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The Hip, Cool Oscars…

I’m getting old.

That’s the only way to really explain it. The more I think about, the more irritated I get. There really isn’t too much commentary to be made on the awards handed out at the ceremony, it was the bland and safe option for just about every major category. I was more interested to see what elements of last year’s radical overhaul they kept and which ones they disposed of. Basically, my problem with the Oscars can be summed up with two questions: Who invited Taylor Lautner? And why is Kristen Stewart giving out an award?

Neil Patrick Harris gets a pass... because he's awesome!

Last year was a bold experiment. The Oscars hired a performer instead of a comedian to act as the host, counting on razzle dazzle instead of in-jokes to work with the audience. I will admit that I liked Hugh Jackman as last year’s host, even though his best moments occurred in the first five minutes of the ceremony (“I am Wolverine!” – c’mon, how can you not love the guy?). It was clearly a move to shake up the ceremony that had seen declining viewer interest in the past few years. No viewers meant no advertising revenue. No advertising revenue is bad.

So, things were different last year. We had themed montages that incorporated the popular movies of the year that didn’t get nominated – as close to an apology by the Academy for its disconnect as we’re ever likely to get. The kids from High School Musical provided a dance number to reel in the young viewers. Ben Stiller was allowed to be hilarious unfunny in presenting a minor technical award. Instead of boring clips, each nominated actor got a famous champion – Kevin Kline spoke of Heath Ledger’s one perfect moment in The Dark Knight (I’d argue he had several, but it was still sweet) and Cuba Gooding Junior said something in his ‘very excited’ high-pitched disbelievin’s sort of way about Robert Downey Junior in Tropic Thunder.

It was bold and it was brave. It missed as often as it hit, to be honest, but it was organic and vital – you could see that the Academy was struggling to get back in step with popular culture and with that desperation came an energy. You could chalk away the failures as some element of a learning curve – they would take the stuff that worked and reuse it this year and discard what didn’t.

Unfortunately, it seems the Academy was either unaware of what worked last year, or too uncomfortable to keep it – especially with all the concessions already made to the mainstream like ten Best Picture nominees. I remarked that this might happen as early as lat year when they dropped the Honorary Awards, which I argued weren’t the problem. For whatever reason, we went back to a pair of ‘funny’ hosts as opposed to a more rounded show-and-dance man. The Academy kept Ben Stiller, and the young and underqualified hosts, but it reintroduced the “one host per major category” rule. Instead of being confined to an unnecessary song-and-dance number, the ‘hip and happening’ kids like Taylor Lautner, Zac Efron and Kristen Stewart got to hand out the awards, an act typically reserved for those who had earned it through dedication to their craft over long years, not by honing their beefcakes after being told they’d be fired from the second Twilight movie.

It feels awkward and false, like my folks namedropping Power Rangers when I was growing up in order to seem hip and connected. It didn’t work – they were still the relatively square old guys to me. It didn’t mean that I didn’t love them or respect them, but that I recognised them for what they were – and they weren’t the kind of people who watched Teenage Mutant Ninja (or Hero) Turtles, just like the Academy isn’t comprised of the sort of people who watch Twilight of High School Musical. Why on earth do they have to be ashamed of that?

Don’t get me wrong. I know that Efron and Stewart are talented. Maybe in a few years we’ll be talking about them as legitimate actors (I’d argue Efron is on the way there already). But we all know they weren’t presenting awards because the members thought that The Runaways looking like a classic or because they loved Me and Orson Wells. It was a forced and calculated attempt to seem hip and with it.

Why must the Academy move to such extremes? On one hand, they won’t legitimately award genuine popular blockbuster masterpieces like The Dark Knight. On the other, they will pander by letting stars of the biggest tween sensations play genuine Hollywood icons. Maybe I’m a prude, but do these kids really deserve to share the stage with Sean Penn and Barbara Streisand? Seriously?

On the other hand, maybe it’s worrying that this is the only thing which really struck my about this year’s ceremony?

6 Responses

  1. Probably trying to attract the Twilight fan base, it’s definitely odd to see kids who haven’t even started to prove themselves yet in the industry handing out awards but I’m pretty certain we will be seeing more of it as the producers attempt to reach a younger audience.

    • Yep, it’s a shame, because some of the stuff from last year that was different (the whole individual presenters pitching their actors bit and Hugh “I am Wolverine” Jackman), but that stuff was cut and the teeny boppers were kept. It is very odd.

  2. I really like last year’s show. This year – hated it.

    • Amen. I was planning to hate last year’s show and really enjoyed it. This year, I was planning to love it and was just meh.

      Ah well.

  3. Yeah, I do not understand the youth pandering, the Neil Patrick Harris bit, and the other overall lameless that seemed to plague this years Oscars. I think its the Sandra effect.

    • I actually like the Neil Patrick Harris bit. It’s the Oscars, it’s allowed have a big self-congratulatory opening song-and-dance. I think Mister Harris may even have made a better host than Martin and Baldwin.

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