Sunday night’s 82nd Academy Awards ceremony shook things up with Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Director win and the six awards garnered by her film “The Hurt Locker.” The show itself made some bold decisions, too, including having two hosts with Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin , nixing Best Song nominee live performances and keeping the stage fresh with different faces for performance and visual gags.
“In my book, those guys are old pros, and every line they said was good,” entertainment journalist Jeff Wells told MTV News about the hosts. “When they introduced a couple of younger actresses ‘who have no idea who we are’ — that was good stuff. It was blunt, and it was straight, and they had it all worked out, where they kind of resent and don’t like each other and, you know, ‘F—you, Alec’ and ‘F— you, Steve,’ it’s funny. That pretend hostility always works.”
Martin and Baldwin’s onstage chemistry resonated, and gave the pair opportunities to rebound jokes and play off one another, which hasn’t been an option in years past.
“Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin were able to play off each other very well, and the fact that there were two of them allowed them to be a little more biting,” Entertainment Weekly writer Dave Karger explained. “They had a partner in crime. If it had just been Alec Baldwin or it had just been Steve Martin, they would have had a harder time getting away with some of the more skewering humor.”
Particularly in the case of potshot humor aimed at audience members, the hosts had support onstage to keep the program rolling. Lone stand-up comics can end up taking the heat if a joke prompts awkward laughter or dismissive silence.
“[Martin] needs a straight man, and I thought Alec Baldwin really rose to that occasion,” Big Hollywood columnist John Nolte said. “We just don’t have a Johnny Carson or a Bob Hope anymore. Individually, you can’t imagine [Martin or Baldwin] doing half as well.”
Neil Patrick Harris’ surprise entrance got reactions, but it also came off weak for some critics.
“The Neil Patrick Harris thing was kind of a cliché,” Wells said. “I guess that’s supposed to generically get the energy up. I don’t know that it was all that inspired.”
The performance broke the ice for the night, though, and the energy came. “At first, I was confused as to why Neil Patrick Harris would be onstage before the hosts, but the fact of the matter is that he’s an incredible song-and-dance guy,” Karger said.
The planned routines for the night stayed short and shied away from extended sketches in most cases, which kept the ceremony moving. “It seems like what people remember most are the visual gags,” Karger offered. “I don’t know that Steve and Alec had those moments. They’re verbal guys.”
Their personalities and the conversational tone kept the tone light and the transitions quick, though. “They were used enough, you never got tired of them, and they had some great moments,” Nolte pointed out. “They stayed out of the way, which I think is important for the hosts, and they kept things moving.”
As far as movement went, the interpretive-dance numbers used instead of live Best Song performances for the night served their purpose, but they may have missed their mark if the Academy intends to make such spectacles an annual tradition.
“I think the decision not to have the Best Song nominees perform was actually the right decision,” Karger asserted. “The songs would not have made for great TV if they had been performed.”
“The dance number and X-Game/gymnastic stuff was not bad,” Wells commented, going as far as to call the demonstration “pretty good.”
Axing the dance performance might have helped the show finish on schedule instead of running past midnight, which has almost become inevitable.
“The one thing that the Academy will not waver on is that all 24 awards must be presented in the telecast,” he said. “Given that it is hard to bring it in in under three and half [hours], they could have done it without that dance number.”
Wells disagreed with the emphasis placed on the fight against midnight, though. “It always goes long,” he conceded. “There’s no such thing as a good movie that’s too long, and there’s no such thing as a bad movie that’s too short.”
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Relive all the best moments from the 2010 Academy Awards with photos, interviews, blogs, post-show analysis and more, right here at MTV News.