Oscar at 82: Four Hours I’ll Never Get Back

The 82nd Annual Academy Awards went on so long, as Steve Martin quipped at the end, that Avatar now takes place in the past.
Besides the fact that a bunch of statues were handed out to everybody who was expected to win, there were at least three or four minutes of genuinely memorable moments crammed into the four hour broadcast.
Hosts Martin and Alec Baldwin had their own pre-host, Neil Patrick Harris, who sang and danced and introduced the two hosts as “the biggest Hollywood pair since Dolly Parton.” There was a Toyota joke, and a joke about all the Jews in Hollywood and a drug joke about Woody Harrelson. Whereas last year Hugh Jackman came out and sang and danced and told jokes and generally exceeded expectations, Martin and Baldwin each put in about as much prep as if they were making a Letterman appearance.
M&B did goof on several of their peers and each other. “There’s that damned Helen Mirren,” said Martin. “That’s Dame Helen Mirren,” corrected Baldwin.
The two put on 3-D glasses to look at James Cameron. It was okay, but Billy Crystal would have worked up a pretty good song and dance opener built around Avatar and Star Trek.
And think if Conan O’Brien had hosted. He could have had George Clooney stay in character from Up in the Air and come up and fire him again.
Ben Stiller walked on stage at the Kodak Theater with a tail and dreds and a blue Avatar face which was funny for 20 seconds. A couple of recent innovations were brought out again, like when the words from the script appear over clips from films nominated for best screenplay, or when fellow actors come on stage to give testimonials to the lucky nominees.
There were no new innovations this year, however, except perhaps for having James Taylor sing The Beatles’ In My Life under the “In Memorial” clips. It was disorienting watching CTV for four hours and not hearing that damn Olympic “I Believe” song 27 times.
The salute to John Hughes was pretty cool, with McCauley Culkin, the aging Breakfast Club survivors and the rest of next year’s cast of Dancing with the Stars on stage paying tribute to the ‘80s auteur. There was also a well packaged salute to horror films, everything from Saw to The Shining.
Presenters included Robert Downey, Jr., Robin Williams and a bunch of Whoisits. No Johnny Depp, or Brangelina, no Jim Carrey or even Jack Black. Missing too was the awkward political speech–there was no Michael Moore moment. Nobody fell out of a dress or made a drunken fool of themselves. It was safe, bland and too long. It was the Oscars.
The red carpet pre-show was notable for Kathy Ireland’s giddy hollering and the unkind high definition camerawork, which revealed crow’s feet on everybody but Miley Cyrus.
How to wake this show up next year? Two words: Jimmy Kimmel. He’d do to the Oscars what he did to Leno. That I would watch.

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