By Drew Taylor
By and large, Sunday’s Oscar telecast was amiable, inoffensive entertainment and not, like last year, a flaming heap of twisted WTF. Seth McFarlane proved to be a toothy, totally game host, and there were enough oddball surprises both in terms of the winners (say what, two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz?) and what appeared on stage (First Lady Michelle Obama, you looked lovely).
Still, like every telecast, it felt like there were a few missed opportunities that could have been exploited for maximum entertainment value.
A Rodriguez Performance
When the creators of “Searching for Sugar Man,” the winner of the Best Documentary Feature award, said that its subject, the unfairly marginalized soul singer Rodriguez, wasn’t interested in being the center of attention, it was easy to understand. In the documentary, which is totally ace by the way, he comes off as an almost painfully shy performer, wary of any kind of spotlight (both literal or metaphoric). But here’s the thing: as McFarlane made clear in the opening monologue, this was the first “themed” Oscar awards show and the theme was “movies and music” — so why not have a performance by Rodriguez? It would be a great way of illuminating why the documentary (and the man) was so special, and give the ceremony some much needed musical diversity. Also, he’s going on tour this spring. Who loves high-operating synergy more than an awards show?
More Bond Songs/More Bonds
When Shirley Bassey came out and brought the house down with a roaring rendition of “Goldfinger,” it was a clear highlight of the entire show. Ditto when Adele belted her recent, stellar theme song contribution to “Skyfall.” The question was: why weren’t there more songs? There could have very easily been additional performances by some of Bond’s best theme song crooners (Carly Simon? Tina Turner? Maybe someone could figure out where A-Ha is?), as well as a lengthier tribute to the music from the series, especially considering the series’ 50th anniversary last year and the recent passing of Bond composer Marvin Hamlish. Also, early reports describing the ceremony suggested that the producers were working on assembling all of the Bonds on stage at one time. How hard could it really have been? George Lazenby is doing god-knows-what and Pierce Brosnan’s last big project was a based-on-a-Stephen-King-novel miniseries for basic cable. If you had given me Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Rolodex and fifteen minutes, I could have put this segment together. But if they couldn’t get all the Bonds on stage together…
Where Was Thor?
… They certainly couldn’t get all of the stars of “The Avengers” together. What makes this even more baffling (just where was Chris Hemsworth? Does being incredibly handsome seriously up that much time?) is that all of these actors are in a constant state of promoting one of these movies (“Iron Man 3” hits this summer and “Thor 2” drops this fall). Assembling the Avengers for a glittery awards show isn’t that big of a kick when you don’t assemble all of the Avengers. Other questions that arose during this halfhearted pre-“Avengers 2” reunion: Also — is Samuel L. Jackson’s clandestine bureaucrat Nick Fury really one of the Avengers? And has Robert Downey Jr.’s “charmingly smarmy” shtick finally tipped into the toxic realm of “insufferably smug?”
Travolta Correctly Pronouncing “Les Miserables”
I imagine the conversation went something like this… Producer: “John Travolta! They’ve asked you to announce something on the Oscars. It’s certainly going to be seen by a whole lot more people than ever watched ’Savages.’ It’ll be great!” Travolta: “Okay. What do I have to do?” Producer: “All you have to do is pronounce the name of the big Hollywood musical that was nominated for a whole bunch of awards.” Travolta: “Great! What’s the musical?” Producer: “Les Miserables.” Travolta: “Errrr…” Seriously. How hard is it?
No Live, Running New York Times Commentary
One of the more thrillingly strange bits of online marginalia was an ongoing live debate between tweedy New York Times film critic A.O. Scott and pugnacious Times reporter David Carr. The gravel-voiced Carr and Scott often spar in a series of ludicrously entertaining videos on the Times website, but this was a live discussion between the two that lasted for the entire ceremony. In short: it was an embarrassment of riches, but one that too many people missed because they were focusing on, you know, the actual show. A really bizarre solution would have been to have a tiny box in the bottom of the screen that would have showcased these two white guys bickering. Now that would have been cutting edge!
A Funny Sound Effect Added To Jennifer Lawrence’s Fall
When Jennifer Lawrence tripped on her way up to accept her Oscar for Best Actress (right before that shining knight Hugh Jackman tried to help her), some sharp-eyed sound person in the booth should have added a funny whoop or possibly a whoopee cushion noise. This was something that was learned from “Futurama,” wherein news footage of penguins slipping on an oil spill had “sound effects added to lessen tragedy.” Just a thought.
More Musicals In The Musical Montage (Like Some Before 2002)
The movie musicals montage was pretty thrilling, mainly because it seems that Catherine Zeta-Jones seems to be aging backwards, “Benjamin Button”-style, but it was also really confusing — were these movie musicals that had won Oscars? Because Catherine performed and so did Jennifer Hudson, but then the entire cast of “Les Miserables” was trotted out (including the bellowing Russell Crowe, who looked genuinely unhappy to be out of the house), which, at least from the Oscar-winning musical perspective, was a titanic jag of hubristic chicken counting. (This was before Anne Hathaway picked up her win for Best Supporting Actress and birthed a thousand cloyingly inspirational Facebook statuses.) Because, if there really were no “rules” to this montage, they should have been able to scrape together some performers or movies that screened before the year of our lord 2002.