Seth MacFarlane Not Enough To Save The Oscars
Last night the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) held the 85th Academy Awards ceremony, or “the quest to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh.” Once again television audiences around the nation, excited by the glitz and glamour of the most prestigious cinematic awards ceremony, would be disappointed by the inevitable snoozefest. Host Seth MacFarlane explained it best in the song at the end of his opening monologue, “Be our guest. Be our Guest. As we honor all the best. With a telecast designed to put your patience to the tests.” And tested we were, as we waited three and a half hours to watch the results of the Best Picture award (five hours including the red carpet coverage).
Coverage of The Oscars began at the red carpet, where the stars of the night made their way into the Dolby Theatre. It was also the place I should have avoided. Instead, I sat through the impromptu fashion show and watched the insufferable Kristin Chenoweth along with a host of other interviewers botch interviews all night (except for the energetic Kelly Rowland). It was exhausting to listen to the endless number of awkward and stupid questions. Seriously, could they stop asking couples if “this is the ultimate date night?” And aren’t interviewers not supposed to ask “Yes or No” questions? Luckily for them, the actors and actresses graciously answered their questions with some depth.
Over a mind-numbing hour later, the actual ceremony began. After last year’s safe, but incredibly boring Billy Crystal hosting, the Academy wanted something edgier. They wanted a production that appealed to the younger generation and reverse the aging trend of the Oscar television audience. So this year, Seth MacFarlane was chosen to host. Known for his edgy and occasionally smart, but mostly offensive jokes from Family Guy, MacFarlane didn’t disappoint. His controversial style gave a jolt of excitement to an otherwise boring production. MacFarlane began his opening monologue on a roll. He squeezed a laugh out of Tommy Lee Jones in his opening line and received a resounding applause for his dig at the Academy for snubbing Ben Affleck out of a best director nomination by saying, "The story [Argo} was so top secret that the film's director is unknown to the academy." Although he said nothing about Kathryn Biglelow’s snub. He continued knocking the Oscars down a peg with his joke on the Best Actor Award, "Last year, Jean Dujardin won Best Actor for The Artist," MacFarlane noted. "This year, he's … everywhere.”
Not everything was smooth, though. In typical MacFarlane fashion, he crossed the line between appropriate and inappropriate numerous times, such as when he compared Django Unchained’s use of the “N-word” to an audio transcript of Mel Gibson’s voicemail. And the audience cringed when he delivered the “We saw your Boobs” song, including a priceless cutaway to Naomi Watts as her expression changed from confusion to utter disgust.
But it was MacFarlane’s unpredictability and lack of political correctness that made the show at least somewhat interesting. I had a chance to see delightful song and dance numbers including one with Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron. I also nodded in agreement at MacFarlane's brutally honest “You know they’re going to give it [Supporting Actress Award] to Anne Hathaway” joke to Sally Field. Our inclinations to fall asleep were briefly turned away by MacFarlane’s quips and one-liners that teetered on verge of controversy, such as his discussion on actors who have played the role of Abraham Lincoln. "I always thought the actor who got most inside Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth."
Unfortunately, the many musical performances scattered throughout the show failed to keep my attention. The only one worth mentioning was the musical montage of Chicago, Dreamgirls, and Les Misérables. The performers’ energy and the excitement inherent in their songs gave me something to cheer for. Moreover, it was remarkable to see the entire cast of Les Misérables, including the much maligned Russell Crowe, belting their song medley on stage.
More often than not, there was just nothing to watch for the three hours before the final awards. Staged skits by presenters fell flat. The cast of The Avengers looked as if they had never rehearsed together. Even veterans Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson could not save their presentation. Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy looked awkward and timid on stage to the point where they lacked any resemblance to comedians on screen. The 50 year anniversary tribute to the James Bond movies was so underwhelming that my friend asked, “Was that the whole Bond tribute?” I would trade that video montage for a sock puppet spoof of Flight any day of the week.
When Seth MacFarlane remarked after seeing the headline, “Seth MacFarlane proves to be a mediocre host, “That’s actually the best review I’ve ever gotten,” he also managed to assess the Oscar show itself. Swapping out Billy Crystal for Seth MacFarlane as host only changed a bad show to a mediocre one. And that’s the best review the Oscars will ever get.