You may have heard that Sunday’s Oscars was the worst ceremony in Academy history. I bet you also heard it was the best ceremony in Academy history. Get this: Neither is true! The Oscars were perfectly Oscar-y on Sunday, not dreadful or miraculous almost ever. Except for when host Seth MacFarlane stepped up to the dais. Oh God, guys. I don’t watch his cartoon, The Hilariously Funny Family Guy Variety Hour or whatever it’s called, but rest assured I won’t be tuning in any time soon. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Let’s start with uplifting award handouts: I mostly applauded the night’s winners, including the first honoree, the sexy, angular, tantalizingly clean-shaven Christoph Waltz. No doubt about it, the sinister gent is a talented looker. I have dreams where he stares at me like a cruel headmaster and I fall to the ground in sexual hysteria. But having just seen Django Unchained, which is as close to an “expected” Tarantino movie as you’ll ever get (a fact that makes Tarantino’s Original Screenplay win sort of bizarre, honestly), I admit I dug Waltz’s performance but question the following three things: 1) It is most certainly not a supporting performance, which bothers me since I’m a category queen. 2) Is the role different enough from his calm, commanding, yet terrifying role in Inglourious Basterds to warrant another Oscar? 3) Are we comfortable with Christoph Waltz as the new Jason Robards, snagging two supporting trophies in record time? You know, I can deal with that one. Hell, I’d watch Waltz play Dashiell Hammett in a remake of Julia. Fine. Fine! Waltz’s speech was much less prepared than his Basterds win, and thank God, because that speech sucked. He mentioned something about the majesty of continents? I almost voted him to Antarctica. His win this time was a long shot, and we got to see the casually intelligent man sound gracious and unpretentious. He rules and didn’t have to prepare a sonnet to do it. Woo.
Anne Hathaway shocked absolutely no one by picking up Best Supporting Actress for her role as Malnourished Susan Boyle in Les Miserables. The Hathaway backlash is boring at this point, by the way. The girl is talented, has paid her dues, and gives a cute speech. So she’s a little bit of a hyper-enthusiastic drama camp counselor. Swell, I say. She likes to act and is good at it. Les Miz is not my thing, but I’m glad Anne is her smart and suuuuper gay-positive self. Admittedly when Anne won, I screamed at the TV, “Sally Field, storm the stage and feed selfish Shelby her juice!” but I didn’t really mean it. It’s OK that Sally Field finally lost an Oscar. I think. Yeah. It might not be OK, actually, but whatever, this life is flawed.
Other expected winners: Adele and her Valium-dull “Skyfall” (which she sang wonderfully), a Costume Design win for Anna Karenina (which is a beautiful-looking, well-couture’d movie, even if it’s a slightly prosaic adaptation — Keira’s my girl nonetheless), the documentary feature Searching for Sugar Man, and Foreign Language film Amour, which is a French word that apparently means “unbearable, mortality-piercing grimness.” Surely we all picked up gimme points on our high-stakes Oscar ballots in those categories, no?
Even Best Actor and Best Actress turned out to be happy anticlimaxes: Daniel Day-Lewis, arguably the most gorgeous man who ever lived in his My Beautiful Laundrette days, scored his third Best Actor trophy for Lincoln, which would’ve felt more triumphant had presenter Meryl Streep not announced it like a Kohl’s employee muttering about a 20% sale over the intercom. She didn’t even open the envelope on camera. In fact, I don’t know when she learned who the winner is. Meryl simply wafted onstage in a white glow like Queen Frostine from Candy Land (with a distinct “Hillary Clinton biopic” haircut, by the way. Hmmm.), announced the winner without manipulating the envelope, and retreated. Luckily winner Day-Lewis gave what I’d call the speech of the evening with light-hearted, very funny quips, including one about how he was supposed to play Margaret Thatcher and Meryl was the original choice for Lincoln. Cute joke, and yet, I’d believe it if it were true.
Best Actress was a pretty fabulous nail-biter of a category. Could’ve been Jessica Chastain for her authoritative, somewhat tame work in Zero Dark Thirty (seriously, she spends that whole movie standing next to file cabinets), kickass fetus Quvenzhane Wallis for her gruff, spunky performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild (very Tatum O’Neal, the gruff/spunky dichotomy), Naomi Watts in that all-things-considered-pretty-damn-good The Impossible (sorry I slammed it), or birthday femme Emmanuelle Riva for Amour, but odds-on favorite Jennifer Lawrence clinched it. At 22, she’s the second-youngest Best Actress winner after Marlee Matlin, and though I hate the slapstick, dopey romance of Silver Linings Playbook, I get that J-Law is cool enough for a win. On her way to the stage, she tripped on that damn staircase since her Dior gown was bottom-heavy with glamor, but she rebounded with a stumbly, endearing speech.
