What do you get when you add up critically acclaimed, but little-seen films with a lengthy, crippling Writers Strike? Bad ratings for Oscar. The Academy have always been in a bit of a conundrum where ratings are concerned. The recent trend of awarding good but unpopular films has resulted in a bad ratings scenario in recent years. On the other hand, history will be kind to the Academy for enjoying its best decade of film choices since the 1970s.
How bad was the telecast? It wasn’t bad at all. Jon Stewart, who was nowhere near the network god that he is today last time he hosted, was back for a second time, and now, not only does he know how to entertain a crowd, he knows how to read a crowd so that when the producers tried to fob off some dumb, jokey Sid Ganis video, Stewart had the snark at the ready: “Wow, that was really really good,” he deadpanned.
A good Oscars host just needs to open big and then escort the audience along for three plus hours of speeches, montages, and eye candy. Stewart was brilliant in all possible ways. No, the host wasn’t really what failed the show. It was, sad to say, the montages and clips.
As has been written elsewhere on the web, the Oscar ceremony was a bit too self-congratulatory to be palatable. While it’s true that they only had a couple of weeks to pull the thing together, and, frankly, it’s a miracle it happened at all, there still seemed to be a residual stink of the show that almost was, the show with no talent. The clips about the Academy and how it votes, or the recaps of Oscar moments in the past aren’t really the reasons we watch the Oscars. Most of us tune in because we have a lemming factor built in; it doesn’t matter what it is – if it’s a big event we all watch it. The Oscars also have their share of fans or fanatics who would have watched no matter what kind of show was put on. And still, some others tune in to find out who won because they’ve actually seen all of the movies and they care. Either that or they’ve invested money.
The biggest draw, though, in a year when the films themselves aren’t the draw, are the stars. Inviting Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, for instance, would have driven up ratings big time, especially now that Ms. Jolie is obviously showing her new baby bump. Several pretty women who did show up were, in fact, also pregnant (is there something in the water?). That made it almost like a red carpet baby shower more than an awards show.
The attempt to lure young viewers with the appearance of Miley Cyrus was thwarted because Cyrus didn’t sing. If she was performing, the kids would have watched. They could have insulted everyone by having her sing the song from Once, for instance. That would have been Oscars old school.
While there is plenty to complain about, the telecast has much to marvel at, beginning with the way they handled the orchestra playing over Markéta Irglová’s thank you speech. The orchestra began playing just as her partner, Glen Hansard, had said his thank you. She took the mic, they started playing, then she walked off and they stopped, making it clear they hadn’t known she was planning on speaking. But after the commercial break, Irglová was brought back on stage to give her thank you speech and it was a winner. “And this song was written from a perspective of hope,” she said, “and hope at the end of the day connects us all, no matter how different we are. And so thank you so much, who helped us along the way. Thank you.”
That was an Oscar moment worth waiting up for. But it wasn’t the only one. Javier Bardem’s acceptance speech, Joel and Ethan Coen’s glorious awkwardness at the mic, and a night where the awards were divided up to honor many different films, though clearly one film got, and deserved to get, the big awards. In the end, and through it all, the Oscars mean something. Maybe they don’t decide the best films ever made, but they are a historic part of our culture, a time capsule that helps us remember what it was like to live through 2007 from a cinematic standpoint. And god love them for putting on a show for us every year without fail.