2013 Oscars: A Mixed Bag of Wonderful and Disappointing Moments
I have to open by saying kudos to all the Oscar winners, and to the other nominees as well. This was an interesting year with so many wonderful films and performances, and even if the winner was not my personal favorite in a category, they were all deserving. My goal here is not to evaluate the winners, but rather the telecast itself. If you missed the telecast, you can see the whole thing at Oscars.com, or just view video highlights of the evening.
The night had some winning moments, and some “what the heck” moments, some jokes that were great and some that fell flat. Overall, I believe the 2013 Oscars to have been average, and mostly enjoyable.
Seth MacFarlane was an interesting choice from the first moment that he was announced as this year’s host. In everything he does, he injects not just humor, but satire and irreverence. The Academy knew from the outset that MacFarlane would be somewhat controversial, and he may be the reason that the ratings for this year’s telecast were up over recent years, with an estimated 40.3 million total viewers.
Was MacFarlane perfect? Nope, but no host is truly perfect. Part of that is due to the very nature of comedy, which is that not everyone laughs at exactly the same joke or situation. Some of his jokes did not sit well with the audience and viewers, while others drew big laughs. I think that most of the controversy came in the first 15 minutes, with the “arrival” of William Shatner from the future to save the show. As you might expect, some people were offended by one of the things that Shatner supposedly prevented from happening, the song “We Saw Your Boobs,” but personally I don’t think it was that big a deal. Not that funny in my opinion, but not truly offensive. The concept of the whole bit with Shatner, that he can prevent these songs and events from happening was cute, but honestly it went a little long. My compliments however to Charlize Theron, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt on their dancing (and the latter two for their singing also) which was a nice little surprise.
One major difference with the show this year was the choice by producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to give the show a theme, celebrating music in the movies. Some people were worried that this would cause the show to be turned into a singing and dancing extravaganza, and while both were indeed incorporated into the show, I think that for the most part that was well done. Could they have done better? Of course, and I think one way would have been perhaps to have more presenters with musical connections, and perhaps instead of the failed moment with Mark Wahlberg and Ted, give us another musical memory. Now, the funniest musical moment of the night did not have any singing or dancing, but was a short tribute to Best Picture Winner from 1966, The Sound of Music, when MacFarlane introduced presenter Christopher Plummer, one of the film’s stars.
Three musicals took center stage at various points in the telecast, with my personal favorite musical moment being the the performance by the cast of Les Mis. If you have not seen it, take a few minutes and enjoy.
Two Best Supporting Actress Winners were on hand to perform songs from their movie musicals; Catherine Zeta-Jones, singing “All That Jazz” and Jennifer Hudson, singing “You’re Gonna Love Me.” These were nice moments, and the ladies did a wonderful job.
I did have a couple of problems with the musical performances. There were five nominees for original song, and for a show that claimed the theme of celebrating music in movies, it did a terrible job celebrating this year’s music. Now, the performance from the cast of Les Mis was wonderful, but I think it would have been nice if the nominated song “Suddenly” could have been performed in its entirety. Only giving it a few seconds seems to show that the producers of the show did not think very highly of this song. Indeed, the only nominated song that did get the full treatment was “Skyfall” by Adele. Now, I have to say that with the awards that the song had already won, it was not a surprise that it took the Oscar, but it is as if the producers gave it preference because it was the presumed winner.
The other problem with the musical numbers was the sound mixing. For 99% of the show, there was not a live band on stage. The musicians were actually live at another location in town, using technology to perform during the show. Interesting choice, but there were many times that I felt the band overpowered the vocalists. If you can’t hear the lyrics, that is a definite problem. The issue may or may not have been caused by the location of the band, but it is something that should have been resolved in rehearsals, or at the very least during the show by sound mixers in the booth.
There were two other major disappointments for me with the telecast. As usual, I was not thrilled with the “In Memoriam” tribute, particularly with the number of notable figures who were left out of the segment. I will not even attempt to name those who should have been included; you can see a better list at the Oscars official website, but some on the Internet are saying there are still notable names missing. Whoever is in charge of the final list that makes the telecast should perhaps reevaluate the criteria they use. One suggestion might be to go with the names and faces that will be the most recognizable to the viewers and fans. They also could have perhaps added a few more names by simply changing the presentation. I loved that Barbara Striesand was on hand to perform “The Way We Were” as a tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, but perhaps if they had started with his picture, and then allowed the other pictures and names to continue while she was singing, it would have worked better.
James Bond turned 50 this year, and that is definitely a movie milestone. For quite some time, word was out that there would be a tribute to Bond during the Oscars. When I read a few days ago that there would not be any kind of reunion of the actors who have played him over the years, I began to get worried, and rightly so. The collection of pictures and film clips was very nice, and Shirley Bassey’s performance of “Goldfinger” was wonderful, but there quite simply should have been more. For starters, Adele’s performance of “Skyfall” would have gone better there. There is just so much more from the world of 007 that could have been used, and even other musical numbers that could have contributed to the overall theme of the night.
The biggest surprise of the night was the announcement of the Best Picture Winner. Not the film … it was no shock to anyone that Argo would win. No, the surprise was that on-stage presenter Jack Nicholson was joined by satellite by First Lady Michelle Obama from the White House. Regardless of political views, she did a nice job, and it was interesting that she actually had an envelope and was able to make the announcement.
Normally, the show is done after the announcement of the Best Picture, but not this year. MacFarlane and Kristin Chenoweth (who hosted the Red Carpet before the awards began) performed one last musical number, a “tribute” to the losers of the evening. The lyrics were most likely literally written during the show, so that the song could reference the correct people and films. I thought this number was average, but some viewers found it in poor taste to remind people that they had lost. Again, comedy is subjective, so this was a bit of a risk. However, the bigger problem with the number may have been the timing. Doing anything at that point in the show is not the best idea. Attendees were leaving, and I’m sure that even with the warning that the number was coming, many viewers had already turned off the show.
This was not the best Oscars show I have seen, nor was it the worst. I have to say that I’d like to see MacFarlane back again as host, if he and the producers and writers are able to learn from this year’s mistakes. Oh, and one last shout out to Quvenzhané Wallis, the 9-year-old history-making (youngest nominee ever) actress who was nominated for Best Leading Actress. She was having fun, and truly looked like she was thrilled to be there. Compared to some others who attend events like these, she appeared to have a wonderful outlook on the evening.
Photos and Video: Oscar.go.com