Maybe it’s because this is a town of very pretentious people, but Ellen DeGeneres hosting the Oscars was really the best thing about the bloated, overly long telecast of the 79th Annual Academy Awards. While there was certainly nothing to complain about where the winners were concerned (except Pan’s Labyrinth should have won Foreign Language), there was plenty to complain about where the production was concerned.
Ellen DeGeneres did something no Oscar host has ever successfully done: she took everyone’s nerves down a notch by making fun of how nervous the nominees were. Because she is a compassionate and intelligent person, she decided to celebrate the nominees. She is effortlessly funny, especially when casually interacting with celebrities. Yet, the morning after, television critics were ready to rip DeGeneres apart.
I certainly am not here to do that – in fact, I’d like to send her a great big fat thank you card for making the show watchable. What should be talked about, however, is the producer and director’s need to play winners off stage (that annoying music that reminds winners to say thank you and leave the stage immediately). The only reason we tune into to the show is to see who won. This isn’t the 70s anymore, when variety telecasts were what the people wanted. We want to see the emotional highs and lows that the stupid Oscars are all about.
For some reason, they felt it necessary to have Celine Dion sing. Why? Bill Condon had already arranged to have Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce Knowles and Anika Noni Rose from Dreamgirls provide the diva portion of the evening. Dion took away valuable time that could have otherwise been given to writer William Monahan, who was played off mid-word. Why would they do that? It is the single most hateful thing about the Oscars. They promised they weren’t going to do that this year, but they did.
Before the show, the producers gave Academy members a talking-to: “Don’t bring out lists of people to thank!” Because, god forbid, the winners should have anything intelligent to say when they stand there shaking in their boots, trying to remember everyone. I’m no believer in the list, but it beats the hell out of rudely playing a winner off stage.
In order to relieve some of the tension, they had a “Thank You cam” for people the nominees either forgot to thank or didn’t have time to thank. As if that is going to help matters? How would you feel if you were thanked on the “Thank You cam” instead of on stage at the Oscars?
The most infuriating thing was that we had to sit through Celine Dion, one too many film montages (they could all have been cut in half), too many prepared “comedy bits” that fell flat, all so that we could see people rushed through their speeches for fear of the music. It is a big problem with the Oscars and always has been. So far, no reasonable solution has been discovered; winners still bring up lists, they still go on too long, and they are still played off stage. If there was one thing that ruined the telecast for me every single time, it would be that menacing music.
Even still, the show drew reasonably high ratings. It certainly was no bomb. forty million people watched Martin Scorsese finally win his Oscar. It was up just three percent from last year; both years are notorious for their unseen Best Picture nominees; only this year, The Departed was a very popular film. That could have been part of the reason people watched, or it could just be that we’re lemmings that come when we’re called. Either way, it doesn’t look like the telecast will be retired any time soon.
For clips of this year’s telecast, log on to Oscar.com.