My kids and I spent the day of the awards at my parents' place because my wife was in Florida at a conference. We got back home just in time to catch some of the red carpet coverage. I noticed that Kristin Chenoweth was one of the sideline reporters, and while I liked her in The West Wing, and even in the under-rated Pushing Daisies, her forced, hyper-kinetic banter made me want to turn the volume off. She was also over-tan and under-weight, which made me feel bad that she feels she has to do that to herself.
We also watched Jamie Foxx being interviewed on the red carpet with his 19-year-old daughter, which floored me initially, but I checked and he's 45. He doesn't look 45.
Then it went to commercial where I saw the first of many different jcp (JCPenney) commercials. They were really well done, and are part of some big re-branding to make JCPenney seem a lot less...JCPenney. The first one I saw featured "Grounds For Divorce" from Elbow, a band that consistently cranks out great music. Later they used "Would That Not Be Nice" by Divine Fits. OK jcp, you've wandered over to the cool kid table in the lunchroom. Will they call you "jcp?" Or will they tell you to go sell Dad a flannel?
I don't know that I want to discuss host Seth McFarlane too much; I'd rather focus on what the real stars were doing at the show. Whether you liked his hosting ability or not, his real contributions to movies in the past year have been Ted and Movie 43, which means he should have been hosting the RAZZIE Awards, not the Oscars.
MacFarlane has a good stage presence, and is a good singer (particularly for a guy whose main gig is animation and voice work), but he had a way of letting loose with his crass jokes and then immediately following them with misdirections and half-retractions when the crowd booed, never taking responsibility for the jokes, never letting them stand on their own merit.
Even his "Captain Kirk came from the future to tell me I bombed" opening allowed him do bits that he could deny responsibility for if they offended, you know, because he hadn't actually done them yet. It's only Bad Future Seth doing doing those bits, and Good Present Seth will put a stop to it...right after you've watched them in their entirety. How was the Academy to know he'd pull this "I saw your boobs...no I didn't" routine all night? They couldn't. MacFarlane doesn't have to answer to a studio audience for Family Guy.
This is the moment where the 4-day lag benefits this post: MacFarlane's performance may have gotten a few cheap laughs from me when I watched, but the more I think about it, the worse I feel about it. MacFarlane is a bizarro-Wes Anderson, or a bizarro-Coen Brothers. Or both. Multiple viewings are his kryptonite.
Anyway, there were winners who won, and losers who lost, and you've already seen the lists. You either have an opinion on all this, or you don't. Here are my UMP Awards that focus on the spectacle of the award show itself, on the movie stars themselves, in the order they occurred to me:
Most Underwhelming Result in the Most Competitive Category: Christoph Waltz wins his second Best Supporting Actor award, not for his role in Django Unchained, but for his 3-years-ago performance in Inglourious Basterds. Robert De Niro and Philip Seymour Hoffman easily could have won. Tommy Lee Jones should have won. I think Waltz knew it too because he seem embarrassed in his lukewarm acceptance speech.
Funniest Presenters that Killed in Rehearsal Then Bombed Live: Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy ad-libbed their intro for Best Animated Short with a bit that must have been waaaaaay funnier in rehearsal. Paperman won, and is worth seeing, all seven minutes of it - my daughter thinks they showed it before Wreck-It Ralph, but we aren't sure. We've also heard Identity Thief is terrible.
Best Dress: Mark Andrews, director of Best Animated Feature winner Brave, blue and burgundy kilt.
Best Actor, During the 85th Annual Academy Awards: George Clooney catches the small bottle of whiskey thrown to him by Seth MacFarlane in an attempt to diffuse his joke about 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis being too old to date Clooney in about 16 years. Clooney smiles and takes a swig for the camera (knowing he can tell MacFarlane he's done in Hollywood at one of the after-parties).
Strongest Suspicion That a Former Addict Was in Relapse: Tie. Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr. All five male leads of The Avengers presented Life of Pi with the award for Best Cinematography, prefaced with some banter about Jackson and Downey being former addicts. When the two of them started riffing off-script, the other three started to snicker, and we suspected that a new round of interventions might be in order by summer.
Most Incoherent Speech/Worst Hair: Life of Pi cinematographer Claudio Miranda, looking like Gandalf (or maybe Saruman), but not sounding like him. Here is a video of his acceptance speech with a simultaneous Spanish translation that is no more confusing than the speech in English by itself.
Most Disrespectful Music Meant To Force Winner Off Stage, In The History Of Ever: Jaws theme.
Fastest Recovery From 'Old and Embarrassing Themselves' To 'Old and Still Kicking Ass,' One Minute Flat: 76-year-old Shirley Bassey, performing "Goldfinger" during the homage to 50 Years of James Bond, in a way that made us first recoil in horror, then watch in amazement.
