Remember when the main draw of the Academy Awards was wondering would receive the Oscar in each given category? Yeah, me neither. And this year’s jumble of misguided performances, irrelevant fashion focuses, a goofy/slightly offensive host, and blatant oversight of the night’s biggest awards; proved through and through that this program is about cheap ratings, along with stale anticipation, to keep viewers eyes loosely glued to the TV. From the initial ABC Red Carpet Pre-Show to host, Seth MacFarlane’s, tone-setting opening act which paid homage to nudity on screen; it was a chintzy effort to mash up what earned slight ratings in the past, with no movement towards the new direction producers want to take in enacting entertainment based around the movies/artworks being celebrated. In previous shows, producers were off to a great start with an expanded “Best Picture” category that acknowledged more films the general public saw, so additional viewers tuned into the program as they felt a sense of relevancy and connectedness to the films being nominated; however the Academy’s lack of confidence in knowing these movies would keep the public watching has contributed to the misdirection of the Awards. In light of this, the program is an excellent variety show, but to call it an entertaining Academy Awards show, is a farce.
Let’s start with the root of all evil, the ABC Red Carpet Pre-Show. Now, I love seeing what the celebrities are wearing, but I think the focus should be more on the actual nominees so we can accurately visualize the overall splendor of that actor’s/actress’ talent coupled with their physical being. When Kristin Chenoweth began spending more attention on what past icons were wearing – such as Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner, and Reese Witherspoon; I felt as if the direction of the show was going to be driven by star-power and not the beauty/ outward reflection of these accomplished performers of 2012. Although Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams did receive some notoriety, they were not getting half as much talk- time as the previously mentioned celebrities, maybe due to their lowered Hollywood status or subtle dresses. However, what should have been mentioned is that these actresses were keeping it low-key with soft pinks/grays to keep the attention on the rawness of their aspiring work instead of overshadowing it with their physical presence, which is definitely something Chenoweth should’ve commented on.
In the same vein as drawing attention to the wrong fashion focal points, the performances/appearances also missed their marks in relevancy. The whole theme of the Oscar broadcast was to celebrate “Music in Movies”, but each of the contributing performances, besides Adele’s, focused only on the music of movies past, or should I say one movie of the past…Chicago. From a performance with Catherine Zeta-Jones, to the main cast members announcing the Best Original Score and Best Original Song awards, this film was the main staple of a musical-gone-right and a musical theatrical triumph that has yet to be mastered in the 10 years since its premiere. Umm… hello?, I thought Les Miserables was the big budget, groundbreaking musical nominated this year; so shouldn’t there have been more performances related to this feature’s triumphs rather than one split-second chorus meant to celebrate musicals overall? Furthermore, even in the face Adele’s musical relevancy, there should have been more performances bringing to awareness the amazing music displayed in all this year’s nominees, not just reiterating a main-stream hit. With most of the evening’s musical numbers only pushing songs with key performer/proven all-star casts, how in the future, will any new singers/musicals stand a chance when a night dedicated to their compositions doesn’t even honor them fully?
In addition to these intermittent performances, the one constant that was enacted during the entire night by host, Seth MacFarlane, was a sheer display of uncreative silliness and disrespectfulness. From the adolescently humorous opening sequence entitled, ” We Saw Your Boobs”, to his cougar-poaching scene with Sally Field, the night just seemed like one geared towards the Family Guy audience. Furthermore, he went on to perform a racist scene from the movie, Flight, and poked fun at various celebrity misdemeanors throughout the night , which might have been funny to an audience with low expectations, but not one that demands a unique comedic approach tailored to the intentions of that evening. In contrast, he did perform one sketch intelligently (right as the credits were rolling), a singing tribute to the award show’s losers. In it, he, along with Kristin Chenoweth, had a laugh at the celebrities by analyzing their films/ the night’s events satirically, both adding relatability/memorability to the show. So, I will throw you a small bone, MacFarlane.
Lastly, what makes me the most upset about all these scenarios, is not the fact that they are completely irrelevant/irreverent to the original dynamic of the Academy Awards, but because they completely overshadow the real reason viewers tune in, which is in anticipation of who will win the coveted statuettes. The whole 3 1/2 hours of the show did not add any excitement to the Big Picture race, or who would win Best Actor/Best Actress, instead the program was holding these awards hostage so viewers would cope with, and possibly see the entertainment value in, the other elements they had to sit through to get to these categories. Furthermore, in not focusing on the big hopefuls of the night, by constantly teasing each nominee’s chances of winning or raising the anxiety for each race by predicting the various directions it could go, made the announcements fall flat as no climax was built for these “main events”. Even with the Big Picture nominees given a spotlight throughout the show, the envelope opening was lackluster as there was no emotion behind each promotional presentation; just over-played theatrical trailer we each have seen a million times . Because of this, my suggestion to the Academy is to not cut on entertainment, but to tailor it more towards the excitement, humor, and anticipation of the awards themselves; if this is accomplished, then the show will be more successful by investing viewers in the actual purpose of the event and not all the distractions.