The 85th version of the Academy Awards – that annual self-congratulatory show business industry shindig where industry executives and mucky-mucks show up in their limos to pat themselves on the back in front of a live television viewing audience – is over for another year and, as usual, nobody in Hollywood is ever completely happy about anything. But there were some aspects of the 2013 Oscars to be happy about as well as a couple for the eternally grumpy to be unhappy about.
Seth MacFarlane was this year’s host and when he was announced as the host several months ago, there was a palpable fear pervading Hollywood that he would go the Ricky Gervais route and begin skewering celebrities – who are, let’s face it, easy pickins’ with their notoriously thin skins and convoluted sense of importance – at the fancy shishkebab in Los Angeles. After all, MacFarlane does that on a regular basis in his popular animated shows. But MacFarlane and the show’s producers made a prescient pre-emptive self-effacement strike by opening with William Shatner in his immortal Captain Kirk persona warning MacFarlane from the 23rd century that he was to avoid several hosting mistakes or risk being the worst host ever [although, in the end, the joke was “Entertainment Weekly” would think that anyway]. Score one in the good idea column for the Starship Enterprise and its captain.
The second point in the good column came shortly after Kirk’s JumboTron introduction, when MacFarlane embarked on the first of many songs on the evening and one which Kirk warned him not to do – “We Saw Your Boobs” – a song compilation of the many actresses who have submitted to partial frontal nudity including some – Kate Winslet – who seem to have an affinity for it.
The third point in the good column was another of Kirk’s warnings to MacFarlane – a sock puppet re-enactment of Denzel Washington’s “Flight” film where Washington plays a drunken/drugged up pilot who just happens to land a passenger plane under dire circumstances. The only thing missing was a sock puppet version of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar showing up in the cockpit [in what would have been a hilarious nod to “Airplane!”].
Captain Kirk warned MacFarlane about making fun of Sally Field – nominated for best actress for her role in “Lincoln” – and MacFarlane was advised not to show himself dressed up as the Flying Nun [one of Field’s iconic roles from her early TV days], hitting on Field until the two of them lip-locked and were screeching off in a Trans-Am. This was self-skewering at its best – and bonus kudos to Field for playing along.
The first bad point for the Oscar telecast came with the promised and much-ballyhooed tribute planned for the 50th year anniversary of the wildly popular James Bond superspy film franchise – and what a gigantic, glaring bad point it was. At least five of the 007 films are in the all-time charts as the most financially successful films of all-time, including this year’s “Skyfall” and yet, because at least a couple of the past Bond actors [Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan] cannot stand the Broccoli family [the family behind the Bond productions], there were no – ZERO – of the seven actors who have portrayed James Bond paraded out on stage. How can you have a tribute to James Bond and not produce a single 007 on stage? Not only were there no Bonds – there were no assortment of Bond girls throughout the years, no assortment of villains [Jaws, anyone?], no collection of M’s, Q’s or even a Moneypenny and, perhaps worst of all, not even an appearance from the Aston Martin DB5. Not even Woody Allen as Jimmy Bond could have dreamt up a worse “tribute” for 007.
However, the one element the show’s producers did get right about the tribute was one of the show’s best moments – 76-year-old Shirley Bassey belting out the theme song from “Goldfinger” as though she were a 27-year-old and showing all the lip-synching Beyonce’s out there how it’s done.
Speaking of Jaws, the decision to make the acceptance speech time limit warning music the opening notes of the theme from “Jaws” was perhaps the best show production decisions of all-time. Everybody who hears those first few notes – da-dun, da-dun – knows what that means and here’s to hoping that musical element remains with the show for future telecasts.
Jennifer Lawrence. There doesn’t need to be anything else said, really, but Lawrence is the epitome of what you want a Hollywood star to be – a real person – who just happens to be extraordinarily talented. Lawrence almost took a header when she tripped on her puffy marshmallow dress heading up the stairs to accept her award as best actress and, of course, joked about it afterward – as well as other things – she apologized for fumbling on her words at the post-award press conference because she admitted she had taken a shot of liquor beforehand. Real.
Speaking of Lawrence, the only other bad point for the telecast is the continual skunk eye the Academy hurls toward any film which has the audacity to be either a comedy or a blockbuster – as Robert Downey, Jr. pointed out while giving away an award along with part of the cast from “The Avengers” – the most financially successful film of 2012. In fact the top three money films of the year – “The Avengers”, “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Hunger Games” – received a grand total of one nomination among them despite bringing in billions of American dollars for the studios and film industry. Even Lawrence’s clout was unable to bring her any love for “The Hunger Games”.
Therefore, the closing song – “Here’s To The Losers” – sung by MacFarlane and Kristin Chenoweth turns out to be both ironic, funny and the eighth best thing about the 2013 Oscars.