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Jon Chattman

Jon Chattman

Posted February 23, 2009 | 12:08 PM (EST)

Hugh Mistake: Oscars and All That Schmaltz


After presenting his third of four Oscars, Will Smith looked into the camera and the audience and said something to the effect of "yes, I'm still here." That essentially sums up this year's Oscar telecast, a bloated and overdone spectacle that left us bewildered, unenthusiastic and exhausted to the point where only "Randy The Ram" could have saved the show by laying the smackdown on the all-schmaltz affair. Sadly, he never entered the ring.

The 81st Academy Awards played off as a Tony Awards retread featuring painful musical numbers (love Hugh Jackman but that G-rated opening medley was a bit much and that whole "musicals are back" number seemed dated and would've played off better the year Chicago won), matched with endless and unnecessary montages (Was it really a banner year for animated flicks? Space Chimps got more mileage than Doubt -- need I say more?), and forgettable (not counting Steve Martin and Tina Fey, who stole the show) and too few presenters.

The show wasn't a complete train wreck although, admittedly, it came pretty close. Aside from the overall Broadway feel of the whole thing (Did anyone else expect to see Carol Channing wearing a "Jai Ho" T-shirt?), it was classy and refreshing to see past Oscar winners on stage together praising each individual nominee even though it took too long to get to the actual winner. On a related note, it would've been nice if Cuba Gooding, Jr. praised nominee Robert Downey, Jr. instead of trying to upstage him and recreate his Jerry Maguire speech from over a decade ago.

Other highlights were the speeches: Heath Ledger's win for Best Supporting Actor in which his family accepted on his behalf was one of those big Oscar moments we will be seeing for decades to come; Philippe Petit's acceptance was effortlessly glorious; Slumdog Millionaire's humble speeches made you really happy it had won so many awards, and Kate Winslet finally bringing home a gold guy was joyous -- notably her terrific "shampoo" line and her "whistle" shout out to her dad.

Still, there's no question this year's Oscars were a dud. It's time to lighten up and trim the fat. The Indie Spirit Awards are always entertaining because they're carefree, and above all else, just two hours long. It's time for the Oscars to cut the montages, the original score sets and the music performances. How fast did John Legend leave the stage after performing in the medley? Who can blame him?

Three hours is enough. We don't need a fourth. As is typically the case, the host ends up getting lost as the show goes on. That's why I suggest the Academy go back to its 1980s theme of having a couple of hosts. Wouldn't the telecast seem fresh if say Ricky Gervais opened the show, Will Ferrell did the middle, and Conan O'Brien finished it off? I think so. The awards need to be a celebration of film, but more importantly, a form of entertainment that keeps us entertained -- and as history has shown -- laughing. Billy Crystal did the best job of that. Steve Martin was extremely underrated as well.

Bottom line is it's bad enough the Oscars don't award mainstream movies like The Dark Knight, why should we have to sit through a telecast of meaningless vignettes and old-fashioned singing and dancing? I mean really... last night's telecast beat us over the head senseless.