From host Seth MacFarlane’s stiff, mistimed delivery to the front runner for best picture getting snubbed in the directing category, every element of this year’s Oscar ceremony can be summed up in one word: awkward. This applies to Shirley Bassey’s incessant showboating while performing her famous Bond song (Adele outshone her in every way), to the Academy’s affirmative action picks for its Oscar Experience College Search, to the subtly offensive Jaws (1975) music interrupting a thoughtful acknowledgement of laid-off workers, to all the male celebrities making Movember a year-round thing, and to Kristen Stewart looking like she just rolled out of bed or possibly a punctured mattress in a crack house.
As to be expected, MacFarlane’s peculiar brand of jokes turned out a bit hit and miss, bordering on the tasteless and utterly non-sequitur, such as when an even stiffer William Shatner popped up as Captain James T. Kirk to introduce a song about actresses bearing their breasts. Classy. There was also a cheap crack about Christians at some point as well as a, uh, “stiff with a vengeance” closing number with Kristin Chenoweth about calling the nominees losers. Is that seriously the note on which producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan wanted to leave the audience?
Mind you, awkward isn’t always such a bad thing. Jennifer Laurence from Silver Linings Playbook won me over with her sincerity, unintentionally admonishing the crowd for reacting a tad condescendingly to her tripping on the stairs, and I can’t recall ever laughing as hard during an Academy Awards ceremony as when the Nazi officer burst in to scream, “He’s gone!” MacFarlane was wise to embrace and incorporate the fact that he didn’t belong there in his routine, making up for one of the worst opening monologues in Oscar history with his “live free or die stiff” attitude.
All right, let’s look at the awards. Before her misstep (I’ll let you decide to which I’m referring), Lawrence was declared the winner for best actress in a leading role, as I’d hoped she would be. Christoph Waltz, who stole every scene in Django Unchained, was also my pick for best supporting actor. Meanwhile, anyone who’d seen the trailer for Les Miserables knew Anne Hathaway was a shoe-in for best actress in a supporting role, and anyone who’d ever seen an Oscar telecast knew Lincoln’s Daniel Day Lewis was going to take home the golden statuette for best actor in a leading role. His acceptance speech, by the way, proved both classy and charming in its irreverence, not to mention a breath of fresh air after Quentin Tarantino’s trademarked narcissism.
Argo won every other major category in which it was nominated, by which I mean film editing, adapted screenplay, and, of course, best picture. I find this intriguing because Ang Lee’s Life of Pi took home the most Oscars, including the one for directing and a whole bunch of technical awards, which, lest we forget, are the Academy members’ way of saying they love you but will marry someone else because of the lifestyle he or she can provide. Incidentally, this left very little appreciation for Lincoln, the other perceived contender this year. I guess people haven’t yet forgiven Steven Spielberg for War Horse (2011).
What I’m trying to convey here is we had a genuine race on our hands, and that will make any award show exciting to watch. For all of the night’s awkwardness and gazillion tributes to Rob Marshall’s Chicago (2002), I can’t recall an Oscar telecast ever zipping by so fast. The same way Michelle Obama was bound to shine in light of the lowbrow humour, rampant misogyny, and wooden performances (hey, at least she didn’t have to announce Zero Dark Thirty as the best picture winner), MacFarlane could never have hosted the worst ceremony in Academy Awards history by virtue of the main attraction, the nominated films, garnering genuine interest for once. It was a good day to be stiff.