Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Top 20 Highlights of the 85th Academy Awards

Seth MacFarlane

Now that the Oscars are over for another year, it is time to look back and remember what was great about the ceremony. I know, I have already written up a brief recap about the events, and with majority of things officially over with, I too must wrap up coverage. I assure you, this will be the last for the 2013 Oscar season. However, keep in mind that I plan to continue to post weekly on films that could possibly get nominated next year, even if the logical ones are months away. To wrap up this season, here is a look at 20 memorable moments from the 85th Academy Awards Ceremony hosted by Seth MacFarlane.

Overall, I want to say that I come out on the side as being a BIG fan of Seth MacFarlane as host. What essentially makes a great host is one that leaves you with memorable moments. Even if you are bickering over his misogynistic jokes, there was a great deal of ambition thrown throughout the ceremony. Even compared to 2011 when they had Anne Hathaway and James Franco host in order to reach the young demographics, he far succeeded in doing it without appearing desperate. A quick trip to the opening line of their 2011 opening monologue ("Oh my gosh, you are all real.") will assure you that MacFarlane knows how to work an audience.

While not everything about the show was a success, there was plenty of moments that made you laugh and cry. Unfortunately, the presenters were exceptionally dull this year, offering little to no interesting routines. Of course, this is probably to cut down on shameless self promotion, and most of all, keep the annoying Emma Stone bit from happening two years in a row. In a sense, it helped the event to move faster and therefore allowed the moments that mattered to matter. True, there are some duds, but overall, nothing to complain about.

The Oscars are first and foremost an awards show. They are meant to award people, not necessarily entertain. If they do, it is a moment of brilliant happenstance. It is the one aspect that has never made sense. Even the elaborate dresses, which have hurt more people than helped, seem tacky. This is about the performances and the talent, not what they are wearing. Of course, that raises the question on if the Red Carpet at the Oscars was misognystic decades before MacFarlane hit the stage.

Without any further argument, here are some highlights:

The Sock Puppet Version of Flight

Sign number one that the show was in good hands. MacFarlane is known for madcap cutaway gags, and none shined more thoroughly than when William Shatner time traveled to tell him that he made a segment all about Flight as done by sock puppets. It is a revelation of a clip in that it takes the film and amps up the insane quality. It also shows a pop culture aficionado taking time off of the ceremony to do something creative and interesting. This sums up most of what the rest of the show could be, and for the most part was. 

Star Trek Opening Monologue Cameo

Quite possibly one of the most insane opening monologues in recent years, MacFarlane's set was interrupted by William Shatner as Captain Kirk from Star Trek. He came to tell him about how he was a bad host, according to most critics. The entire opening monologue is a quest to make MacFarlane the best host he could be before settling on mediocre. It is an amazing routine, and one that cannot be blames for at least not being creative. True, some of the parts were awkward, but it gave us the chance to see MacFarlane do everything he could, from the Flight sock puppets to a few dance numbers. It was a variety show with a third act structure within a monologue, which is amazing unto itself.

"We Saw Your Boobs"

One of the odd things about the opening monologue was this particular dance number. True, the others included Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Channing Tatum, and Charlize Theron on top of dancing and singing. However, none of that has gotten as much attention as "We Saw Your Boobs," which is argued to be misogyny at its peak on the show. Of course, it was just proof that MacFarlane was not wanting to play it safe. Along with the Gay Men's Choir of Los Angeles chiming in, this was at very least a bizarre tribute to nudity in films. If you remember Anne Hathaway's joke from when she hosted about nudity, then you'll understand that even a tacky joke set to music is better than a tacky joke in the midst of pandering.

Christoph Waltz wins Best Supporting Actor

Always a diligent speaker, Christoph Waltz's win for Django Unchained wasn't all unexpected as he had won the Golden Globe. Still, in a year when all of the nominees were former winners, it was a boring bunch and was an early sign that Lincoln probably wasn't going to dominate the ceremony after speculation it would. Still, Waltz is a great speaker, and despite thanking "Dr. King Schultz," his character, it was a solid speech and oddly one of the better ones in a night of unmemorable speeches. However, for a more exciting, heart wrenching speech, please watch his 2010 acceptance speech

The Worst Presenters of the Night

It was early in the night when Paul Rudd and somehow Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy presented an award. What started as a little goof with Rudd hitting his nose on the microphone continued into a rant that somehow included the line "Don't hurt me bear. I'm an inner city mouse with a lisp." It makes as much sense on the page as it did coming out of McCarthy's mouth. It was painful, and luckily it was early in the night. Still, it is unfortunate that this bit of pandering lasted close to two minutes when a bigger travesty happened mere segments later.

