Let’s get the housekeeping out of the way: my prediction record was 16/24 (I am taking full credit for the Best Sound Editing tie – easily the biggest surprise and delight of the evening – because who the hell predicts ties?), which is not a number I feel terribly good or bad about (it’s my best record in three years, but at least one shy of a truly decent performance). It is tempered by the way that 7 of the 8 I got wrong broke in favor of something that made me happier than my prediction would have (the odd man out was Waltz over Jones in Supporting Actor, though Original Screenplay is a matter of my second-least favorite beating my least favorite of the nominees).
But really, it’s hard to feel especially electrified over anything that won or didn’t win, exactly the right button for a movie year that at no point convinced me that it was particularly special in any way shape or form; after Holy Motors bizarrely failed to net its expected cluster of nominations, I was left without much of a rooting interest in any of the categories.
That being said, I am very pleased that my six-year span of my least-favorite animated short winning that award has been snapped; it almost makes up for The Eagleman Stag not getting nominated. Kidding! Nothing makes up for that shit.
But who cares about the winners, anyway? Let’s instead talk about that fucking awful telecast! Which was, to be fair, nowhere near as bad as possible – as long as Francogate ’11 is alive in the memory of those living, we don’t need to argue about the worst-ever Oscar ceremony. But there was hardly a single moment in all the grueling 215 minutes of last night’s show that was good on any level, and this is, to be fair, not entirely Seth MacFarlane’s fault. Indeed, he was better than I would have ever expected him to be, by virtue of never acutely pissing me off. That being said, he didn’t do or say much that was funny, stepping all over his very few good lines with clumsy delivery, and spearheading a mystifyingly terrible opening sequence, as spectacularly ill-judged in its own way as the Snow White/Rob Lowe dance back in the day.
Seriously, who the fuck okayed that deathly, protracted Captain Kirk bit? Who came up with the idea? It was aggressively, spitefully dumb, and the litany of leaden, unimaginatively choreographed musical numbers it kicked off was excessive even by my standards of generally enjoying dance numbers. The “we saw your naked breasts” song at least had the courage of its own crassness, and knew exactly what it was; that was more than enough to stand out in a morass of painfully non-funny moments that spun off into infinity. And why, anyway, did there need to be a tribute to the musical form? It would be one thing if Les Misérables was the clear frontrunner, or even a film that a decent-sized majority of people didn’t actively despise.
The worst part? That’s not even, hands-down, the worst part of it (though it was assuredly the dumbest). The writing was, across-the-board, wretched, with the indefatigable Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy being well and truly fatigued by a nonsensical bit whose driving thesis I never even quite understood – something about bad animation voiceover work? – while the forced banter of the Avengers team-up felt like watching a puppy bleed to death. The ballyhooed James Bond montage was a slack, boring chunk of wasted time, though it at least set up the only moment of the entire evening I genuinely enjoyed, Shirley Bassey, all 76 years of her, singing “Goldfinger” with as much burn-down-the-house intensity as you could ever hope for, and looking perfectly exquisite doing it.
What stood out most, I think, was the cheesiness of it all: the Oscars are inherently kitschy, but this edition was so very chintzy and amateur about it: the newly renamed Dolby Theater felt as cramped as a high school gymnasium, with production values to match – what a simultaneously gaudy and under-developed set! – and just for that extra dose of tackiness, playing the winners off with the Jaws theme (which, admittedly, set up the single best reaction shot of the whole night: Nicole Kidman looking pissed at this gesture).
With MacFarlane’s plastered-on smile and helpless jokes, the faked and deeply unpersuasive jolliness of the scripts for all the presenters, and the Card & Party Outlet feel to the design of it, what it felt like most of all to me was what the Oscars would be like every single year if they were held in Soviet Russia. I am too old an Oscar watcher to ever expect a ceremony where I like more than I dislike, but God, surely we can do better than having it be this embarrassing to watch?
But let us lighten the mood: I was part of an informal circle of online film thinkers and Oscarphiles invited by Nick of Nick’s Flick Picks to play the game of picking one’s favorite winner in each year of the Oscars’ existence, in whatever category that might have been (spoiler alert: turns out I like cartoons). The results are being rolled out here, and I am willing to guarantee that they will be the most positive-thinking and uplifting Oscar-related commentary you will come across this day.