I’m a true fan of the Oscars. Honest I am. But this year, persevering through all four hours was more stressful than watching–heck than living through–The Three Faces of Eve.
Pick a personality and stick with it. I beg you.
Host Ellen DeGeneres was at ease, charming, perfect. Until she was too much and then I was over her. In the early going, DeGeneres and Pharrell Williams both broke through the fourth wall, chatting, teasing, and dancing with the glitterati in the first few rows. Intimate camera work enhanced the effect. Was I sitting on the aisle with the nominees or were they chillaxing in front of my TV with me?
This was an amazing year for movies and actors–both male and female. Onstage, the winners seemed to know and acknowledge it, with generous tributes to the others in their category. (I’ll give Cate Blanchett a pass for her strange digs at Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts. Maybe she was nervous. Or maybe I’ve just never gotten Australian humor. Bullock didn’t seem to know what to think either.) If you haven’t already seen them, watch the acceptance speeches by Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong’o. Both actors were gracious, grounded, and poised. Even Matthew McConaughey surprised, with a toned-down tribute to his God, his family, and his future self. Okay, that last was a tad egocentric but any man who makes his reputation with his pecs and penchant for stripping down and then who is willing to give up the protein shakes and creatine to lose 50 pounds to play an AIDS ravaged cowboy, well, has to have a lot of self-regard.
The presenters, on the other hand, struggled with speeches that seem to have been chiseled in granite by lawyers. Even in the mouths of dozens of extremely talented people, the words were long and sophisticated but generally incomprehensible. Blah. Blah. Invigorating? Blah. It was such a relief when Jim Carrey, Bill Murray, and especially Jamie Foxx defied whatever court order had been issued to stick to the script. Foxx, presenting Best Soundtrack, provided a huge breath of much needed fresh air, as he hummed the theme from Chariots of Fire and mimed a runner reaching the finish line.
Speaking of big blasts of air, this was the 75th Anniversary of the wildest tornado movie of all time, The Wizard of Oz. I’m not privy to whatever behind-the-scenes maneuvering resulted in Joey and Lorna Luft and Academy Award winner Liza Minelli being waved at briefly during the tribute as “the children of Judy Garland.” And that after DeGeneres in her opening gingerly teased everyone else but questioned aloud whether Minelli was really herself or a drag queen. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been so apt.
Clearly, though, something was up. This was the 75th anniversary of Gone with the Wind, too: 1939 was also a helluva year for movies. I would have loved to have sat in on the committee meeting that probably realized that to honor an epic movie depicting the demise of the Old South as a bad thing wouldn’t have sat well alongside 12 Years a Slave.
In any case, whoever decided to place singer Pink onstage in a grand red gown so that she seemed to be an organic part of the Wizard scenes swirling behind her deserves an Emmy. Pink, herself, was astounding, giving such heart and artistry to her performance of Over the Rainbow that even the rarely serious Steve Martin was moved to tweet “Over the Rainbow is not the exclusive property of Judy Garland anymore with great artists having sung it, including now Pink & Eva Cassidy.”
So there it was. A mixed bag. I’m glad I sat through it. Because in the end, 12 Years a Slave–justifiably–took Best Picture. Director Steve McQueen fumbled his way through his thanks and then turned his back to audience and leapt two feet in the air, his tuxedo jacket flying high and his exuberance unforgettable.
I’m also glad that I read the credits, which seem to explain a lot. Ellen had her own writing team and the Academy had theirs. Aha.
Maybe next year, everybody will get on the same page. I just hope the 2014 movies will make it worth it.