Life of Pi Wins Visual Effects, Loses Time

Remember that Rudd and McCarthy managed to shout nonsense for close to two minutes when you consider this one. As expected, Life of Pi won for Best Visual Effects. Unfortunately, the company behind it, Rhythm and Hues also went bankrupt during the same time. During the acceptance speech, they began mentioning this fact. However, by this point, the orchestra was playing them off. It also seemed no coincidence that it came when a plea for visual effects attention was about to be discussed. The speech only lasted 73 seconds before being shut down by the Jaws theme, something that Rudd and McCarthy were more deserving of. Instead of embedding that travesty to the page, here is a video that more signifies their achievement. However, it is a high note that out of this tragedy has come vibrant support and excessive coverage, thus keeping the moment from being totally offensive.

Sound of Music gag

Easily the best that MacFarlane did at announcing a presenter came when he was set to lead Christopher Plummer onto the stage. In a night that promised to be a tribute to music, it was only more fitting that the gag would rotate around Plummer's involvement with The Sound of Music. In a quick gag that involved the VonTrapp family escaping, it continued to prove that even when it came to filler gags, MacFarlane was ready to do anything. It ranks as a personal favorite, if just for the nonsensical value it brings to Plummer's introduction without at all feeling tacky.

John Travolta says "Les Miserables"

True, the flub is pretty simple, but it is only made funnier when considering that John Travolta's lead in was all about his involvement with the musical movie genre, including Hairspray and Grease. Of all people familiar with popular musicals, it could be him, right? Unfortunately, his one error was in the one title that everyone had learned to pronounce by this point: Les Miserables. Just listen above at how he says it and remember, he was in musicals and should have more familiarity with one of their nominees.

Les Miserables cast performance

Mixing portions of "Suddenly" with "One Day More," the cast of Les Miserables take to the stage and deliver an odd, but enjoyable rendition of the film's medley. It is an awe inspiring sight for fans of the filmed version, even if Russell Crowe seems flatter than normal, and it was the only way for them to actually perform their Best Original Song nominee by shoehorning it into the medley. Still, it was powerful and a great experience, especially following the very weird and underwhelming Chicago rendition of "All That Jazz" that fit the theme, but never looked the part.

Jennifer Hudson performs Dreamgirls song

Admittedly, I am a person who really disapproved of Jennifer Hudson's Oscar win for Dreamgirls. However, when she hit the stage with nothing but a microphone, it was clear why she was invited. Hudson could belt a tune like no other, and in a ceremony that was about music, it was nice to see a talent stand stripped of everything and just prove that she has an incredible voice that almost makes me reconsider my opinions. Of course, that probably won't happen. Still, she was one of the better performances, as I wasn't a big fan of either Adele or Shirley Bassey's song numbers, that felt flat.

That Lincoln Joke

Seth MacFarlane had a lot of odd jokes from the ceremony, though few save for the "We Saw Your Boobs" song, have gotten as much attention as this one: "I would argue that the actor that really got inside the head of Lincoln was John Wilkes Booth." While not the worst joke, it was the bleakest and an example of MacFarlane keeping everyone on their toes. Of course, the groaning could be from the fact that MacFarlane references Booth more than Lincoln does. 

Skyfall wins Best Sound Editing, Fails to Prove How

One of the night's biggest tragedies is that Zero Dark Thirty only walked away with one Oscar, which was split with Skyfall for Best Sound Editing. However, this was only placed into a more ironic circumstance when Adele later performed Skyfall's titular theme song, which was set up as one of the night's biggest moments. True, the James Bond tribute fell flat, but nothing more embarrassing happened than the sound mixing. The orchestra was louder than Adele and the song played like a disaster. It almost seemed ironic since Skyfall just won an award in a sound category. Of course, this didn't keep the song from winning Best Original Song later that night.

Ted Talks

The people who presented the Best Sound Editing award was none other than Mark Wahlberg and Ted, the teddy bear from Ted as voiced by Seth MacFarlane. For those that didn't think MacFarlane had been lowbrow up to this point, here is your call. While the bit was overall inoffensive and only showed how integral the host was to the show, that didn't stop Ted's jokes from feeling cheap. With numerous elaborate gags involving orgies and Jews running Hollywood, it was the odd sort of humor that you'd expect to find at a Spike TV awards show. However, I have always been a fan of integrating CGI characters into the show and even after the unfortunate Best Visual Effects moment, this is only more proof of how essential effects are to modern entertainment.

