I haven’t had a normal Oscar watching experience since 1989. That would have been the last time I was home, eating popcorn or whatever snack food was then in fashion, and watching the show on TV like a civilian.
I’ve worked every Academy Awards from 1990 to now, usually in the office, sometimes in Los Angeles or Hollywood. So I watch the show with one eye on the clock and my deadline-driven editors and one on the TV. I’m usually typing most of the time, too, and sometimes trying to transcribe what was just said on stage.
But I thought Ellen DeGeneres did a good job as host. Not the best ever but not the worst and a warm, welcoming presence who wasn’t going to insult the A-listers in front of her or the Z-listers at home soaking up every detail about Cate Blanchett’s embellished gown or Jared Leto’s hair or Matthew McConaughey’s wife and mom.
DeGeneres was a soothing tonic after Seth MacFarlane and his famous song about women’s breasts. The show did something that rarely happens by awarding the first Oscar of the night within 10 minutes and making it count by giving it to Jared Leto.
Producers can caution winners about speeches but they cannot control them. Heck, even winners may not know how they’re going to react when they float to the stage and take the 8-pound Oscar in their hands.
Whether you liked the selfies or the pizzas, the 86th Academy Awards were notable for the quality of the thank yous, with special praise for Leto, Lupita Nyong’o, Blanchett and McConaughey. I especially loved McConaughey’s image of his dad in heaven, dancing in his underwear with his favorites in hand or nearby – a cold Miller Lite, a big pot of gumbo and some lemon meringue pie. Anyone whose own father has died had to smile in appreciation.
Leto was inspirational, Nyong’o was poetic and Blanchett funny and forceful in reminding the world that moviegoers will see a movie about a woman. None pulled out a folded piece of paper from a pocket or purse or décolletage.
The speeches should be what people remember about the show. If the host is the most memorable, something’s wrong. And in an endless season when the same foursome seemed to win virtually everything, that was a challenge.
They rose to it. Well done.
Top photo by Todd Wawrychuk / A.M.P.A.S