Monday, February 25, 2013

Red Carpet Manners – "Seth McFarlane Spins His Brand of Sarcasm at the 85th Academy Awards"

I’ll begin by saying that I’m not particularly a fan of Family Guy and I never saw the movie Ted so I wasn’t expecting much from this year’s Oscar host, Seth McFarlane, other than I was imagining the worst, something along the lines of Ricky Gervais, but even more crude.  I would’ve never guessed that the man behind such irreverent and profane humor would actually appear rather dapper dressed to the nines in an elegant black tux and donning a beautiful smile and great posture.  I had absolutely no idea he was a wildly talented song and dance man who had performed at both Carnegie Hall and London’s Royal Albert Hall and been nominated for two Grammy’s!  So when he launched into his first song, “We Saw Your Boobs,” however ridiculously inappropriate the subject matter, I was impressed with his vocal and production chops. I was further mesmerized by his commandeering presence on the stage clapping vigorously and jumping right in with his hosting duties after each musical cue. His jokes, although sometimes dipping into the dangerous – the Chris Brown and Rihanna mention was a specifically low jab – garnered a steady stream of laughs from the audience.

That being said, there is no way around the fact that the show ran long clocking in at three and a half hours exactly.  And we’re not just being literal here.  The monologue, which contained some witty one liners, started to become monotonous. The William Shatner “Star Trek” and Sally Field “Flying Nun” references I could have done without.  However, the skit with sock puppets poking fun at the movie "Flight" was absolute genius!  The banter among the presenters seemed to drone on a bit long. Note to the Avengers cast, Paul Rudd & Melissa McCarthy: Were you supposed to improvise or was it scripted? And, the song and dance numbers began to border on wearisome. Did we really need to see dancing from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe and was the final number with Kristin Chenoweth to celebrate the losers truly necessary?  Apologies in advance to the producers, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan.  I don’t mean to offend. You are undoubtedly two talented guys and I do love Smash, but the show clearly could’ve been edited down.  I was worried about the poor starving female nominees, presenters and winners in their fabulous dresses who were already withering away when they arrived!  They must have been salivating at the thought of Wolfgang Puck’s creations and what they would soon be devouring at the Governor’s Ball.

Now on to the awarding of the Oscars themselves.  It was a spectacular year for movies with a total of nine films up for Best Picture alone.  What was noticeably different was that there was not one clean sweep for any one picture, but that the wealth was spread amongst the top contenders.  While Ben Affleck was snubbed for Best Director, his biopic, “Argo,” won for Best Picture as well as Best Adapted Screenplay.  The Best Director nod went to the extraordinarily imaginative Ang Lee for “Life of Pi.”  Best Actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, gave “Lincoln” a nice affirmation as did Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence, for “Silver Linings Playbook.”  The Best Supporting Actor and Actress roles went to frontrunners, Christoph Waltz and Anne Hathaway for their steady portrayals in “Django Unchained” and Les Misérables.”  Our recap wouldn’t be complete, however, without our red carpet manners commentary encapsulating the most noticeable moments of the night. Here they are.

A Colorless Red Carpet. Each awards show the legions of hired stylists highlight a central color on the red carpet and this year’s Oscars was no different.  We spotted an almost wedding party theme with an inordinate amount of light pinks and blush dresses on everyone from Jennifer Lawrence and Charlize Theron to Anne Hathaway and a pregnant Georgina Chapman. Shades of grey ranging from barely there to gunmetal in interesting fabrics were worn by celebs including a striking Naomi Watts, a wispy Amy Adams, a leggy Stacy Keibler and even the First Lady, Michelle Obama, were in abundance! There was a small spectrum of other colors donned by celebs including Jennifer Garner in burgundy, Jennifer Aniston in red, Helen Hunt in navy and Jane Fonda in yellow. Trains were a plenty. Makeup for the most part sparse with pale lips.

An Ominous Interrupter.  Please don’t even get me started on whose decision it was to play the theme music from Jaws every time an acceptance speech ran long. That may have been the worst choice in history!  And, why were the earlier acceptance speeches cut off by the music whereas the night’s biggest winners had license to thank virtually every one they’ve ever known without threat? Each time I heard the famous strings taunt, I imagined a giant shark ripping through the stage.  I was thinking to myself, “Are they kidding us with this?”