Barbara Streisand Remembers Marvin Hamlisch

One of my bigger fears of the ceremony was that the late Marvin Hamlisch's big tribute would be mixed into the James Bond segment. Luckily, I was right in assuming that Barbara Streisand would perform her Oscar winning collaboration with Hamlisch titled "The Way We Were." It was a moving moment and definitely reminded you of why he was a genius. Complex, emotional melodies and the ability to touch on core emotions in deep and moving ways. The only thing missing was a retrospective of the man who did music for everything from Bananas to A Chorus Line to Sophie's Choice. The man was a legend, and definitely one deserving of an entire performance. As for the In Memoriam lacking lyrical accompaniment, I feel fine with it. The montage should be able to stand on its own.

Anne Hathaway Wins

Of course, most of the nominees were not as predictable as Anne Hathaway's Best Supporting Actress win for Les Miserables. Her "I Dreamed a Dream" scene has remained one of cinema's biggest highlights of 2012. Also, after the nomination for Rachel Getting Married, I have felt that she has only gotten more interesting and with this award, has moved into a pantheon of better options for performances. It may have not been the most moving speech, but it was a long time coming, which makes it all the more sweeter.

Chris Terrio Wins

Of all the speeches of the night, none were quite as moving as when Chris Terrio won Best Adapted Screenplay for Argo. While many argue that Ben Affleck's nervous speech was more enjoyable, I cannot find as much substance as I do in Terrio's moving speech. As an underdog figure, he has written an impressively quirky and fun screenplay more than deserving of the award. Still, the whole underdog fact lead to him thanking in a very convincing manner everyone in a very touching way. He compared his success to that of Affleck when he won 15 years ago for Good Will Hunting. At very least, it left things with a sense of hope and that we're watching a future big name writer in his early success.

Quentin Tarantino Wins

I will admit that I am not supportive of Tarantino's Best Original Screenplay win. I felt his script was shoddy and Mark Boal's Zero Dark Thirty was far more impressive. However, what made Tarantino's win interesting was that he hasn't won since he cowrote Pulp Fiction with Roger Avary and that this almost feels like an award meant for Inglourious Basterds. Of course, what made his speech memorable is what makes Tarantino an interesting presence. While he has gotten progressively loopier in behavior thanks to the Django Unchained tour, he has always shown a passion for movies. Still, what is odd is how he somehow assesses his own movie during the speech as being one that will stand the test of time. In a sense, it is arrogant, as he practically thanks himself. Of course, with a loose tie, he flips the peace sign and ends the speech with the belief that this is the writer's year and "Peace out."

Ang Lee Wins

Almost out of nowhere, Ang Lee pulled an upset over proposed winner Steven Spielberg for Best Director. That alone was an exciting moment only made more exciting when he starts his speech by thanking "movie God," which may somehow be acceptable, considering Life of Pi's subject matter. Still, it is an honorable win to the most deserving of the bunch and will hopefully continue to boost the recognition of Life of Pi's brilliance, and hopefully will benefit the Rhythm and Hues production company in some way. However, this poor guy needs to win Best Picture already. He has two Best Director statues, what more does he need? He also wins best post-Oscar celebration party:

Daniel Day Lewis Wins

Yes, this was a very big upset for me, and I still think his performance was not worthy of a nomination. However, the three time Best Actor winner does have a knack for speeches. Making a joke about how he almost replaced Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady was probably one of the funnier speech jokes of the night. In a sense, Lewis is also a gifted speech giver, which just seems unfair. I am just hoping that this doesn't lead to him winning an award every time he does a half of halfway decent job. Also, it is a shame that he doesn't do comedy more often. He would totally be great for a Comedy Central Half Hour special.

Jack Nicholson/Michelle Obama Present Best Picture

Ask any Oscar ceremony nerd what gets them excited, and it really should be Jack Nicholson. The long time front row seater who has been the butt of the host's jokes has long been a staple. However, for the past few years, he has been missing, and George Clooney has stepped in as the butt of jokes. However, it is an exciting prospect to even consider that he was there. The legendary actor presented Best Picture, and if that wasn't exciting enough, he had Michelle Obama present via TV. It was an odd moment, but one that definitely proved this year was definitely different. While not nearly as exciting as the time that he managed to screw up the syncopation of the Best Picture presentation in 2006, it is definitely hope that he will be back again to make the Oscars feel like more than another event. Oh, and great job to Argo for winning Best Picture.

In closing, it was a solid year. I am sad to see it end, but I hope you have enjoyed the coverage. I probably won't quite be as harping on The Master as much from here on out, though do be aware of the Joaquin Phoenix coverage. I plan to keep posting weekly on movies deserving of Oscar buzz, or speculate on which ones could get it. Stay tuned next week when I will write a follow-up to my piece on James Franco and Spring Breakers and stay tuned for more. Until then, here is the last time I will post a picture of Joaquin Phoenix in relation to The Master:

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