It’s not Seth MacFarlane’s fault that “Argo,” Daniel Day-Lewis, Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway were front-runners or absolute locks going into Oscar night – and that Christoph Waltz was a good bet, although not as good as Tommy Lee Jones or Robert De Niro.
Finding MacFarlane funny, not funny, not as bad as expected, not as good as hoped for is just one of the keys to a memorable Oscar night. The acceptance speeches and circumstances surrounding the show (the move to a new venue, the decision to proceed despite the war in Iraq, the appearance of Kirk Douglas after his stroke or Christopher Reeve after his horseback riding accident) are the others.
Who could forget the night Roberto Benigni surfed along the backs of the seats to reach the stage? The ceremony when an exuberant Cuba Gooding Jr. proved he could talk over the orchestra trying to play him off? The Oscars when Adrien Brody planted a kiss on Halle Berry?
And MacFarlane had none of that to work with. It's a shame that a reunion of James Bonds couldn't be arranged, even if Sean Connery had to appear live via satellite.
Imagine what it would have been like had Quvenzhane Wallis, age 9, won the best actress Oscar. She would have pumped her arms like Rocky and ascended the stairs to surprise and cheers.
Or if Emmanuelle Riva surged to the stage as the audience delivered a standing ovation and “Happy Birthday” serenade. Lawrence has been a welcome presence on the circuit, funny, crazily candid, emotional and I’m happy she won but she was expected to be named best actress.
The Oscars come at the end of a procession of other awards shows, many televised, which can make viewers feel as if they’ve seen this before.
And entire websites are devoted to awards shows, with experts and editors weighing in on who will win. I’m no different; I had to predict winners in all 24 categories, too, but tracking pundits (many who are based in L.A. and know which way the wind is blowing) takes some of the fun out of the night.
MacFarlane has said once was enough so he won’t be back in 2014, although the ratings were up, which was the aim of ABC and the Oscar producers.
The next time around, spring a surprise such as Michelle Obama opening the last envelope of the night. Book another first-time host (Jimmy Kimmel anyone?) which lends a freshness to the show or team a couple or handful of performers – doesn’t necessarily have to be Tina Fey and Amy Poehler but they showed how it could be done – and try to bring the show in at 3 hours and 15 minutes, max, for the East Coast audience.
We may not be dating George Clooney but we need our beauty sleep, too.
George Clooney, Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts and Jack Nicholson in the audience. Photo by Darren Decker/ A.M.P.A.S. Photo of Seth MacFarlane by Michael Yada/A.M.P.A.S.