Oscar ceremony “dead in the water”

Now that it’s been 24 hours since the Oscars, the general consensus has pretty much been spelled out, and perhaps best summarized by venerated veteran movie critic Roger Ebert, who tweeted the following: “The worst Oscarcast I’ve seen, and I go back awhile. Some great winners, a nice distribution of awards, but the show? Dead. In. The. Water.”

The Academy was clearly hoping that wouldn’t be the case this year, when they signed on James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts. Clearly, the intention here was to make the show “young and hip,” as both hosts jokingly stated at least twice over the course of the broadcast. (Hathaway is actually the youngest-ever Oscar host.) But when the best presenter of the night was, hands down, Kirk Douglas – someone who didn’t HAVE to imagine what it was like to be in the audience when Bob Hope hosted the Oscars – it’s clear that the mark of youthful vigor has been missed like the broad side of a barn.

Another problem with the show? It was boring – not a single surprise or come from behind win, and there were no annoying upsets either, a la Crash winning Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain. Colin Firth? Natalie Portman? The King’s Speech? Christian Bale? Aaron Sorkin? Toy Story 3? C’mon. And certainly, the only person in the Kodak Theater who was surprised when Melissa Leo won last night was the actress herself.  Leo, who rose to her feet clutching her neighbor for support, with a Taylor-Swift-esque look of shock on her face, delivered perhaps the most annoying speech of the evening – never mind the fact that she dropped the F-bomb. Her over-the-top surprise at her win came off as a calculated bid for attention: she had been the front-runner in the category for weeks. Unfortunately, it paid off and everyone kept referencing the censored expletive for the rest of the night.

The award for best speech of the night undoubtedly went to David Seidler, who won for his King’s Speech script. Seidler, a former stutterer himself, delivered an eloquent, funny, and concise speech which charmed the audience. Close second went to Luke Matheny, the shaggy haired director who got onstage and lamented that he should have gotten a hair cut, and then thanked his mother for providing craft services for the film.

In fact, the real winners of the ceremony, other than the folks who went home with the trophies, were mothers. Both Franco and Hathaway shouted out their mothers, sitting in the audience, and Tom Hooper thanked his mother in his acceptance speech for Best Director – she was the one who found the script for The King’s Speech for him.

But despite the occasional bright spot – Billy Crystal and a holographic Bob Hope both managed to be more entertaining over the course of their collective minutes on stage than either Hathaway or Franco did over the course of the entire broadcast – the show was, in fact, a disaster. Let’s hope the Academy can do better next season.

- Julia Butler, Film Editor

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