An Excruciating Acceptance.  The gravity of the menacing music was felt most during the acceptance speech for Best Visual Effects for the film, Life of Pi.  The Oscar winners said their thanks and then just as they began to make mention that the irony was not lost – referring to the recent press about visual effects house, Rhythm and Hues, having to file Chapter 11 - they were cut off abruptly by the band.  Whether they had reached their allotted time limit or the producers did not want the show to be used as a political platform is debatable.

A Flawless Performance. The theme for the 85th Oscars was a celebration of music in film.  There was no doubt that the show’s producers would throw in a number from their hit film Chicago with the reliable Catherine Zeta-Jones (by the way – was she lip-syncing?), and certainly Oscar nominated Les Mis had to have a moment on stage, but it was the performance by the gorgeously svelte, Jennifer Hudson, that was the evening’s show stopper.  First of all, it is hands down one of best songs ever written and secondly, there is no comparison to the strength in her voice and raw emotion. Her pain is palpable.  I will always love Barbra and saw her in concert at the Hollywood Bowl last Fall, but she just wasn’t feeling it last night. Nora Jones is wonderful to listen to during a spa treatment, but not to watch on a nationally televised show.  Adele’s voice is also heavenly, but “Skyfall” is not one of our favorites. We were delighted; however, to hear (and see) Dame Shirley Bassey’s Bond tribute that earned her one of the night’s standing ovations. Old Hollywood never fails.

A Most Patient Audience.  After the second hour hit, we could see the audience starting to squirm and the tension beginning to build as they struggled to figure out how in the world the show was going to finish on time.  We’re not sure if it was originally planned or was brought in to save the day, but the lovely outfitted candy girls offering sweets and popcorn to sedate fidgety spectators was a great idea!  On the subject of length, is there good reason why audiences must be held captive while they save the most important awards for the bitter end?  The problem is those last ten minutes are the part of the show that is mainly worth watching and, due to limited time, we are forced to cram both the awards and the speeches into a warp speed mess!

A Disastrous Moment.  Kudos to whoever styles Jennifer Lawrence from head to toe.  Her dress, her hair, her makeup and her jewels were entirely flawless.  I will say, however, that I’m not sure if the train on her elaborate dress by Dior was a blessing or curse.  She was obviously overwhelmed with excitement as she took to the stage to accept her award for Best Actress, but she didn’t account for the layers of fabric around her feet which prevented her from getting their faster. One quick step and she was down!  Thank goodness, however, that the dress was as full as it was because at least she was fully covered and was able to recover quickly, especially thanks to the aid of Hugh Jackman who was nearby. It will definitely go down in history, but as the saying goes, it could’ve been worse.  She might have hit her face and broken a tooth! Could you imagine???

A Presidential Presenter.  The First Lady, Michelle Obama, has never looked better.  She probably completed extra reps of arm weights to prepare for last night’s appearance on the Oscars because they happened to look especially toned.  It’s not every day that the White House presents the Best Picture Award and it did make quite the impression.  There was a long speech by the First Lady that may have sent some for a quick restroom break, but when the envelope was opened and Argo was announced the winner, it was especially gratifying to witness the many service men and women who continuously fight for our country and to think about the countless other Americans who are held captive in foreign countries every day.

A Breathless Victory Speech. The evening finally came to a close with shoe-in, Ben Affleck, accepting the Best Picture award for Argo.  Overcome with emotion, he at least had a moment to compose his thoughts while fellow producing partners, Grant Heslov and George Clooney, took to the mic.  When it was his turn to speak, he was still breathless, but genuinely humbled, and spoke reverently about his first Oscar win for Good Will Hunting fifteen years earlier.  His thanks was plenty mentioning virtually everyone who helped him make his film possible from the actors to the hosting countries.  His only slight misstep was when he appeared a bit overzealous thanking his wife, the demure Jennifer Garner, for working on their marriage emphasizing perhaps a tad too much that although it is the best kind of work - marriage is definitely work!  Those of us that are married may concur, but best perhaps to keep that conversation limited to your small circle of friends rather than the one billion people watching the show! 

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