OPINION: Oscars Play It Safe This Year for Boring Results

By Samantha Pickette
BU News Service

There are very few things that should be allowed to run on television for longer than three hours. “Gone with the Wind” is one of them. Sadly, Sunday’s Oscars telecast was not.

The evening consisted mostly of host Ellen DeGeneres resting on her laurels as one of America’s comedy sweethearts, knowing that no matter how she performed, people would still love her. The result was a lackluster and slow-moving show, marred by lazy jokes and painstaking predictability.

DeGeneres’ opening monologue, which had none of the glitz and glamour befitting of “the biggest night in showbiz” was so nonchalant that it almost seemed as if she forgot she was hosting the Oscars and had to throw something together at the last minute. Granted, there were a few clever quips here and there — DeGeneres’ comparison between the ceremony and “The Hunger Games”

“There are cameras everywhere, you’re starving, and Jennifer Lawrence won last year,” DeGeneres said at one point.

But most of DeGeneres’ jokes fell flat.

For example, pretending that Liza Minnelli was a male impersonator was not only not funny, but bordered on cruel. The other jokes simply went on too long, as was the case with the running gag about ordering pizza for the audience, which eventually culminated in DeGeneres handing out pizza and flimsy paper plates to the haute couture-clad celebrities.

DeGeneres’ performance was not a surprise, however. She hosted a similarly bland Oscars in 2007, following much the same formula: a monologue shouting out to nominees like Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese, followed by a social media-related photograph — in 2007, it was Steven Spielberg taking a picture of DeGeneres and Clint Eastwood for MySpace; and in 2014, it was DeGeneres tweeting a selfie with Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong’o, and Jared Leto.

We know what we get with an Ellen DeGeneres Oscars: a few jokes, some celebrity hi-jinks, and above all else, predictability.

DeGeneres, then, was a safe choice for the Academy to make, fitting the now-familiar pattern that alternates each year between showcasing either a “dependable” or an “edgy” host. 2011 hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway were a failed attempt to attract a younger, hipper audience and instead proved that young, hip people can be boring, too. In 2012, the response was Billy Crystal, in his ninth turn as host. In 2013, the Academy decided that the older Crystal should be replaced by the bolder and more demographically appealing Seth MacFarlane, who managed to offend everybody while not being particularly funny.

So, here we are in 2014, with a “safe” host in Ellen DeGeneres and a painfully slow show.

DeGeneres is not entirely to blame for the telecast’s inadequacies. The stage itself, complete with a too-bright lighting installation, a group of menacing, life-size Oscars, and what can only be described as a replica of Mike Tyson’s face tattoo on the floor, was distracting at best.

The “theme” of the show, “Heroes in Hollywood,” represented by a few clips of Atticus Finch, Erin Brockovich, and Woody from “Toy Story,” was not carried out enough to merit being mentioned in the first place. And, to add insult to injury, the final thematic montage (presented by Chris Evans, who will most likely never win an Oscar) was dedicated to action movies like “The Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter,” and countless other films that have never been deemed worthy by the Academy.

There were some enjoyable moments, but those were few and far between. Bette Midler’s soulful “In Memoriam” performance of “The Wind Beneath My Wings” and Pink’s ruby-red rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz” were the only musical numbers of the night that were worthy of the Oscars (despite what the standing ovations for U2 and Idina Menzel’s performances would lead you to believe).

The major problem with the Academy Awards ceremony was that it was too predictable to be entertaining. Cate Blanchett won (and pointedly thanked Woody Allen), as we knew she would. “Dallas Buyers Club” and “12 Years a Slave” came away with the majority of the “big” awards of the night, because AIDS and slavery are more meaningful subjects than Wall Street debauchery and 1970s-era FBI stings. “Gravity” won everything else, and Sandra Bullock was convincingly gracious in her role as “the only person from her movie who won nothing.”

Moreover, it was too long, a fact that was exacerbated by a decided lack of pizzazz. Where was the Billy Crystal-esque musical number? Where was Ben Stiller presenting the make-up and hairstyling award dressed as a character from “Avatar?” Where were the iconic speeches? There was nothing special that distinguished this year’s ceremony. It wasn’t particularly bad. And it wasn’t particularly good. It just was.

But, there’s always next year. Just ask Leonardo DiCaprio.

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