85th Oscars with Seth Mac Farlane Falters
At the Theatre with Audrey Linden
The 85th Oscars, hosted by Seth Mac Farlane was a first for many and a last for others. It was the first time the 39 year old Mac Farlane hosted and by all accounts on Twitter from him, it will be his last time. It was a first for 9 year old Quvenzhane Wallis, who was nominated for Best Actress for her role in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” and was the youngest actress ever nominated. It was a first nomination for Emmanuelle Riva, nominated for Best Actress for “Amour,” who at 86, was the oldest nominated actress. It was stage manager, Dency Nelson’s last Oscar show as he is retiring after being a veteran of twenty-five years of Academy Awards broadcasts. It was Ben Affleck’s first “Best Picture” nomination, and it has been fifteen years since he won for his Best Screenplay, “Goodwill Hunting” which he co-wrote with Matt Damon. First Lady, Michelle Obama presented the Best Picture award via telecast from the White House which definitely was a first in the history of the Oscars. It was a first from producers Craig Zaiden and Neil Meron to have an end production number with Kristin Chenoweth and Mac Farlane singing about the “losers.” Frankly, none of those twenty-four nominees could really be considered losers. And, some of those remarks were not funny. “Losing works of art from “Lincoln” to “Amour”. They were not “losing works of art” by box office receipts or by artistic standards. “Here’s to the losers, bless them all.” The film makers are “laughing all the way to the bank”.
Last year, some complained Billy Crystal’s jokes were too old, so the producers, concerned about demographics and how to pull in younger people went with a fresh face in Seth Mac Farlane and hoped he would breathe life into the Academy Awards show and reach that younger demographic. He did bring in 2% more viewers to 40.3 million and an increase of 11% of that was in the 18-49 year olds. Or maybe, he did not. Many of the nine nominated films, which were very popular with the public, might have been responsible for the increase in viewers. These films were definitely adult films; challenging, artistic, and interesting films at that. They may have been the big draw.
Mac Farlane, who brought viewers the controversial film, “Ted” and the cartoon series “Family Guy”, and “American Dad.” is not a “stand up” kinda guy. He is a talented cartoonist, singer and performer. Some of his jokes had shock value and some material, especially his “boob” song, “We Saw Your Boobs” alienated his female audience. The Anti-Defamation League made a case for anti-Semitic comments made by the computer generated Ted character “that Hollywood is run by Jews.”
Despite several musical numbers, the show was surprisingly conventional and lack luster. The production numbers did not flow. And the sequence of Best Films also lacked a flow and neither the songs nor the clips worked seamlessly and were not well-integrated into the show. Why was the entire lead cast of “Avengers” on to present? Their material was not funny. Twenty-four awards and a memorial, plus clips of the best films, all nine of them and songs which included full production numbers from “Chicago” and “Les Miserables” made for a 3 ½ hour show. Too long.
Some of the musical interludes, especially those which cut people off in their acceptance speeches also did not flow and in fact, made no sense and were disjointed. Bill Westenhofer, who won his Oscar for Visual Effects for his work on Ang Lee’s celebrated ‘Life of Pi” was cutoff mid-speech by the music of “Jaws”. That was rude and he was not happy. He led the team at “Rhythm and Hues” and unfortunately, the company had declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He was ending his speech with a line about that when he was unceremoniously cut off.
The opening prelude was funny with a call-back to “Star Trek” and William Shatner’s rating of Mac Farlane as “the worst Oscar host ever” and reasons why and what to do to “keep it classy”. The “Flying Nun” bit was funny with Sally Field being a good sport.
It’s hard to imagine a show with the likes of Barbra Streisand singing “The Way We Were “in remembrance of Marvin Hamlisch and Shirley Bassey singing “Goldfinger” in honor of fifty years of James Bond in films and Adele’s “Skyfall” being lackluster, but those powerful and luminescent performers could not offset the somewhat scrambled direction and some unfunny material written for the presenters. Bassey in her beautiful golden long sheath with long fingerless golden gloves is still stunning and has got it at 76! She got a standing ovation. Their performances were gems in an otherwise dull setting.
