Normally, I have little patience with people who criticize the Academy Awards, taking the view that something as trivial and inconsequential as the handing-out of movie trophies simply isn't worth getting your knickers in a twist over. It's show biz. It's hype. It's glitz layered with more glitz. Don't take it so seriously. But this year's Oscars put me in such a rotten mood, I was forced to bring out the long knives.
Here are the three worst things about the 2014 Oscar show.
1. Ellen Degeneres. She ruined it. I positively LOVE Ellen, and yet she ruined the show by turning a glittering movie tribute -- an annual ceremony dedicated solely and exclusively to the motion picture industry -- into a version of a television show! Ellen did the one thing she knew how to do: namely, be a TV host. Incredibly, she treated this gathering of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science members as if they were a daytime studio audience, a TV game show audience.
She went out among them, she huddled with them, she mock-joked with them, she kept up a constant line of patter; she schmoozed with them, hugged them, kissed them. Ellen did what so many afternoon TV talk show hosts do: She resorted to props. She ordered pizzas as a gag. She took selfies. She asked audience members to go into their purses and wallets. She dressed up in funny costumes. In other words, she brought her television shtick to the movies. I'm surprised she didn't reach out with the mic and ask a couple, "So where are you folks from?"
2. Too long. The show ran half an hour late. Had it ended at its scheduled time, 8:30 PM, it still would have seemed interminably long, but at exactly 8:25 PM (PST), they still hadn't handed out Oscars in six important categories: Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Movie. I looked at my watch and couldn't believe it. The show was supposed to over in five minutes, yet the best categories still hadn't been touched.
We can lay part of the blame for that on host Ellen Degeneres, for having spent so much cavorting with the audience, but the main reason the show ran long was due to all the commercials ABC chose to run. If you had deleted only those repetitive Cadillac ads and the tedious promos for the ABC show, "Resurrection," we might have finished with time to spare.
3. No surprises. Other than maybe, the song from "Frozen" beating out U-2's Nelson Mandela's tribute, there were no surprises, no upsets. None. The Vegas handicappers had this thing totally wired. And because there were no surprises, there was no drama. Blanchett won Best Actress, Nyong'o won Best Supporting, both heavy favorites. McConaughey won Best Actor, Leto won Best Supporting, both heavy favorites. Cuaron won Best Director for "Gravity," as predicted, and "12 Years a Slave" won Best Picture as every fifth-grader in America knew it would.
But you can't blame anyone just because we all knew who was going to win. Predicting the winners has become a science, and they're getting better at it every year. One problem is all the awards shows that precede the Oscars. By the time March rolls around, we already know which actors and movies have won all the major awards. Indeed, if "12 Years a Slave" hadn't won Best Picture, that would've been the Oscar's lead story. That's what it's come to. Our shock at who didn't win.
David Macaray is an LA playwright and author ("It's Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor," 2nd edition).