The Worst Oscar Telecast I’ve Seen

Sigh. Some of our four loyal readers may be all Oscar‘d-out, but after that atrocity exhibition of a telecast last night, I just can’t sit idly by while it goes largely accepted.  As I’ve chronicled, I love (the idea of) the Oscars, which is why it irritates me so much that we can’t get the damn show we deserve.  I’m seeing a host of surprisingly positive (or at least neutral) spins on last night’s calamity, so, as the lead antagonist here on EarnThis, I feel more qualified than my nicer brethren to throw gasoline onto the dumpster fire that we sat through last night.

The entire show overdosed on Leo’s Quaaludes. If you started at the outset, you could have finished the last Lord of the Rings movie before we hit Best Picture. You could have breezed through Gravity twice and still had time for an episode of your favorite sitcom. At 10 o’clock, an astonishing 60% of the awards hadn’t been handed out.  From 10:45 to 11:15, not a single award was given.  And there’s one primary reason why the ceremony was so long, Leo finally got his Oscar by the end of it:

The show demands 24 awards—or is that actually the number of songs we had to sit through?  I would pay lots of money for somebody to explain the telegenic appeal of us sitting through a cappella renditions of songs that have utterly nothing to do with 2013’s movies. In addition to the predictably soporific productions of everything nominated for ‘Best Original Song,’ we also had to hear a rendition of “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” and somebody else sing something to honor one of the goddamn documentaries.  How are more reviewers not lambasting this stuff?

The hosting contributed to the bloated and strikingly-uninteresting night. I know she’s America’s favorite adorable talk show host, but let’s not patronize Ellen DeGeneres by overlooking her flaws.  For someone so bland (oh, look, jokes about the weather!), her riffs were surprisingly mean-spirited (she made fun of old people, and the comment that she couldn’t pronounce some names sounded vaguely racist), and that’s an ugly combination.  Not only was Seth MacFarlane funnier (people rag on him, but his opening monologue drew considerably more genuine laughs), but he also doesn’t hide behind a ‘nice’ façade.

In case you wisely had better plans and didn’t see it, Ellen actually brought out a flesh-and-blood, ambulatory pizza delivery guy, started handing out slices to the crowd, then joked about asking people for money to pay him.  This really happened.  Seriously, these shows are written months in advance (presumably), to honor movies (presumably). and we’re in a time crunch (presumably), and this is the best shtick we can come up with?  You don’t even have to joke about this; it’s pret-a-porter.

Of course, Ellen had plenty of company in bungling this affair.  One of the night’s key moments-the ‘In Memoriam’ montage of the cinematic contributors who died in the past year-flopped.  For some reason, we got nothing more than one picture of each person and the name of one feature he/she was associated with.  No famous clips, no sound, nothing.  And, for reasons passing understanding, we had to rush through it in order to have time for Bette Midler to sing “The Wind Beneath My Wings” afterwards.  (The show also apparently muted the audience’s applause, because Heaven forbid we get to hear the crowd show their appreciation for James Gandolfini, Paul Walker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, etc.)

Speaking of the crowd, anyone hoping for a memorable acceptance speech or ‘Oscar moment’ was shut out worse than #PoorLeo.  I noted earlier that speeches seem to be getting worse and worse as people seem to think it’s cool to not prepare, and although we lacked any total deer-in-headlights train wrecks, little was articulate or fun.  Supporting Actor winner Jared Leto was inexplicably not cut off as he rambled for hours without once entertaining us.  Likewise, lead actor winners Matthew McConaughey and Cate Blanchett aren’t going to make anyone forget Cuba Gooding, Jr.Tom Hanks, or Damon & Affleck anytime soon.

Final brief rants:

  • A thought I had to myself halfway through the show: ‘Wait a second, we’re wasting time honoring the effing Wizard of Oz?  In 2014?  This is why we don’t have time to give Philip Seymour Hoffman more than two seconds?’
  • Oscar drinking game guaranteed to make you black out: take a shot for every inexplicable and/or confusing production decision. Want to know why the show made The Wolf of Wall Street seem lean?  Because we had a desultory retrospective for some honorary Oscar winners (such as Steve Martin), and because Jimmy Kimmel popped in for a moment; or at least I think those two things happened, but I may have been distracted by seeking out the best inanimate object in my room to hurl at the screen.
  • A striking number of presenters seemed to have trouble reading their lines on the teleprompter. I’ll accept this only if it’s because they were all drunk.
  • Seriously, at 11:15, 8 (!) awards still hadn’t been handed out, including the four major ones.  But we couldn’t miss that song representing one of the documentaries.

I’ll close with this suggestion: people seem to have mixed feelings on the movie montages.  I like them, but I can understand the concern about wasting time with more old clips we’ve seen before.  So why don’t the Oscars create a substantial retrospective reflecting just the year in question?  Not just with Oscar-nominated movies, but all prominent ones.  Honor the popcorn movies that everybody saw, the ones from the spring that have been forgotten, the roles and films that were snubbed, the notable scenes and lines–put together a mosaic that we could look back on years later and say, “That was 2013 in movies.”  

I shudder to think how anyone would view 2013’s cinematic contributions on the basis of last night. 

Dan and Brian from Earn This now have a film review site and podcast:

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2 thoughts on “The Worst Oscar Telecast I’ve Seen

  1. Grant, I don’t believe we’ve met personally, so I feel a little strange commenting on your posts. But I found myself agreeing with a lot more of this post than your last Oscar-based article. Limiting montages to films released in 2013 and devoting more time and focus to the “in memoriam” segment are great ideas which would both help to make the broadcast more timely. As for the bloated running time, I do wish they’d keep to the schedule more closely (i.e. strive to finish by 11:30), primarily because if you set your DVR, you never get the whole thing (like you said, most of the “important” awards happened post-11:15.)

    As for the points made in your last post, I disagree that cutting categories like Shorts and Song would benefit the ceremony. I suppose the song performances aren’t essential, but prior to the introduction of the Best Animated Feature category (another you suggested cutting), Best Original Song was one of the few categories studios like Disney which focus on “children’s” or “family” film had a chance of winning in.

    I feel Shorts are even more important. If you’ve ever been involved with independent film, you’d know that it’s difficult to get exposure for short films (and difficult to rustle up a budget for a feature). Including Shorts at the Oscars provides the best exposure many of those indie or foreign filmmakers have likely ever had. It gives them a chance to hobnob and network with the studio system “big leagues,” an invaluable opportunity for those starting out in the industry.

    But to end on a positive, I do agree with you that it would be nice to hear more about some of the films (more about the story and actors’ roles), which could perhaps be accommodated by nixing the musical performances.

    • To be clear (which I probably wasn’t above), I’m fine with keeping the song category. I just don’t understand why something that’s like the 16th biggest category gets the most ‘screen time’ of them all, once you factor in all the performances. (Which doesn’t even address a couple of the tangential song performances yesterday.)

      Re the animated/song/family thing… I understand where you’re coming from, but tbh I wouldn’t really care if there was no clear place for children’s/family movies. I see nothing wrong with creating an ‘for adults,’ so to speak, and leaving it at that. (Unless of course something like TS3 was up for Best Picture.)

      Same thing with the shorts…I really think that something, anything, needs to be cut, and those seem so different from features anyway that we’re almost honoring a totally different thing.

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