmingly worked the crowd, repeatedly pretending to have a story to tell before he actually read the name of the winning actress.
Once she heard her named called, the stunned Leo literally asked Douglas to pinch her, which he gamely did. Leo's speech might have rambled a bit, but her joy was infectious and she and Douglas were a sweet sight as they exited the stage -- she used his cane as he walked her to the wings, big smiles on both their faces.
For his part, Christian Bale promised not to drop any F-bombs when he took the stage -- "I've done that plenty before," he said, jokingly alluding to his famous on-set outburst a couple years ago.
The other acting winners, Portman and Colin Firth, were restrained and thorough in their classy speeches ("I feel my career has just peaked," Firth quipped), and Aaron Sorkin was also eloquent after his Best Adapted Screenplay award for 'The Social Network.' After doing the usual thank you's to his collaborators and the cast, he sent a message to his daughter: Now that he's won an Academy Award, he's "going to insist on some respect from your guinea pig."
The most painful parts of the Academy Awards broadcast each year often involve those hokey introductions that various presenters are forced to make, but this year, those bits were generally fine. In the case of Helen Mirren and Russell Brand, who introduced the Best Foreign Film nominees, their little skit was actually amusing (the gag was that Brand was mistranslating for Mirren, who spoke French).
[Fashion sidebar: I could not focus during the sound awards that Scarlett Johanssen and Matthew McConaughey handed out, mostly because Johanssen's hair was such a hot mess. I can't imagine the fashion blogs will have anything good to say about her look come Monday.]
Generally speaking, the segments paying tribute to the year's films and to cinema history were well done; in particular, the swell tribute to film scores past, in which the orchestra was swept on to the stage to the strains of John Williams' iconic 'Star Wars' score, was clever and memorable. Not to overuse the words low-key and classy, but I find I must: They also describe the annual "In Memoriam" section, which had Celine Dion serenading stars and filmmakers who passed on in 2010. Halle Berry came out at the end of that segment to pay heartfelt tribute to Lena Horne, the trailblazing star who died last year.
Other things that worked: The segment that had average people (and President Obama) talking about their favorite movie songs, Franco briefly taking the stage in a dress and Billy Crystal's tribute to past Oscar host Bob Hope.
Yet a couple of segments didn't work at all, especially a bizarre interlude that featured Auto-Tuned songs set to scenes from movies like 'Twilight' and 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow: Part 1.' Hey Oscar producers, we know you want to appeal to younger demographic, but don't try bizarre things that look like they were made by a deranged Youtube amateur.
As hosts, Hathaway and Franco didn't seem particularly well-matched: She seemed to be trying too hard, and at times, it was hard to tell whether he was trying at all. Franco's a fine actor but there was a strange stiffness to him on Oscar night, or maybe he just seemed that way next to Hathaway's energy, which was usually cheerful but which veered toward frantic now and then.
Still, one has to appreciate their gameness, which they demonstrated in the opening sequence, which digitally inserted them into the year's nominated films (check out this post for video of that sequence). Hathaway proved she's a good sport by doing an entertainingly silly "brown duck dance" in 'Black Swan,' and a later song-and-dance bit in which she castigated Hugh Jackman for not joining her on stage was amusing as well.
Speaking of that opening video, Crystal himself has similar Oscar intros before, but so what? Do we really want the Oscar telecast to be cutting-edge? Not in this living room, thank you. We just want the Academy Award telecast to show us genetically gifted people in pretty clothes celebrating the dream factory that is Hollywood. It's not as if all three-and-a-half hours were spellbinding on Sunday night, but overall, the ceremony did what it's supposed to do just fine.
Check Out Moviefone's Oscar Coverage:
- Oscar Winners, Highlights and Photos
- Photos: Oscars 2011 Best Dressed
- Photos: Oscars 2011 Worst Dressed
- See All Oscars Red Carpet Pics
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