|Posted by Kenneth Shinozuka on March 10, 2013 at 8:40 PM|
Here is a review of the 85th Annual Academy Awards:
A tribute to James Bond! A tie in a category! Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Charlize Theron dancing in a Frank Sinatra musical number? William Shatner as Captain Kirk in one of the most bizarre opening Oscar sequences ever?
These were just a few of the surprises in the 85th Annual Academy Awards, hosted by Seth MacFarlane last Sunday to become one of the most unpredictable Oscar ceremonies in recent memory. This year’s Oscar ceremony was unique in its large number of undeserved victories. A close race for Best Original Screenplay yielded a rather unjust win for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, which seemed to be absent of the rich dialogue that overflowed in Tarantino’s earlier works. The bland and sentimental characterizations of Pixar’s “Brave” were favored over the vivid emotional quality of “Wreck-It Ralph,” for Best Animated Feature. In Best Makeup and Hairstyling, the artful transformation of human actors into dwarves in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was overlooked by the Academy.
However, some awards were received by the right hands. Life of Pi emerged with the most awards of the night, winning three for its stunning technical achievements and one for director Ang Lee, who artfully crafted a film that many had considered impossible to make into a visually stunning, poignant masterpiece. Although it did not even receive a Best Director nomination, Argo righteously received the top honor of Best Picture for its gripping and witty celebration of Hollywood as a political hero. Argo’s victory culminated one of the wildest Best Picture races ever, with a frontrunner that had vacillated from Silver Linings Playbook (which earned a Best Actress Award for Jennifer Lawrence’s exceptional performance of a bipolar woman) to Lincoln (which predictably won a Best Actor Award for Daniel Day-Lewis’ uncanny depiction of the sixteenth president).
First Lady Michelle Obama appeared by remote video communication to present Argo with its Best Picture statuette. Her overextended speech, however, spoke too much about the vitality of childhood education and turned a moment that should celebrate cinematic achievement into a political gesture.
Yet perhaps the greatest misfortune of the evening’s ceremonies was the hosting of Seth MacFarlane, whose jokes, while often hilarious, were underlined by tones of blatant sexism and racism. Although some of these jokes may be appropriate in the context of his animated comedy television shows, they were certainly unbecoming for so prestigious an occasion as the Academy Awards. His opening monologue included a nearly misogynistic musical number titled “We Saw Your Boobs” that seemed to reduce female actresses to their sexual organs. In addition, the monologue featured a very awkwardly staged encounter with William Shatner as Captain Kirk, who came from the future to save the ceremony from becoming a fiasco. Shatner himself appeared just as baffled as audiences. MacFarlane’s jokes managed to affront just about every person in the Hollywood industry, implying that Jews dominated the media and at one point encouraging bulimia as an act of becoming skinnier. Furthermore, they detracted from the atmosphere of old Hollywood glamour that the producers of this year’s Academy Awards attempted to create with vintage stage decorations and classic film scores that played during the ceremony.
The night was also a rather uninspired celebration of the 007 franchise, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary last year with its 23rd installment, Skyfall. None of the Bond actors themselves actually appeared at the ceremony, and Adele performed Skyfall’s titular theme song with a passiveness that contrasted the passion of Shirley Basset, who in the ceremony sang the theme of a classic Bond film, Goldfinger. However, Adele’s songwriting efforts were still rewarded with the Best Original Song award, a trophy that Skyfall earned alongside its other Oscar for Best Sound Editing, which on the same night was also awarded to Zero Dark Thirty in only the sixth tie in Oscar history.
Perhaps one of the few redeeming qualities of the ceremony was its celebration of Broadway musicals that were adapted into films. Jennifer Hudson’s intense rendition of a song from the musical hit Dreamgirls was preceded by a sultry performance of Catherine Zeta-Jones, who reprised her role in Chicago. While blemished by Russell Crowe’s poor singing, an outstanding ensemble performance of “One Day More” from this year’s Les Misérables reminded audiences of the enduring emotional impact of musicals.
But over the years, the Academy Awards have been plagued by poor hosts who strove far too much to appeal to younger audiences and lost sight of the glamorous celebration of films that the Oscars should be. The profound emotional and cultural achievement that each of the nominated films and performances has made – the underappreciated magic of evoking laughter, tears, and passion in their audiences – has been buried under insulting jokes and political talking points. The golden statuette has very unfortunately lost its luster.