After first hosting the Academy Awards telecast seven years ago, Ellen DeGeneres returned to preside over the 86th annual ceremony Sunday night and proved to be the only bright spot in an otherwise dud of an evening. Her low key straight faced silliness opened the evening with a quip about the recent weather nightmare in Los Angeles: it rained. She then went on to good-naturedly poke fun at the stars, the event and herself before introducing the first presenter. Ellen used the entire theatre, often appearing out in the aisle and amongst the seats with Hollywood's finest. At one point, she had pizza delivered and stars such as Meryl Streep, Harrison Ford and Martin Scorsese (whose wife disapprovingly looked on) took an offered slice. Ellen's selfie goodheartedly taken with Streep, Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper and others even crashed Twitter. It was all simple, harmless fun that also kept the hopeful nominees relaxed.
Perhaps they all became too much so for the rest of the affair fell flat. None of the presenters had any energy or interest about them and came across more funereal than celebratory. The musical performances were mostly slow tempo numbers with the only real standout being Pink's smooth and respectful rendition of " Over the Rainbow" accompanied by clips from "The Wizard of Oz" to commemorate its 75th anniversary. Oddly, no big production number was offered save a few dancers during Pharrell Williams' performance of "Happy."
Worst of all was the disastrous stage decoration and the annoyingly shaky camera work. An army of strange white Oscar statuettes that looked like inflated condoms adorned the upstage area. Downstage featured white lined decorative shapes that brought to mind chalk outlines at a murder scene atop the shiny black stage floor. And in an apparent attempt to be artful, the camera haphazardly zipped around the presenters often cutting them out of frame. Here's a thought for next year: bring back Ellen, find some umph and for Pete's sake hold the camera steady.