Oscars: Review of the telecast

Feb. 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

Actor Mark Ruffalo, right, and wife Sunrise Coigney arrive before the 83rd Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. —AP Photo/Matt Sayles

BY DAVID WIEGAND / San Francisco Chronicle

Imagine a world with the Oscar telecast devoid of excess and ego, running like a Swiss watch, stripped of time-wasting over-indulgence and peopled with sober, respectful presenters who efficiently transfer statuettes to equally sober and respectful winners who, in turn, then get the hell off the stage with nary a nod to consorts, concubines, deceased parents or God.

Boring.

Give me a bloated Oscars show anytime, just like the one we got this year as the 83rd annual Academy Awards were handed out Sunday night at the Kodak Theater.

Was it slow, awkward and completely lacking in suspense since we knew who’d take all the major awards a month ago? Of course. What else would you expect?

The only unanswered question when the show began was how James Franco and Anne Hathaway would do as co-hosts. The answer: They looked lovely, but all it took to remind us of what a real host could do with this show were the few minutes Billy Crystal was onstage. As for any hope of bringing in a younger demographic, it just isn’t going to work as long as the format for the Oscars show is chiseled as deeply in stone as it appears to be. You could bring in Justin Bieber and it would still smell of mothballs.

Ah, but how we swoon to the scent of napthalane in the evening in February.

Here are some of the highlights, lowlights and WTF-lights from this year’s Oscars show:

>> Over-30 rocks: Alec Baldwin’s cameo in the opening film spoof/montage was as good as an evening watching Kabletown.

>> Highlight of the montage: Hathaway invading “The Black Swan” looking like someone in a chicken outfit in front of a fast-food restaurant, and then launching into a squawking performance of “Dance of the Brown Duck,” with Franco in a white unitard behind her.

>> He IS Spartacus still: Kirk Douglas was pure class. His peech may have been thickened by a stroke, but his timing was spot-on, especially when he called out Hugh Jackman for laughing. “I don’t know why everyone in Australia thinks they’re funny. Colin Firth isn’t laughing”..beat… “He’s British.”

>> Deep background: By the time Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis showed up to present the best animated short and feature awards, the evening’s gimmick of changing the backdrop to reference a movie from the past had already grown from confusing to shrug-worthy.

>> The queen’s speech: Best foreign film co-presenter Helen Mirren speaking French and Russell brand mis-translating was memorably funny.

>> One toke over the line: Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson found humor in repeating the word “sound” when they were presenting the best sound Oscar. They were the only ones.

>> What wasn’t funny: Hathaway’s head-scratching specialty song making fun of Hugh Jackman for not singing a duet with her.

>> How the bit ended and became funny: James Franco lumbering out in Marilyn Monroe drag.

>> True confessions: No Snakes on a dame: Helena Bonham Carter looked less scary as the Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland” than she did in her Medusa’s bad-hair-day look in the audience.

>> Exit through the rewrite department: Justin Timberlake’s attempt at being funny feel flat when he deadpanned, “I am Banksy.”

>> Pixar shows how it’s done. Again: Lee Unkrich’s acceptance speech for “Toy Story 3” should be included in a textbook on how to give an efficient, heartfelt and sincere acceptance speech.

>> Cut!: The play-on music for Cate Blanchett kept playing on after she’d started talking, as if someone was trying to tell her to wrap it up.

>> Classy visual effect: A filmed image of Bob Hope from a long-ago Oscar broadcast, introducing Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law to present the visual effects awards.

>> Still funny, even posthumously: The Bob Hope clip included old ski-nose’s favorite welcoming line to the Oscars, “or, as it’s known at my house, Passover.”

>> Thanks, mom, Part 1: Brillo-headed best short feature director/star Luke Matheny gushed an infectiously giddy acceptance speech that included a big thanks to his mom for taking care of craft service on the shoot.

>> Maid of consonant sorrow: Singing “If I Rise,” from “127 Hours,” Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine was unintelligible. Was she actually singing a lyric or just ululating for the heck of it?

>> You do the math: Loved Randy Newman’s pique at being told to wrap it up, especially when he reasoned he should get more time since the Academy could only find four songs to nominate but there were five nominees in cinematography.

>> Oscar’s classiest moment: The clip of the late Lena Horne singing a bit of “Stormy Weather.”

>> Thank you mom, Part 2: Best director Tom Hooper recounted how his mother discovered an unproduced play called “The King’s Speech” and told him it should be his next film.

>> Really?: Jeff Bridges was surprised that Natalie Portman won best actress. Boy, this guy really IS a great actor.

>> Really really?: Steven Spielberg was surprised that “The King’s Speech” won best picture. He must be a great actor, too.

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