Friday, March 8, 2013

Did You See the Oscars?

I attended a school's fine arts event with a dear friend recently in San Francisco.  I chatted with a young married couple whose kid was in the show.  We started talking about movies and movie stars.  The husband said, "I didn't realize Shirley MacLaine was such a babe!"  He'd rented Billy Wilder's Irma La Douce, a comedy that earned MacLaine one of her Best Actress Oscar nominations as a happy hooker in Paris.  The husband knew the post-Terms of Endearment MacLaine.  I urged him to rent Billy Wilder's The Apartment and Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry.  This brings me to last month's Oscars telecast.  Seth MacFarlane is a handsome, talented guy.  Some of his moments were good.  But I felt that his comedy segments went on way too long.  When he announced the Oscar nominations on live TV, he was doing his comedy routine and I said to the screen, "Get to the nominations, Seth.  It's not about you!"  I pretty much felt the same thing watching him host.  He'd have been perfect to host the MTV Awards.  For the Oscars, he was a jovial middle-aged frat boy whose extended snarkiness made the show drag.  The producers, instead of trying to court an audience of 20-something males, should've kept the focus on films -- and the Hollywood history of films.  MacFarlane was more a Comedy Central roastmaster.  Tina Fey and Amy Poehler would've rocked it.
The opening bit with William Shatner in Star Trek attire started off well but went too long.  One reason why the MacFarlane material felt long is that millions of us hear it every day in repeats of Family Guy and American Dad! on television.  Basically he made his host stint a live-action version of his animated work. The Shatner bit was very American Dad!
If I was producer, I'd have cut that bit in half and brought William Shatner out later, in a tuxedo, to be a presenter.  I'd have had MacFarlane intro him as a castmember from Judgment at Nuremberg, the 1961 classic that got 11 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and two nominations for Best Actor.  Maxmilian Schell won for Best Actor for it. Shatner acted opposite the film's other Best Actor nominee -- Hollywood legend Spencer Tracy.

I would've kept highlights like the Charlize Theron number with Channing Tatum (who knew she was such an elegant dancer?).  I'd have dropped the "We Saw Your Boobs" number.  I expected Quagmire from Family Guy to pop out during that song and say "Giggity!"  I would've utilized the Los Angeles Gay Men's Chorus instead in a better tribute to the late Marvin Hamlisch.  He was a major force on Broadway and in Hollywood.
Barbra Streisand singing "The Way We Were" was lovely.  If I was producer, that would've been the beginning of the tribute.  It would've ended with something like this -- an iconic number that's referenced in every animated open of Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy.
In between, there could've been a medley of Hamlisch music from movies.  His Oscar nominated songs included "Through the Eyes of Love" from Ice Castles, "The Last Time I Felt Like This" from Same Time, Next Year, "Nobody Does It Better" from the James Bond adventure The Spy Who Loved Me, "Life Is What You Make It" written with Johnny Mercer for Kotch (Best Actor Oscar nomination for Walter Matthau, directed by Jack Lemmon) and "Surprise, Surprise" written for the movie version of A Chorus Line.  Dancers could've been given their moments to shine performing to the music he adapted for The Sting and his hip and groovy 1960s-flavored pop score for 2009 The Informant!  I would've ended the Hamlisch tribute with "One Singular Sensation" from A Chorus Line.
Kristin Chenoweth -- very talented.  But the long duet she sang with MacFarlane at the end was totally unnecessary.  Two minutes from that should've been given to the short "In Memoriam" video package.  The Academy should let the folks of Turner Classic Movies assemble those packages.  The 2013 video omitted Andy Griffith, who should have been a Best Actor nominee for slamming across one of the most blistering 1950s Hollywood performances as the manipulative TV star with dark political influence.
He was "Lonesome" Rhodes in 1957 Elia Kazan classic, A Face in the Crowd.
In my review on national radio, I'd hoped Griffith would've gotten a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his delightful, well-dressed curmudgeon role in 2007's Waitress.
Anatomy of a Murder racked up Oscar nominations for Best Picture of 1959, Best Director, Best Actor and two for Best Supporting Actor.  One of its stars -- Ben Gazzara.

