The Oscars are Hollywood's annual pat on the back to itself, proclaiming to the world how wonderful it is. Despite all the phoniness associated with its glitz and glamour, it is far and away the most important of all the televised awards shows and remains an enthralling event we all are addicted to watching.
This year's Oscars, to be honest, was not the worst one on record--but for meanness and vapidity it certainly deserves special recognition in its own right. Of course we expect the Red Carpet preliminaries to be a superficial affair and this year's certainly did not disappoint. The pre-award interviewers were particularly ill-prepared, however, and could not even rise to the usual level of mediocrity that usually accompanies asking stupid questions of the stars.
There were many good films and great actors, directors and technicians contending for awards this year and it is not this reviewers purpose to second guess the Academy's choices. Even Solomon could not have chosen between them as fairly. So, kudos to the members of the Academy for making hard choices in many categories.
However, where the Academy Awards show rises or falls is in its choice of Master of Ceremonies. It is the celebrity host's ability to energize the proceedings while also moving it along is key to Oscar night's success or failure. It is a difficult juggling act and if not done right the results can be disastrous. For example, previous MC Seth Green's stint as host was pretty godawful, his attempts to inject off color humor not only falling flat but came off as insulting and at times borderline obscene. In a similar vein (jugular?), Ricky Gervais has offered to host the Oscars in 2015 drunk and without doing any rehearsals. Perhaps the powers that be at the Academy thought that Ellen Degeneres--whom everyone allegedly loves and who certainly has extensive experience as a talk show host--would bring a kinder, gentler touch as MC. If that was the hope, then they were sorely disappointed. In this regard, Ellen Degeneres' turn as host of the Oscars this year can be counted as an epic fail.
One would assume that such an experienced talk show host as Ellen should have the chops to carry off a major event such as this, all the more so as she has hosted the Oscars before. This year's show opening did not have the usual big production number; rather Ellen did a rambling introductory monologue, as unfunny as it was pointless. That would have been forgivable had she not then gone on to pepper the whole show with equally unfunny "filler" material; on a regular talk show where she has to fill up empty airtime, that would have been OK; but the Oscars usually runs over schedule and her job as host was NOT to waste time. The "takeout pizza" schtick was a particularly pointless waste of time and above all NOT FUNNY. Meanwhile, any number of award winners--who for some this was their once in a lifetime recognition--were obviously given the bum's rush off the stage to make up for the time wasted by "loveable" Ellen. Ellen's hogging of airtime not only came off as a tremendous ego show, it also meant that not only winners but preplanned segments had to be deep-sixed as well.
One such victim of Ellen's egregious waste of time was a heart-warming segment featuring several celebrities such as Andrew Garfield (Spiderman II), Jim Carrey, Sally Field and "batkid" Mike Scott. The entire city of San Francisco had helped this young boy fulfill his "Make a Wish" fantasy in 2013 and he was to be featured in a short montage on heroes, with clips drawn from documentaries, features and animated films. Great idea, huh? Yup--but you didn't see it because it too was a victim of Ellen's awful Oscar hosting. What the entire city of San Francisco devoted a whole day doing, Ellen couldn't spare five minutes of her pointless mugging on air to allow.
Of course, all this pales compared to the snide comments that Ellen threw out during her long periods of wasting time. the worst had to be the nasty swipe at Liza Minelli, which this reviewer won't repeat. Ms. Minelli, like her mother Judy Garland, is a great performer whose personal life has at times been tempestuous, and to be honest, she did not look her best for the show. But that was all the more reason to be a bit kinder to her than is the norm in the shark tank that is Hollywood. But no: "nice" Ellen had to do an uncalled for dig at that classic entertainer.
Tom Bergeron, host of Dancing With the Stars, apparently also noted the less than stellar performance by Ellen, tweeting that, "is Ellen missing cues because she's watching something better backstage?"
One would hope that Ellen's nastiness was simply a by product of Ellen's thoughtless ad libs gone wrong--but in a show as important as the Oscars, an experienced talk show host should not be winging it to start with--much less wasting precious show time doing a bad imitation of Don Rickles. "Loveable" Ellen? Sorry, she never showed up for the Oscars--but her evil twin did.