The highlight of the evening was Ang Lee winning Best Director for “Life of Pi”. It was a surprise as many bets were on Steven Spielberg ( “Lincoln”) or David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook “) getting the coveted Best Director award. Ang Lee’s win had the audience on its feet as he got a well-deserved standing ovation. It was a beautiful moment as Lee thanked the many involved in bringing “ Life of Pi” to fruition. And, as I had sat through the entire list of credits for “Life of Pi” , there were indeed so very many who worked in a massive collaborative effort in bringing this visual and spiritual delight to audiences. It was touching how Lee mentioned his wife and their upcoming anniversary.
Now, for the list of winners. Ben Affleck, who was shut out for a Best Director nomination won Best Picture with “Argo”. That was no surprise. He had won both the Golden Globe and the SAG Award. This is his second Oscar. “Argo” also won Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing for three wins. Best Actor went to Daniel Day Lewis and it was his fifth nomination and third win. Best Actress presented by last year’s Best Actor, Jean Dujardin,(The Artist) went to twenty-two year old Jennifer Lawrence. She was beautiful in her pink-white wedding cake gown which she had tripped on as she went onstage to receive her Oscar for the female lead role in “Silver Linings Playbook”. She had been nominated for her role in ‘Winter’s Bone” before. Supporting Actor was a surprise. Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”) and Robert Di Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook”) were favored. But, the Oscar went to Christoph Waltz for “Django Unchained”. This was his second win and a second for being in a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino. Christoph Waltz had won for “Inglorious Bastards”. Best Supporting Actress went to front-runner, Anne Hathaway “Le Miserables”. That win was predictable, but deserved. She had been nominated for “Rachel Getting Married” so it was her second nomination. Her acceptance speech that Fanitne’s plight need not be anymore was moving. Hathaway had seen her mother do the role of Fantine and what synchronicity it was for her to get the role and to win her statuette.
“Amour” with its dark theme and unvarnished look at a senior couple, in love, who had to deal with the debilitating effects of a stroke won for Best Foreign Film. Austrian writer-director, Michael Haneke graciously accepted his award. Quentin Tarantino’s acceptance for Best Original Screenplay was not quite as humble or gracious, but it was pure Tarantino. He said in effect, years from now, it will be the incredible characters he created that people will remember in ‘Django Unchained.” ‘Life of Pi” which got Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects, and Best Director for a total of four wins.
Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” received two wins for Best Actor (Daniel Day Lewis) and Best Production Design. Best Sound Editing was a tie with “Skyfall” and “Zero Dark Thirty” both winning. This was the second tie in the history of the Academy Awards, “Skyfall” also won for Best Original Song (Adele and Paul Epworth). Les Miserables won a total of three awards with Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress, Best Hair and Make Up, and Best Sound Mixing. Best Costume Design went to “Anna Karenina”.
“Brave” won Best Animated Feature. Best Documentary went to “Searching for Sugarman.” “Innocente” got Best Documentary Short. Best Short Animated went to “Paperman.” Best Short Film went to “Curfew.”
It is an honor and a privilege to be nominated and all nominees are really “winners” even if they did not take home the coveted Oscar. Some are at the beginning of their careers and some towards the end. But, what all have in common is a wealth of talent. All-in-all the 85th Academy Awards show was quite traditional but with a peppering of some funny and controversial remarks. Some worked. Many did not. The producers accomplished their goal which was to further reach a set demographic and know they cannot and will not ever please everyone. Next year’s 86th Academy Awards show also will not please everyone. And, the powers that be are, even as I write, probably figuring out who the next host will be. It’s all still magical and very Hollywood.
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,”etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL and IMPROV WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills, Community Services. To register, call 310-285-6850. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. The next class starts April 8th (Improv) and April 11th (On Camera). For more information, contact Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the City for information how to reg. on line.
The classes are 8 weeks @ $118 from 6:45-9:15 PM ($5 materials fee payable to instructor first night).