Billy Crystal tweeted yesterday that War Horse broke his leg and had to be put down. If only someone had done that to Mr. Crystal, who made his dullest appearance as an Oscar host. Instead of refreshing his routines from days gone by, Mr. Crystal brought the same old act he’s done for years.
Inserting himself into clips from the Oscar nominated films seemed completely self-indulgent this year. Given how much of it was about bringing Billy back, I thought we were watching the Billys and not the Oscars. Inspiration was lacking in his work and that permeated the entire show. Mind you, he’s a major step up from last year’s debacle with James Franco and Anne Hathaway, but it was a step backwards when going forward should have been the goal.
The Academy Awards counts on celebrities to make its case. Look at the incessant red carpet coverage that fills the airwaves for hours before the awards. So why is it that Octavia Spencer was played off so quickly? She was clearly having an honest and emotional response to winning her Oscar, yet the band played Massive Attack. The timing was inconsiderate, the music choice inane.
Not that there weren’t other places to trim fat. The decision to replace any musical number with a commercial for Cirque du Soleil appeared, at first, to be a wise decision. I liked how the twin aerialists gave homage to Cary Grant in North by Northwest. The rest of the routine had no connection whatsoever to the movies. Why? At least the troupe got its name projected onto the screen to remind us that they are the regular occupants of the theatre seeking a new name.
Clearly the other emphasis this year was on comedy. Chris Rock had the best jokes of the night with his barbed comments about animated films. Emma Stone, Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow all bombed in their routines. And a note about “The Dictator” spilling ashes on Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet: This obvious publicity stunt to promote Sacha Baron Cohen’s new film resulted in a remarkably classless bit. Its biggest offense was not being funny.
The interview segments about movies and the movie going experience was interesting the first and second times. But by its third appearance, the bit became a stale exercise in redundancy. (And is Overboard really Reese Witherspoon’s favorite movie?)
As stated by producer Brian Grazer, this year’s Academy Awards was to be a celebration of the collective experience of going to the movies. That is, of course, as long as the movies are no older than Midnight Cowboy. In the montage of classic movie moments, the classic “I’m walkin’ here” scene from John Schlesinger’s film was the oldest clip.
No offense to the recently deceased, but when I think of “motion picture greats,” I don’t think of Whitney Houston. Her three films she stared in hardly put her in the same category as a James Dean.
Every year the Academy Awards try to find new ways of being relevant, hip, cool, and edgy in an effort to increase ratings. This year they did not accomplished that goal. The Oscars are a lot like some of the stars on the Walk of Fame: crumbling, faded, and in serious need of restoration.