The Oscars aired this past Sunday, Feb. 24 and the results came as a surprise. With Seth MacFarlane, the creator of “Family Guy” and the 2012 movie Ted as the host, most had low expectations for the quality of the show. These expectations were met as MacFarlane made racist, sexist and distasteful jokes throughout the evening. This was improved by the fact that the audience was having none of it, rarely laughing at his jokes and even booing a joke he made about Lincoln’s assassination to which he replied “Too soon?” (apparently, it was). The opening was also surprisingly self-aware, having William Shatner playing Captain Kirk coming back from the future to tell MacFarlane that he was the worst Oscar host in history and imploring him to change the show before it was too late. This led to a few enjoyable dance and song numbers that brought back memories of 1940s tap musicals and that I personally enjoyed. It brings to question, though, that if the Oscars were so aware that no one wanted MacFarlane as a host, why did they hire him in the first place?
This year’s Oscars featured a number of musical performances, including three for a tribute to the past musicals of the decade and two James Bond performances in honor of the 50th anniversary of the classic films and nominations in multiple categories for Skyfall. The musicals were fun to watch but in general there did not seem to be enough going on onstage to keep the audience’s attention, and during Barbara Streisand’s “in memoriam” song, most of the people I was with looked about to fall asleep. Where the Oscars usually bring in dancers or include montages while performers are singing, this year the minimalism of the musical numbers left a lot to be desired.
As for the awards themselves, some were predictable, but the major awards came as a shock. The first award, for best supporting actor, went to “Django Unchained’s” Christopher Waltz, instead of the expected Phillip Seymour Hoffman for “The Master.” The biggest shock, though, and in my opinion a poor choice, was Jennifer Lawrence’s win in the Best Actress category. Lawrence won the Golden Globe, but no one, even she (as she tripped on the stairs and hurriedly recited an unprepared speech) expected the win, especially against Emmanuelle Riva and Jessica Chastain, the two actresses who most thought would take the award. I’m extremely disappointed that the Academy passed over Riva, who has been acting on screen for over 50 years and who gave an incredible performance in Michael Haneke’s “Amour.” Though Lawrence is a talented actress and gave a good performance in “Silver Linings Playbook,” it didn’t stand out above the other nominees.
Another award that came as a surprise was the best director going to Ang Lee. Lee deserved the award, but it was unexpected as most were under the impression that “Life of Pi” would not win the Best Picture award and that Spielberg would surely take director. This win meant that best picture was up in the air, though I don’t think many were surprised when “Argo” took it. “Argo” has almost swept the award ceremonies this year and continued its critical success at the Oscars. Though not a bad film by any means, I was disappointed as it wasn’t particularly artistic or innovative and I didn’t care very much about the characters or really the plot. Though fun to watch, it was mostly American propaganda and the fact that it won the BAFTA in the same category is perplexing.
Ben Affleck’s acceptance speech makes we want to retract all the negative review I have given “Argo,” as he was utterly beside himself with the win, even though this is not the first time “Argo” has won. The speech was awkward in an endearing way and he ended the show on an upbeat, film-positive note. Anne Hathaway started her speech with a somewhat adorable “it came true” almost to herself and though the majority of it was a calm line of people she felt she should thank, she ended strong, commenting that she hopes soon Fantine’s story from “Les Miserables” will cease to be a reality for girls around the world. Claudio Miranda, the cinematographer for “Life of Pi,” gave a passionate speech about his craft that was thoroughly enjoyable and Daniel Day-Lewis made light jokes with a straight face, accepted with grace and continued to be an amazing person.
Among all of the oddities that happened Sunday night was the rude method in which the Oscars chose to cut off long speeches. In the past this has just been sweeping orchestral music that, while still rude, seems classy and less invasive. For an unknown reason, this year the “Jaws” theme ushered people off the stage. This was extremely rude as it came off as comical and diminished the moment of the person onstage receiving the award and a completely unfounded decision. On a lighter but equally as random note, there was a bizarre re-enactment of a scene from “The Sound of Music” (when the VonTrapps have escaped after the concert) that, though enjoyable, came out of nowhere. Overall, the Oscars were slightly more than expected. The choices weren’t all obvious and the self-aware nature was strange and almost unreal. A talking teddy bear that opened an envelope (probably magic) and the first lady announcing Best Picture added greatly to the overall odd feeling that the awards projected but in the end they were exactly what they have been for 85 years.