The Post-Oscar Hangover, 2012 Edition

February 27, 2012
A thought by James Berardinelli

This year, I tried to remain upbeat about the Oscars, abandoning at least some of my natural cynicism. Many of my contentions have not changed, however. The Oscar-cast remains too long. My attention span for an awards show of this nature is about 2 1/2 hours, so the last 30-40 minutes always seem like a crawl to the finish line rather than a race. The ill-advised decision to have Natalie Portman and Colin Firth provide "addresses" to each of the nominees killed the momentum as effectively as placing the shorts near the end. If the Academy is determined to honor the shorts during the main ceremony (rather than giving them their own little gathering at an earlier date), the winners should be revealed near the beginning. When we get to the Big Four, it should be 23 minutes till lights out (5 minutes per award plus a three minute commercial break).

The fix is simple and perhaps someday the Academy will implement it: give out only the top 8-11 awards during the telecast. The rest can be handed out at an earlier time. Ultimately, ratings may decide this. The Oscars have been bleeding viewers on an annual basis since Return of the King triumphed. If ABC determines a change needs to be made, that may be the direction in which they'll go. They have already tried pandering to the "younger demographic" and it didn't work so well (although it provided Billy Crystal with some material last night).

Speaking of Crystal, I know the knock on him is that he's too tame and safe, and that he simply recycles shtick from previous shows. Those things are true but they're the reason he's the perfect host. He provides laughter through genial jokes, then steps aside. He's never bigger than the show. Like Bob Hope and Johnny Carson, he's comfortable. My sense is that Crystal probably won't host again unless the ratings spike unexpectedly (overnights are promising, though - up 4% over last year). He came back this year only after Eddie Murphy dropped out. Look for the Academy to court Murphy next year. I'm not sure a host is necessary.

You know a show is too carefully packaged when the biggest controversies are whether Jo-Lo might have shown a flash of her areola or whether Angelina Jolie's arms are too thin. Gone are the days when the unexpected happens. The biggest surprise of the evening: that the best female actor of this generation captured her third Oscar.

The choice of The Artist as Best Picture wasn't a surprise, but it remains a curiosity. Why? Don't misunderstand - I love the film. But an Oscar winner? This is as obvious a "statement award" as the Academy can make. They're expressing admiration for what the movie represents. They think it's cool to give out a statue to the Little Engine That Could. They fell for the gimmick. I'm not going to get drawn into the debate about whether The Artist deserved to win, but this will no doubt reinforce the belief of mainstream America that the Academy always chooses "artsy fartsy" movies rather than something they would like to see.

If the Academy has an opinion about 3-D, they're not tipping their hand. They awarded Cinematography to Hugo, which was in 3-D, but awarded Best Animated Film to Rango, which was not. Call it a mixed message. Or maybe not so mixed. Maybe the statement is that they're behind 3-D when used by someone like Scorsese but not in other cases. Actually, I wonder how many Academy Awards voters saw Hugo in 3-D. The DVD screeners were in 2-D, I'm told.

Reprinted below for your entertainment is the log of my "live" coverage of last night's ceremony. I have been doing these "live" diaries since 1998 (on-and-off; I don't do them every year) and find them to be a good way to speed up the evening. When you're constantly writing, the time passes more quickly. Over the years, this way of doing things has lost its uniqueness; now I'm just one of many, many voices. Thanks to those who joined me last night. Now it's time to turn the page to March and go back to lamenting the state of movies released in months not ending in "ber."

8:11 pm: Desperately hoping for a short (<3 hour) show. Something that ends by 11:30 ET would be ideal, but is also probably unrealistic.

Award predictions where I am most likely to have screwed up - Adapted screenplay (which could go to THE DESCENDANTS rather than HUGO), Documentary (PINA is a dartboard toss), and VISUAL EFFECTs (which could go to RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES rather than HUGO). The "major" I feel the least confidence about is Lead Actor. It's very close between Clooney and Dejardin. Could go either way. Clooney is well-liked in Hollywood but there may be a feeling that he's won already (albeit Supporting Actor) and will have many more chances, but this is probably Dejardin's only shot. Still, i wouldn't be shocked if Clooney took home the statue.

8:47 pm: Happy to have Crystal back. In recent years, the hosts have been trying too hard and coming up short. Crystal understands how to keep things moving. He's the consummate host. I never saw Bob Hope host the Oscars (except in clips), but I caught Johnny Carson a few times and it's the same thing. Both Carson and Crystal exude a feeling that they *belong* on the stage. They command the room and aren't the least bit intimidated.

Enjoy all the old Billy chestnuts, even though they're corny.

Cinematography: HUGO. I guess my theory of going with HUGO when THE ARTIST wasn't nominated isn't starting out too well. (0/1)

Art Direction: HUGO. You have to wonder whether HUGO is going to sweep through the minor awards and what that could mean for the major awards... (0/2)

9:02 pm: Never thought i would see a montage with "I Love the Smell of Napalm in the morning," "I'm gonna make him an offer..." and TWILIGHT.

Costume Design: The win for THE ARTIST stems HUGO's would-be sweep through the technical awards. (1/3)

Makeup: Neither HUGO nor THE ARTIST here, so someone else got a chance. HARRY POTTER was the best movie of the three but the Academy usually ignores fantasy/sci-fi movies for these categories. The win for THE IRON LADY shows that the Academy likes bad old age makeup. It's Streep's acting, not the make-up, which was tacitly admitted to in the thank-you speech. (1/4)

Morgan Freeman and I both saw KING KONG as our first theatrical feature. The difference is that Morgan's was the 1933 version and mine was the '76 remake.

