To be fair, last night's Academy Awards wasn't bad. Anne Hathaway is charming and delightful. Although young, her comedic timing, stage presence, and willingness to laugh at herself proves that she's got presenting chops that will only serve to be sharpened and refined with time.
James Franco did a good job ...smirking like he was stoned.
The best part of the night also served to illustrate how incredibly boring Hollywood has become. Kirk Douglas, a stroke survivor in his 90s, had better comedic timing and classier jokes than half of the "younger, fresher" presenters that graced the stage. The funniest part of Justin Timberlake's Banksy joke was how flat it fell--I guess we know now what sound a bad joke makes when there are thousands around to hear it.
Instead of elaborate musical numbers, the show's producers cut back on production value, giving us blips of nominated songs (I'd cut my arm off if I had to listen to that Dido crap) while featuring a montage of "Man on the Street" interviews that looked as if it were shot on a flip cam. The most random of random people were selected to tell us what their favorite movie songs were; the stunt had about as much relevance as referencing Gone With the Wind before introducing Tom Hanks. It was as if the producers were trying to conjure up memories of old Hollywood in a bad attempt to remind viewers of why they used to enjoy going to the movies. Not to be left out, President Barack Obama contributed his two cents to the movie song debate; too bad for him he referenced the theme song from Casablanca, rendering most of his voting demographic asking, "Dude, that was black and white--how old is he?"
Most of the cultural references revolved around "apps" and Facebook. File those under, "Wow, they referenced the Internet; this show is so young and hip!"...and grossly cliche. Too bad for the writers that most of those references were missed by a tech-infused generation too busy testing out one-liners on Twitter to actually appreciate what was going on in the show.
And, perhaps, that is the point. Hollywood turned the Oscars into one big, fat, commercial for how great Hollywood used to be--you know, when they actually made real money off of their movies. (Back in the day when movie tickets were 50 cents, not $17 bucks a pop.) In referencing all the great films and people of the past, Hollywood illustrated how boring the younger demographic truly is. Now, instead of Gone With the Wind we have The Social Network. Instead of The Best Years of Our Lives we have The Kids Are All Right. Instead of being swept away with drama, comedy, passion, happiness, we settle for corruption, broken friendships, alcoholism, broken relationships, and middle-age misery. But technology makes it all better: Distraction? There's an app for that!
There were a few bizarre moments in the night beyond Timberlake's bad attempt to mock a hero of Hollywood's Golden Age. Anne Hathaway introduced Oprah as a woman whose air is an honor to breathe (tell that one to Al "CO2 Tax" Gore) and when the glorified talk show host came out, she was the only one taking herself seriously. (Well, that's not new.) I'd say the tension was palpable in the crowd as the audience waited to hear if Oscar was one of Oprah's Favorite Things, but actors are cheap--they don't even buy their own jewelry, so why would they spring for the taxes and fees just to take home the free statuette under their seat?
By far the strangest moment of the night came around quarter to midnight, when a bunch of ten year olds were escorted to the stage to sing a bizarrely hammy choral rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. "Look, kids, Hollywood can make your dreams come true--as long as Anne Hathaway sees you on YouTube first!" I'm still stumped as to the point of that stunt and their costumes--they could've at least bedazzled their t-shirts for the occasion.
The Oscars used to be a way for Americans to luxuriate in the glitz and glam of Hollywood. That was when the telecast was done in black and white. Now if the Academy wants to attract the next generation of movie-goers, they're better off cutting the broadcast to 90 seconds and putting it on YouTube. Just think: with all that extra money, they might be able to buy James Franco a personality.