There’s a certain magic about Academy Awards night in Hollywood. All the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is on display, and actors and actresses turn out in their best tuxedos and glittering gowns. The red carpet is rolled out, and everyone waits in hushed excitement to see who will win the night's coveted gold statuettes.
However, in recent years, some of that magic seems to have faded from Hollywood’s grandest tradition. Viewership has been declining, as more and more television programs compete for audience members’ attention, and some have criticized the awards show for being out of touch with the average moviegoer’s tastes. Right or wrong, the biggest movie blockbusters of the year typically don’t receive many nominations, and viewers may not feel as emotionally connected to, or as invested in, the films that are nominated.
The Academy has tried various methods to boost public interest in the show, experimenting with different hosts and formats. This year, they generated quite a bit of discussion (and perhaps a bit of controversy) when they hired Seth MacFarlane — the creator of "Family Guy" and "Ted" — to host the show. McFarlane is known for his edgy and often raunchy sense of humor — not necessarily the tone you’d expect the Academy Awards ceremony to have. Due to the fact he was given quite a bit of creative leeway, I wasn’t sure what to expect when he took the stage Sunday night at the ceremony.
To be honest, I still haven’t quite decided how I feel about McFarlane as a host. Many of his jokes were genuinely funny — I loved the sock puppet re-enactment of "Flight" and enjoyed the joke about Ben Affleck’s now infamous snub for "best director": "The film is so top secret that the film’s director is unknown to the Academy." He certainly brought some unexpected touches: from an appearance by William Shatner as Captain Kirk to a sketch involving McFarlane dressed as a flying nun and skipping out on the Oscars with Sally Field. However, I think some of his jokes did cross the line and were perhaps a little too crude or offensive for this particular venue.
Still, I think that in basic terms of accomplishing the job he was hired to do, McFarlane was a success. The producers of the Academy Awards wanted McFarlane to generate buzz and increase viewership, and he appears to have done just that. Ratings were up this year, especially in the coveted 18-to-49 age category. McFarlane has proven to be a polarizing host — some people loved how he handled the ceremony, others hated it — but he certainly got people talking.
As for the ceremony itself, my favorite musical numbers were the rendition of "One Day More" by the cast of "Les Misérables" and Adele’s spot-on performance of "Skyfall." There seemed to be a bit of a sound problem, and I couldn’t always hear Adele’s voice very well, but it was a powerful and thrilling rendition. Adele went on to win a much-deserved "best original song" Oscar for her James Bond theme. I also was glad the Academy included a Bond 50th anniversary tribute in the ceremony but wished they would have done more with that segment. I would have loved to see all the actors who have played James Bond throughout the years make an appearance during the ceremony, or at least maybe Sean Connery and Daniel Craig, as the first Bond and the current Bond.
This year, I thought the Academy had a nice mix of nominees for "best picture," including several that have been successes with both critics and audiences. If the offbeat romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook" wasn't quite your cup of tea, maybe the true-life spy thriller "Argo" or the historical drama "Lincoln" was your favorite movie of the year.
As always, there were a few surprises and snubs: Daniel Day-Lewis ("Lincoln") and Anne Hathaway ("Les Misérables") won Oscars, as expected, but Steven Spielberg ("Lincoln") lost the "best director" Oscar to Ang Lee ("Life of Pi"), and "Wreck-It Ralph" lost the "best animated feature" to Pixar’s "Brave." I’m glad Ben Affleck’s "Argo" won "best picture"; I thought this was a nice gesture after his snub for "best director." I also thought it was nice that Affleck acknowledged Steven Spielberg in his speech (Spielberg’s "Lincoln" was another front-runner for "best picture").
Probably the award I was most excited about was Jennifer Lawrence’s win for "best actress." Lawrence may be only 22, but she’s already shown a lot of promise. She brings an intense dedication to every role she plays, and she seems like a very down-to-earth, authentic person. I doubt this is the last time we’ll be seeing her up on the Academy Awards stage.
So overall, was this year’s Academy Awards a hit or miss? The three and a half hour ceremony seemed a bit too long, but I did like the mix of elements in the show — the humor, the tributes, and the song and dance numbers, especially Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum’s dance at the beginning of the show. Even if these elements didn’t always transition smoothly, I think this combination is a good formula for the show to follow. It’s nice to have a modern flavor while also honoring Hollywood traditions.
What did you think of the Oscars this year? What was your favorite part, and what was your least favorite part? What would you like to see next year?