Yeah, it really was that bad.

Yeah, it really was that bad.

Posted by Sean Stangland on Mon, 02/28/2011 - 11:29

No less an authority on film, comedy, life and love than Roger Ebert called last night's Academy Awards telecast the worst he had ever seen. Who am I to argue?

The reasons for last night's failure were many and varied. To wit:

  • Anne Hathaway and James Franco were a terrible match. She was bright and enthusiastic, he was clearly stoned out of his mind. The pretaped segment that began the show offered glimmers of hope, but those hopes were dashed the moment they hit the stage together. No one can fault Hathaway, who dialed her energy over the top once she realized her co-host was a dead fish. Her appearances on "SNL" prove Hathway has some comedic chops, but it's hard to score with the audience when your teammate has decided to stay on the bench.
  • Presenter Kirk Douglas and best supporting actress winner Melissa Leo ("The Fighter") drove the nails into Oscar's coffin in an embarrassing, painfully unfunny second segment that will become the stuff of YouTube legend. Many claimed to find Douglas' pervy crypt-keeper act to be charming, but I don't buy it -- do I want to say bad things about a 94-year-old stroke victim (and a Hollywood legend to boot)? No. But somebody has to. Douglas had no business being out there, and his delayed reading of the winner's name was uncomfortable television of the highest order. Leave it to Leo -- who I must conclude is a big phony in light of her self-financed Oscar campaign -- to make matters worse by attempting to play along and, subsequently, dropping the F-bomb on the air. Simply awful television.
  • The awards themselves were, of course, utterly predictable. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin ("The Social Network") could have started walking toward the stage the moment his category was announced.
  • The one big surprise was infuriating. Tom Hooper is a journeyman TV director whose "John Adams" mini-series was, at times, simply ugly to look at, a drab mess of dutch angles and handheld camerawork. "The King's Speech" is as straight-forward as it gets, and required Hooper to let three of the finest actors alive deliver David Seidler's perfectly crafted screenplay. And so he did, and the Academy gave him an Oscar for it. David Fincher turned a talky comedy about Facebook into a dark, foreboding thriller; Darren Aronofsky turned "Swan Lake" into a twisted, psychosexual horror film; Tom Hooper pointed his camera at Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. The mind boggles.
  • Perhaps inspired by the E! network's four hours of pregame for a pregame fashion telecast, the Oscars show seemed to contain more introductions of introductions than awards.
  • Just when we thought the show couldn't get any worse, we were treated to the abomination of Celine Dion singing "Smile" over a montage of smiling dead people. One can only conclude that the show's producers hate the audience.

Those of us who made it to the end of last night's show owe our thanks to the presenters and winners who honestly tried to save it. David Seidler, 73, was honored for his "King's Speech" script, and he also wrote the funniest jokes of the night. ("I believe I am the oldest person to win this particular award, and I hope that record is broken early and often.") Best-picture presenter Steven Spielberg pointed out that the nine losing films would join those as hallowed as "Citizen Kane" and "Raging Bull" in defeat -- and the stirring montage of the ten nominated films that followed was the best part of the entire show.

But the defining moment of the show came about halfway through when, in what turned out to be a horrible miscalculation, Hathaway introduced Billy Crystal, instantly reminding us of how much better these long, masturbatory and ultimately pointless awards shows used to be. Quoth Crystal: "Some things never change. The producers have asked me to tell you we are running a little long, so here are the nominees for Best Picture."

Don't tease us, Billy.

At least we were spared from this last night.

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