Be happy. Lord knows I am and I sure didn’t expect to be.
You’ve got to love an Oscarthon that could, at long last, give an Oscar to that truly extraordinary film director Ang Lee – and for one of his most beautiful films, “Life of Pi,” one of the three great films of 2012.
Nor was there anything wrong with Ben Affleck telling us he doesn’t hold a grudge. And you’ve got to love the first lady giving the Best Picture Award too.
So let’s by all means have no fear of talking winners and losers here.
The most important winner of the night was The Crowd Pleaser. No more esoterica for some of the bigger Oscars at the 85th Annual Academy Awards. They could somehow forget the film’s director, somewhat insanely, but that didn’t stop them from rewarding a crowd pleaser as star spangled as “Argo” for Best Picture. And yes, when it came time to give an Oscar to Best Documtenary, they went for one of the major crowd pleasers of the year “Searching for Sugarman.” And Jennifer Lawrence is not exactly unpopular. (Who expected her to get a standing O for tripping over her dress?)
For all that crowd pleasing, you’d think, then, they could make a crowd pleaser of a show. No such luck. The Grammys were better than the Oscars.
Who was the biggest loser of the evening? Despite what seemed a last-minute surge of speculation, the venerable Robert De Niro lost an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in his first nomination in 25 years.
But hey, host Seth MacFarlane initially won the hearts of some who thought a dyed-in-the-wool snarkster was just the ticket for the 85th annual Academy Awards. After that, he flirted with being terrible. Even Daniel Day-Lewis’ line about swapping parts with Meryl Streep was funnier. Even Bob Hope, in the Paleozoic era, had better lines than “it’s Sunday. Everybody’s dressed up. It’s like church only with more people praying.”
The show was every bit as dreary as many of us feared it would be. Even the James Bond 50th anniversary tribute was noisy and witless until Shirley Bassey showed up to sing “Goldfinger” and, as the comics like to put it, “killed.”
MacFarlane’s bit with William Shatner began the show smashingly and then went on too long, but it was as juvenile as everyone hoped the creator of “Ted” would be when he was picked to host the show. (Exhibit A: A sung tribute to famous actresses called “We Saw Your Boobs.”)
Even edgier were some MacFarlane wisecracks about Jodie Foster, Rhianna and Chris Brown. For all the edge, it was a losing cause.
The first serious winners were:
1. Harvey Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino. Weinstein had two chances out of five for one of his lavishly hyped minions to win for Best Supporting Actor, Harvey – formerly one half of Buffalo rock promoters Harvey and Corky – always had Christoph Waltz in Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” (In interviews, Tarantino cheerfully calls Weinstein “my pop.”)
When Tarantino himself won for Best Original Screenplay, he had a moment of uncommon insight and grace when he declared it “a writer’s year” this year. Considering that he’d just won what was the most competitive category of the night, it was a rare and unexpected moment from him.
An even bigger winner on Sunday was:
2.Patriotism. It made a big comeback at the Oscars in 2013. Two of the Best Picture nominees – the winner “Argo” and the tragically torpedoed “Zero Dark Thirty” – were about American triumphs in the terror-battered New World Order: the liberation of Iranian hostages from the Canadian Embassy in “Argo,” the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden and his destruction in “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Another film, nomination leader “Lincoln”, is about the man usually considered the greatest ever to occupy the American presidency (he was certainly, among other thing, the most gifted writer ever to do so.)
With all that going on, it really didn’t matter that MacFarlane couldn’t quite come up with the exact proportion of pepper to make up truly appetizing recipe for Oscar night. In truth, he couldn’t even come up with a good Harvey joke. Nor was his “edgy” Lincoln joke worth the effort (“the only actor who really got into his head was John Wilkes Booth.”)
3. Guilt. Another big winner. There’s a good reason why the whole show was supposedly a tribute to Music in Movies: because the only major award they were going to give the year’s big musical was the Best Supporting Actress to Anne Hathaway that everyone’s expected for months. It helps to realize that in the life of every actor there’s usually a musical performer in there somewhere. And, quite possibly, a desire to do it again.
Along with Bassey’s “Goldfinger,” though, the high point was Barbra Streisand singing “The Way We Were” in a tribute to Marvin Hamlisch.
4. Christopher Plummer. The class act of the evening, by far. Anne Hathaway, who won the Best Supporting Actress Award he introduced, tried to be a class act and, sadly, failed. (Good for her, though, nevertheless. She’s almost never bad and sometimes, as in “Rachel Getting Married,” she’s stupendous.)