Most Vindictive Introduction Pairing: Best Actress nominee Jessica Chastain, paired with Jennifer Garner to present Best Foreign Language Film. Chastain is beautiful, talented, and up for an award, so all eyes should be on her...except when she's paired with the impossibly tall, slender distraction that is Jennifer Garner (and she's over 40!). That's just mean.
Worst Pronunciation of Les Misérables: John Travolta tripped over his lines as he tried to introduce the musical movie tribute portion of the show, and couldn't pronounce Les Misérables. My sister-in-law, professor of French and Comparative Lit at a fine west-coast liberal arts school, tells me the proper pronunciation is MIZZ-AIR-AH-BLUH, roughly.
Best Musical Performance: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls tribute, hands down.
Most Desperate Ad Buy: Royal Caribbean, because absolutely no one in the world wants to go on a cruise right now.
Funniest Reveal of a Tie: Mark Wahlberg presents the award for Sound Editing to both Zero Dark Thirty AND Skyfall. Right after his announcement, he repeats, seemingly to a particular person in the audience, "We have a tie...no b.s...we have a tie."
Classiest Presentation Speech for Any Award and It Wasn't Even Close: Christopher Plummer presents the award for Best Supporting Actress with the most professional introduction of the night, saying he would happy to work with any of these actresses in any of his next 30 movies.
The 'Just Give It To Her So She Shuts Up' Award for Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway. She memorized a lot of names for this particular speech, but I can't actually rip her here (even though I want to soooo badly) because unlike her Golden Globes and BAFTA speeches, this one was fairly reserved, probably in reaction to all the bad press. You know she reads it all, every word.
Most Powerful Person In Hollywood Being Caught Coming Back From the Bathroom: Harvey Weinstein (founder of Miramax, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, very heavy hitter), during the Academy President's speech. The cameraman and show director are now missing and presumed dead.
Most Underwhelming Musical Performance: Adele performs Best Original Song winner "Skyfall." Something weird was going on with her voice, and it wasn't just her cockney phrasing. I don't think she's recovered from vocal cord surgery. Jennifer Hudson's Dreamgirls co-star Jamie Foxx was not impressed.
Second-Most Vindictive Introduction Pairing: Daniel Radcliffe was forced to present the Production Design award with Kristin Stewart, who was her usual awkward self and seemingly already stoned. Never do a cutaway to Kristen Stewart. Still aloof. Always aloof.
Best Exaggeration of a Spanish Accent Due To The Popularity of Sofía Vergara: Salma Hayek presents the Governor's Award winners with the accent she had 20 years ago.
The 'We Still Love You Even If You Might Be Damaged' Award: Adele and Paul Epworth won Best Original Song with "Skyfall," and Adele is the most tearfully-endearing, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels-sounding recipient ever. She tells the crowd, "You're awwwwl amaaazing!"
Best Impersonation of Stifler from American Pie: Writer Chris Terrio wins the Adapted Screenplay award for Argo, and shows himself to be both manic (in his acceptance speech), and supportive of his friends (the first to comfort a crying Ben Affleck after the Argo Best Picture win), all while being a dead ringer for Seann William Scott.
The 'Dude, That's My Neighbor!' Award for Childish Wonder in Award Acceptance: Quentin Tarantino is psyched he's getting the award for Best Original Screenplay, but he's more psyched that Charlize Theron (his neighbor) is handing him the statue. Mark it down on your 'Hollywood Homes Tour' map.
Worst Speech with the Best Unintentionally Funny Line: Ang Lee stumbles through his speech after winning Best Director for Life of Pi (biggest surprise of the night) and near the end thanks both his agent and his lawyer. He then shrugs in earnest apology and says "I have to do that." Crowd erupts in laughter.
Most Disappointing Speech: Jennifer Lawrence, the self-deprecating anti-Hathaway we all know and love, trips on her way to the microphone and starts off strong with "You're just cheering because you feel bad I tripped..." and then completely falls apart by thanking her agents and then giving us a blank stare before running off stage.
Most Alarming and Unexpected Wardrobe Malfunction: Meryl Streep, walking up to present Best Actor, wedgie.
Best Academy Awards Quiz: My friend Craig created and emailed all of us a great Academy Awards trivia quiz on the day of the show. I worked on it as I was watched the Oscars and took notes. It was a welcome distraction, but I really wished I could have remembered that the second Oscar-winning movie that starred Leonardo DiCaprio (other than Titanic) was The Departed. How did I not remember that The Departed won Best Picture?
Worst-Kept Secret In Hollywood: Tiny Fey. Amy Poehler. Your hosts for the 86th Annual Academy Awards.
The Unreasonable Movie Project might reinvent itself next year, and it might also become the most fun thing I'll never do again. Either way, it was quite a ride. Thanks for reading!
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