Life of Pi’s directing win for Ang Lee was absolutely no surprise to me, since that movie is easily the most emotional Lisa Frank folder I’ve ever seen. Argo, as you surely know by now, took home Best Picture despite not earning a nomination for Ben Affleck. Altogether it picked up only three wins, a very low number for a Best Picture (really, that’s some Grand Hotel sh*t right there), but it was worth it for Ben Affleck’s climactic speech in which he announced he never expected to be back at the Oscar podium and almost cried real, harsh tears on presenter Jack Nicholson. Did I mention Michelle Obama helped present Best Picture via satellite from the White House? Because that was a Dada moment for the ages. I don’t know whether to praise Ms. Michelle for her weird appearance or simply install video of it at MOMA and hope some Tisch graduate can understand it for me.
Now, the scintillating stuff: The Oscars gifted us with a James Bond medley that really shed light on the fact that most James Bond movies are exactly the same. The cars, tuxes, and pun-named ladies have changed, but the premise is almost agonizingly the same. No matter: Shirley-effing-Bassey trilled “Goldfinger” and sent shockwaves of passion through the audience that must’ve disturbed Hugh Jackman’s emptiness. I’d call it the best performance of the evening, even though Barbra Streisand indeed chanted “The Way We Were” in tribute to her late comrade Marvin Hamlisch. Her voice was lovely, but her spoken-word interjections felt like cheesy, old Hollywood fawning that I expect from the narration in, say, That’s Entertainment III. What disturbs me most is what I didn’t see in the performances; after all, a James Bond tribute and a Marvin Hamlisch toast gave Carly Simon two reasons to show up and sing “Nobody Does It Better,” but neither was good enough to warrant an appearance from the Oscar-winning singer-songwriter. Ugh, Carly! And what of Nora Ephron’s death? Carly could’ve sung “Coming Around Again” from Heartburn in tribute! It’s a depressing salad of missed opportunities, Carly’s absence. I feel a little wronged. Carly probably thinks this wrong is about her. She’d be right.
There was also a tribute to musicals that fell a little flat thanks to Catherine Zeta-Jones’ obviously lip-synced Velma Kelly rehash. Jennifer Hudson dug up “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” and killed, but she also reminded everyone that it’s an overplayed musical standard. Plus, Jennifer Holliday is always tops. Sorry, y’all.
My favorite looks of the night? This gets interesting.
3) Jennifer Aniston, wearing red — which qualifies as A COLOR ON JENNIFER ANISTON — for the first time ever. A blue-rare moment for Ms. Nude Sheathdress if there ever was one.
2) Quvenzhane Wallis, thanks to her stuffed dog clutch. You know what this child did? This child flexed her muscles and beamed when her name was read. This child shall live forever.
1) Jane “Legend of Legends” Fonda in a shock-yellow frock that I considered one magnificent, gigantic, cozy legwarmer. A nice tribute to ’80 Jane, if I do say so myself. Plus, she presented Best Director alongside Michael Douglas, and they were so refined and wonderful that I China Syndrome’d my pants.
Michael Douglas & Jane Fonda
And finally, we get to the “star” of the evening, a Mr. Seth MacFarlane. I won’t badmouth all of his jokes, as his opening jab at Tommy Lee Jones’s stony visage was a hit. In fact, certain folks on Twitter came to MacFarlane’s defense as the ceremony progressed, citing his swiftness and general gleefulness, I guess. But is this material what Oscar viewers would really find funny? That interminable monologue featuring what seemed like an hour-long William Shatner cameo? An incessant amount of self-referential humor? An incessant amount of MacFarlane snickering at his own self-referential humor? And finally, the worst single musical number in Oscars history, a jaw-droppingly misogynistic tune called “I Saw Your Boobs” about actresses in the audience who’d gone topless on film. Hey, Seth: Guess how many dudes in that same room had to bare their privates on film? Close to none. Being a mogul-esque Hollywood dude and taunting actresses like Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet for getting naked in movies is about as appropriate as taunting your interns for not making any money. It’s not their fault that great opportunities sometimes require something of a personal sacrifice. Sounds elementary, but the male gaze runs Hollywood, and to revel in that gross male advantage is just revolting. Do we really want to tell actresses that their work amounts to a Porky’s-esque peep show? I couldn’t decide whether I was more embarrassed or disgusted. I think I blocked it all out before I could think too hard.
What’d you think of the show? Fabulous? Overlong? Why wouldn’t the Oscars be overlong? Did you ever think about that?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, MacFarlane and Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Day-Lewis backstage with Meryl Streep
Following pages… more photos from the evening…
Channing Tatum and wife Jenna Dewan
Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron
Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson
Channing Tatum and Jennifer Aniston
Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington
Jennifer Garner and Jessica Chastain
Anne Hathaway and Christopher Plummer
Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana
Danie Radcliffe and Kristen Stewart
Charlize Theron and Dustin Hoffman
Jennifer Lawrence takes a tumble