With controversial comedian Seth MacFarlane as host, the 85th Academy Awards had the potential to be a bit of a wildcard. But as fellow comedian Ricky Gervais proved during his popular three-year run hosting the Golden Globes, sometimes wildcards pay off.
MacFarlane, known for his thoroughly juvenile animated television series “Family Guy,” was unexpectedly delightful.
Even his off-color jokes (like a musical interlude about seeing actresses’ breasts in movies or a crack about John Wilkes Booth “getting in the head” of Abraham Lincoln) got big laughs simply because of his charm and charisma.
MacFarlane also got to show off his not inconsiderable singing talents with stars such as Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, thanks to the ceremony’s theme: the music of movies.
The idea of having a theme for the ceremony is an interesting way to try to mix up a potentially stodgy telecast, but in this case, the numerous performances and song breaks took away from ceremony.
It almost felt like you were watching the Grammys — or worse, the Tonys.
The producers of the show should have trusted in MacFarlane’s charisma and let him carry the show, instead of needlessly muddling the ceremony.
The style of the ceremony is always going to get judged and talked about, but it certainly shouldn’t be at the expense of attention for those whom the ceremony is supposed to be honoring.
Among the winners, there were actually a few surprises, which is certainly unusual for the Oscars.
“Life of Pi,” the film about a shipwrecked young man who survives in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, received several nominations, but was not favored in many of those categories.
However, the film ended up winning four Oscars, including Best Director (for Ang Lee) and Best Cinematography, where it was not expected to win.
Indeed, Best Director proved to be one of the most interesting categories this awards season; when the Academy snubbed Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Ben Affleck (“Argo”), it was widely expected that Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”) would walk away with the Oscar.
Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” unexpectedly won for Best Original Screenplay, despite many favoring the more Academy-friendly “Zero Dark Thirty” to win.
Another interesting surprise was the tie for the award for Best Sound Editing.
Ties have occurred before in Academy Award history — probably the most memorable being between Katharine Hepburn and Barbara Streisand for Best Actress in 1969 — but it’s highly unusual.
Both “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Skyfall” ended up taking home Oscars for Best Sound Editing.
Other than that though, the winners were generally a foregone conclusion — did anyone really think that Daniel Day-Lewis wouldn’t win Best Actor, or that Anne Hathaway wouldn’t win Best Supporting Actress?
Christoph Waltz won his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Dr. King Shultz in Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.”
Even Jennifer Lawrence’s Best Actress win for “Silver Linings Playbook” wasn’t that much of a surprise. The media hyped up the rivalry between Lawrence and Jessica Chastain (in “Zero Dark Thirty”), but when Lawrence won the Screen Actor’s Guild award last month, it was likely she would go on to take the Oscar.
Indeed, as usual, virtually all winners have already won multiple awards this season.
Such is the case with “Argo,” which won Best Picture at most major award ceremonies this season, including the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, and at the Oscars.
But aside from the egregious snubs to Bigelow and Affleck, the inexplicable praise for the thoroughly mediocre “Life of Pi,” and the distracting musical numbers, the Academy Awards got it mostly right this year — it even managed to keep the broadcast interesting and appropriate (most of the time).
And that’s really all you can hope for at the most prestigious award show in Hollywood.