|Seth McFarland, showing off his two Oscars:|
Best Animated Bear and Best Lincoln Joke.
Yes, I was the one who gassed for weeks on social media about how Seth McFarland was going to completely wreck the Oscars and embarrass the hell out of himself. You know, pull a Ricky Gervais. But the more I thought about it I realized there is an interesting artistic aspect to Mr. McFarland-- one that shows up quite a bit on "Family Guy," in fact-- that the Academy picked up on: He's Bob Hope. The original version of Bob Hope told cutting jokes in questionable taste, sang and danced, but had a smooth show-biz appeal that made it all work. Tasteless? Hey: we get the Bob Hope we deserve, and he fit the crass times we live in.
In the end we ended up with a competently hosted Oscar ceremony, and I at least was won over. And, as Vanity Fair pointed out Seth McFarland put a lot of sincere effort into the gig: Even if you didn't like him, he didn't just spark up a doobie and wander away like James Franco did.
A few observations:
• Surprise 1: splitting Director from Best Picture. The fact they tend to be the same film make me bet on Life of Pi as the top film. I'm completely glad it was Argo, a film that really delivered.
• Surprise 2: Jennifer Lawrence getting Best Actress over Jessica Chastain. It's rare for the Academy to pick charm and likability over intensity and occasional rage in a performance.
• Kristin Stewart is a mumbler. Quentin Tarantino has a horrible ego problem. Some things never change.
• Veteran Actor confusion: When Dustin Hoffman came out with Charleze Theron, I wasn't wearing my glasses and I thought for an absurd second that she came onstage with a ventriloquist dummy. And Jack Nicholson looked much better than he has in years, but the askew collar and baggy suit for some reason reminded me of Red Skelton.
• In Memoriam: The surprising thing was how FEW notable deaths occurred this year. They were able to throw out some moments for a few late hard-working Industry professionals: agents, salesmen, producers and sound guys. I think I saw a few Key Grips and a Best Boy in the montage as well.
• I spent a few minutes trying to explain the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing and really wondering why these 1930s-era awards aren't folded together once and for good.
• This is going to sound odd, but speaking of institutional changes it may be high time to add one or two new acting award categories. The show, the red carpet, the hype, the lion's share of the whole Oscar weltanschauung is intensely celebrity-driven-- but 20 of the 24 awards categories are technical/artistic. It may be cynical, but the plain fact is for the most part a Hollywood film without stars isn't a Hollywood film. Two or four more statue opportunities for actors is just giving credit where credit is due. Since people tune in to see beautiful actors vie for awards, The Academy would be doing their bit to keeping more eyeballs fixed on the Oscar ceremony, which is good for everybody.