9:15 pm: I have never been able to figure out the order in which the awards are given out. This seems unusually early in the proceedings for Best Foreign Language Film. A SEPARATION, by the way, was a nearly unanimous choice in the contest so very few people didn't get the two points for this one. This was one of only a few "locks" this year. Nice acceptance speech - he said something rather than vomiting "thank yous." (2/5)

Supporting Actress - the star of NEWSIES is presenting this one. No upset in the first major award of the night. Pretty much every prognosticator had Octavia Spencer winning. The standing ovation would seem to tip the scales in Viola Davis' favor in the Lead Actress category. Terrible acceptance speech, but at least it didn't go on forever. (3/6)

9:31 pm: Based on the cast, you knew Christopher Guest directed the WIZARD OF OZ focus group skit.

Editing - GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is something in the nature of a minor surprise - apparently as much for the recipients as for the predictors. (3/7)

Sound Editing - Here's one where I thought HUGO would win...and it did. Funniest acceptance speech yet... which doesn't say much for the level of non-Crystal humor in this show. (4/8)

Sound Mixing - Logically, most of the time, the winner of Sound Editing should also win this. Not always, but most of the time. Holds true this year. Finally over 50%. (5/9)

Upcoming: "A memorable performance by Cirque du Soleil" - translated: "Bathroom break."

9:38 pm: I'd rather watch the clips without the circus performers, although I'm sure it's a helluva lot more impressive in person than on TV. It's always that way with stuff like this. And was that it for the muppets?

9:48 pm: Having once stood next to Gwyneth Paltrow, she really is that tall...

Documentary Feature - My wife was yelling at me that I was an idiot for not picking UNDEFEATED (before it won). Haven't seen it, though. Probably still won't. Tired of sports documentaries. I guess the three-second delay works. (5/10)

Animated Feature - With Pixar getting rightfully snubbed this year, it opened the door for something else. And the winner is the only nominated mainstream film *not* available in 3-D, RANGO. (6/11)

10:04 pm: I have no idea if Emma Stone is that tall or not. But she's not funny.

Visual Effects: The film that *should* win never seems to win this category. Look at the STAR WARS prequels which, if nothing else, excellent in the special effects department. So no win for HARRY POTTER. The HUGO win is just another nod to the Academy's affinity for the Scorsese film. I don't see this as an indication that THE ARTIST is in any trouble, though. (7/12)

Supporting Actor: Very much looking forward to Christopher Plummer's speech. (8/13) Articulate as always - even made the thank-yous enjoyable by throwing in bits of humor.

10:21 pm: Score - I guess the "complaints" about the lack of originality of parts of the score of THE ARTIST didn't hurt the film's chances. (9/14)

Song - Seems like not that long ago that live renditions of the song nominations were a big part of the telecast. This year, we get 20-second clips and a lot of cymbal action by Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis (sp?) The muppet song wins, of course. Not too many contest entrants missed that one. (10/15)

10:33 pm: Good thing everyone's looking at Angelina Jolie's leg and not listening to her stumble over the presentation. My wife is shocked at the thinness of her arms.

Adapted Screenplay - THE DESCENDANTS. Enjoyable acceptance speech. (10/16)

Original Screenplay - Too bad Woody didn't send someone interesting to accept on his behalf. He could look to Marlon Brando for a good example. (11/17)

Only four awards left (plus the shorts) and the James Earl Jones tribute? Could be headed for an 11:30 finish...

10:45 pm: Given the theme of having tall women standing next to short(er) men, Milla should be next to Al Pacino or Tom Cruise. Good for Doug Trumbull.

Time for the shorts - these should be given out before the main awards. In general, no one cares except the nominees and their relatives. It may only take up about five minutes, but those are five minutes that could be used for something else. If the Academy wants to continue to honor shorts, it should be done in a pre-Oscars ceremony.

Home stretch now...

11:00 pm:

Director - Director is not always a pointer to Picture, but the win for Hazanavicius pretty much locks it up for THE ARTIST. No one should be surprised by this, however, since he won the DGA and that's about a 95% accurate pointer. His wife (Berenice Bejo) didn't win, but there will be plenty of joy in that household tonight anyway. (12/18)

Too bad James Earl Jones doesn't get a chance to speak - with pipes like those, he could say anything and it would be a pleasure.

11:20 pm:

Don't have anything to say about the dead people. Sometimes I am surprised by a name or two but not this year.

On to the last three awards. These will take a while. If there's another commercial break, they won't make 11:30

Lead Actor - Jean Dujardin. Sheryl tells me he didn't win the Cesar. Ironic, non? Great dis of Billy Crystal. (13/19)

11:37 pm:

This late, I rarely have anything substantive to say. I was never very good at staying awake through the entire ceremony, but having a two-year old makes it that much more difficult...

Don't care for the long-winded introductions for Lead Actor/Actress.

Lead Actress - This is a minor surprise but not a shock. It was always viewed as a close race between Davis and Streep and I guess the Academy decided it was time to give her another Oscar to keep the string of losing nominations from continuing. Too bad it had to be for such a lackluster film, though. Expect a better speech from someone of this stature. Christopher Plummer set the standard tonight. (13/20)

Picture - THE ARTIST. No need to say much. (14/21 - 67%, about average for me) By the way, the official time when the winner was announced was 11:35 pm EST.

More thoughts tomorrow in a ReelThoughts wrap, as well as the contest winner. (Don't look too early in the day, though; I'm on child care duty in the morning.)