February 24, 2013 the Oscars filled the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, CA and it was filled with both great and terrible moments. One of the chronic problems with the Oscars is that there is entirely too much talking. For some reason every team of presenters has had some stupid "bit" written for them that is poorly acted and not well executed. In the alternative, actors spend a great deal of time explaining categories. Perhaps it's time for the Academy Awards to have a Pre-Telecast just like the Grammys.
Montages and scenes are just too long. Given that films are nominated multiple times, it gets to be a real drag. There is far too much time waiting for applause to end instead of just communicating with the audience to hold applause until all the nominees are announced.
The promised ode to James Bond was far too short with just a quick montage of selected moments from the films leading up to Dame Shirley Bassey singing "Goldfinger." The Welsh singer sounded amazing at 75. "Nobody Does It Better" was a transition piece. It just wasn't a spectacular moment in awards show history.
Adele's vocal break of last year suited her very well. Her performance of "Skyfall" sounded even better than the recording. The was definitely a highlight with Adele's characteristic emoting as she gave kisses to all the presenters, teared up, and passed off the thanks to Paul Epworth. The song she co-wrote with Epworth winning the Oscar for best song was no surprise despite Nora Jones' spirited performance of "Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from the film "Ted."
Apparently, Oscar can't get music right unless they stage an imitation of the Tonys and the Grammys. Catherine Zeta Jones lit up the stage, dancing on a piano in her performance of "All That Jazz." Jennifer Hudson delivered a riveting performance of "And I Am Telling You." Of course, she's transformed her body since her Oscar win for "Dreamgirls" a few years ago.
The ensemble performance with the stars of "Les Miserables" only gets a passing grade. The melding of "Suddenly," "One Day More" and "I Dreamed a Dream" left the audience thrilled despite only so-so singing. The better singing came from Hugh Jackman who sounded like he could have given more voice. But the best singing came from the backing choir.
Seth MacFarlane is funny, but this isn't "Family Guy." Some of the sexual humor was just not appropriate for the many kids that are up late watching the show. MacFarlane's teasing that Spanish-speaking actors such as Javier Bardem or Salma Hayek were about to present touched a nerve. He cracked, "We have no idea what they're saying, but we don't mind because they're so attractive." Mark Wahlberg presenting with his tiny nemesis, Ted, went over the top. No doubt MacFarlane had something to do with writing that segment since he wrote "Ted."
Of course, one can't mind the problems too much when the "In Memoriam" section included so many beloved people, including Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys and songwriter Marvin Hamlisch. There was no better way to end the section than Barbra Streisand singing Hamlisch's hit song "The Way We Were," performed by Streisand in the movie of the same name. Her understated performance was lovely, very heartfelt, and classy to the core.
There were quite a few things that went right for the Oscars. "Paperman" which screened throughout theaters before animated features won for Best Animated Short. Quentin Tarantino not only won for Best Original Screenplay for "Django," but took the time to thank his actors and other writers in his category. He is turning into a gracious person after all. He's not as gracious as Ang Lee who said, "I love you," to just about everyone, but Tarantino is clearly a work in progress.
One of the big upsets of the evening was the first award in the Best Supporting Actor category. Christoph Waltz won for "Inglourious Basterds" just a few short years ago. He certainly never would have expected to win two Oscars after having spent most of his career on German-speaking stage and television productions.
Another best moment was Jennifer Lawrence tripping up the stairs on the way to receive her Best Actress Award for "Silver Linings Playbook." Her speech was down to earth and real as she wished a happy birthday to a loved one.
Music's hold on the public consciousness was deeply obvious. "Searching for Sugarman" won for Best Documentary Feature. It's odd tale of a construction worker who is actually a celebrated songwriter in another part of the world struck a chord with audiences everywhere. Thanks, of course, went to Rodriguez whose music provided the soundtrack to the film.
Michelle Obama introduced the films for the Best Picture category via satellite from The White House with honored service members in the background. And the winners were gracious and funny with the relatively unknown producer saying, "I know what you're thinking. Three of the best-looking producers in Hollywood." He smiled, standing between Ben Affleck and George Clooney as the audience laughed.
The closing of the Oscars brought a few chuckles with a number written by Seth MacFarlane, performed with Broadway star Kristen Chenoweth dedicated to the "losers" and those who weren't even nominated who now had to put on a smile anyway. The surprise part was that MacFarlane can sing quite well, but then he does many voices for "Family Guy." The awards ceremony certainly did pick up speed and was tighter after fumbling around for a few hours first.