He also starred in Husbands with Peter Falk and John Cassavetes.  Gazzara was omitted.  So was renowned Latina actress Lupe Ontiveros.  The Oscars were on ABC.  Lupe Ontiveros was in the cast of ABC's big hit series, Desperate Housewives.
Jack Nicholson was one of the top presenters of the night, helping to award Best Picture.  He got one of his Best Actor Oscars for As Good As It Gets.   Ms. Ontiveros had a funny key scene with Nicholson in that Oscar nominee for Best Picture of 1997.
Phyllis Diller, Larry Hagman and NFL star-turned-actor Alex Karras were also left out. I think the Oscars can be entertaining and current while also blending in a respect and acknowledgment of classic film art and artists.  They're broadcast globally.  It would've been cool to give some bits of history about and greetings to senior Oscar winners who are still with us.  Sisters Joan Fontaine (age 95) and Olivia de Havilland (age 96) are both Best Actress Academy Award winners.  Luise Rainer was the first person to win back-to-win Oscars for her 1936 and 1937 Best Actress performances.  She's now 103.  I'd have preferred a nod to them over the Seth MacFarlane joke about Lincoln being shot in the head. An Oscar moment I totally loved -- the Daniel Day-Lewis acceptance speech when he said that Meryl Streep was originally slated to play Lincoln.  Very funny.
I mentioned Shirley MacLaine at the top of this blog piece.  My other idea, if I was producer, would've been to invite stars of classic Best Picture winners to be presenters.  Like Julie Andrews (The Sound of Music), Rita Moreno (West Side Story) and Shirley MacLaine (Around the World in 80 Days, The Apartment and Terms of Endearment).  That might have been a nice and respectful way to connect the past and the present.  The producers for last month's Oscars are the same two men who produce NBC's Smash.  At times, the Oscars show felt like a Smash episode trying to appeal to the MTV Awards audience.  Just my opinion.  For the married guy in San Francisco, here's more babe footage of Shirley MacLaine.  It's the trailer from her madcap 1964 satire, What A Way To Go!  The festive Edith Head fashions make TV's Project Runway and the Oscars Red Carpet shows look like the "Anatevka" number from Fiddler on the Roof.  Enjoy.

So.  What did you think of the Oscars?


  1. Wonderful in-depth analysis on your thoughts of the show. Thank you for mentioning the omissions of the film luminaries who passed away during 2012. During the hustle and bustle of the movie awards season, I did not have a chance to research those who passed away during the past year. Wow, I am speechless that the "in-memoriam" segment excluded Andy Griffith. I agree that his performance in A FACE IN THE CROWD was a towering cinematic achievement. I can see that you are not a big fan of Seth MacFarlane but I thought he did a good job of hosting the show. I definitely agree that the opening skit with William Shatner dragged on way too long even though I did think it was a fresh idea. Overall, I was lukewarm on my feelings about the show. It would rate it somewhere in the middle of the pack of all the shows I've seen in the last 20 something years I've been watching the Oscars. My biggest disappointments of the show came from the winners and losers, particularly in the acting categories. The only actor who I thought deserved his Oscar was Daniel-Day Lewis. I also imagine that you were disappointed Sally Field & Tommy Lee Jones came home empty-handed. Overall, I would have to say that this show was a big disappointment for you, Bobby. Again, thanks for posting this.

  2. Honestly, I am a Seth MacFarlane fan. If I could rent DVDs of AMERICAN DAD! right now and watch them this afternoon, I would. He makes me laugh. For the Oscars, he'd have been a great co-host, in my opinion. The show needed another presence to keep a foot in the "salute to film as art" aspect of the Oscars so it wouldn't seem like the producers were trying to make it the MTV Movie Awards. I don't think the producers should try to make the Oscars something they're not. That's too great burden on a host. Other than that, Thomas, did Quentin Tarantino really win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay -- even though DJANGO UNCHAINED is basically a remake of a Franco Nero western that spawned sequels?

    1. That was one of my biggest disappointments of the evening - Tarantino winning Best Original Screenplay for DJANGO UNCHAINED. I'm glad someone else saw it, too. He borrowed the idea for his film from the original DJANGO. I would have given the award to John Gatins for his pretty deep, moving and thoughtful script for FLIGHT. Overall, I thought this was a very weak year for movie scripts.


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