By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Instead of a bang, the Oscars show began with a boring home movie: Errol Morris’ interviews of the nominees who were way too inside the Industry. The TV viewing audience had no idea who most of these people onscreen were. (And the opening wasn’t even original: Morris did the same thing for the Oscar telecast a few years ago. What was this: the sequel?) Thus began what was supposed to be a global show reaching out to 1 billion people. And to think the producers scrapped an opening segment featuring Ellen dancing with the Happy Feet penguins. For this fact alone, producer Laura Ziskin, who also ruined the 74th Oscars, should be permanently banned.
I thought Ellenwould make a great host. I was wrong. I kept waiting and waiting for DeGeneres to crack a few jokes, or at least a joke. Instead, she stood on center stage and did her “I’m cute and lovable” impression of a dear but retarded puppy. Trouble is, she was piddling in millions of living rooms. By trying not to be controversial, Ellen delivered a truly forgettable performance. And that’s far worse than being awful.
At least Ellen won’t have to worry about hosting again. Clearly, Jerry Seinfeld was auditioning for the gig — not just to see if the show liked him, but to see if he liked the show. I predict Jerry will be the 80th Oscars host. What would be great about Seinfeld emceeing is that because of the gazillions he’s made in TV, he’s the essence of autonomy: He’d ignore the show producers trying to control him and everyone else. (They always try to terrorize the hosts, to the detriment of creativity and comedy.) The line to draft him forms here.
What does it say about the telecast that Al Gore and the two kids (Will Smith’s son and Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin) had the best lines? But it was hard not to picture the rugrats in campus sweatshirts years from now: “Class of 2015, Drug Rehab University.” Just think, there’s a whole generation out there that can’t remember a good Oscarcast. Remember the streaker in 1974 and presenter David Niven’s witty reaction about the man “showing his shortcomings”? Or the actress posing as American Indian Sacheen Littlefeather and accepting the Best Actor award for Marlon Brando in The Godfather? And who could forget Jack Palance and his pushups? Sunday night, Palance was but a blip in the downer obits.
As for the winners, I saw no great mystery as to why The Departed snagged Best Picture and Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing. It was a terrific film. It made a lot of money. It had classy actors and a crackling script. Marty Scorsese was the sentimental favorite going in. A comedy like Little Miss Sunshine never gets the gold. More Academy members hated Babel than loved it. The Queen was too subtle. Letters From Iwo Jima was too Japanese. Despite what the Oscars pundits tell you, this isn’t rocket science: All a Best Picture needs is for about 1,300-plus voters to feel passionately enough about it to mark their ballot accordingly. This year, the Academy members weren’t interested in message, political or otherwise. More of them simply liked the gangster tale.
Ellen could have joked about the newly svelte Tom Cruise no longer looking as chunky as when he married Katie. (Here, I’ll suggest one: Slim-Fast? Jenny Craig? The I’ve-been-thrown-out-of-Paramount diet? The PR-people-claim-I’m-the-head-of-United-Artists regimen?) Or about John Travolta (I thought he’d perished in a tragic boating accident, but it turns out he was harpooned in his bathtub) and his blurting out, “I love a full-figured woman who can stand in front of a camera and sing her heart out. But that’s enough about me.” Through a reference to his turn as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, everyone thought Travolta had finally outed himself. But did anybody remark on it? No, because everyone was terrified — the presenters, the actors, the writers and, obviously, Ellen — of doing anything to make the Academy angry. Which is why I say, Free the Oscars . . . FREE THE OSCARS! (. . . Attica . . . Attica). And, next time around, free some Benjamin Franklins too.
Email at email@example.com