Halfway through the 84th Academy Awards last night during what felt like the 10th Diet Coke commercial focused on the "magic of Hollywood," I wished I was watching on a DVR-delay so I could skip over the sales pitch. The theme of the Oscars was focused on old Hollywood from the pin-up style popcorn girls to the entertaining Cirque du Soliel performance in the middle of the show. If there was one thing clear by night's end, they really want you to see movies...in a theater.
It's an understandable position. The movie business has been losing money mainly thanks to technology which not only allows for streaming and downloading of films at pennies on the dollar compared to the theater, but pirating as well. With last night's show, the Academy was hell bent on convincing you the big screen is far and away superior to any other version, despite the Billy Crystal joke that his big screen was his iPad.
And speaking of Crystal, his ninth hosting turn (second only to Bob Hope and his ungodly 18) should be his last. From the same tired opening film clip remakes and parody musical number to the stale jokes that felt like they were written by Hope's team, Crystal's performance felt like a safe choice. It probably was. After Brett Ratner was forced out due to use of a gay slur in a speech, original host choice Eddie Murphy pulled out as well. All that happened in November leaving the Academy scrambling for options and landing on Crystal.
But even with a more modern host, the whole notion of the need to go to the movies -- likely exacerbated by the success of The Artist, a movie about movies -- wore thin after about an hour of skits and commercials aimed at getting us out of our homes and into theaters.
Notably, the Christopher Guest-cast skit about old school focus groups was a funny bit, particularly the hilarious Fred Willard and his fixation with flying monkeys. There were also some well thought out presenter moments like adorable Emma Stone's mock thrill over her first awards ceremony -- aided by Jonah Hill in the audience -- and Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis entering the stage playing marching cymbals, and dropping them liberally.
Ultimately, the night was about the glamor of Hollywood, which seems an angular choice against the backdrop of the Occupy movement and the recession. As Crystal aptly joked early on, the one thing everyone wants to see in a down economy is rich people giving each other statues made of gold.
But, they soldiered on through a mostly awkward ceremony even Bradley Cooper's mustache and Angelina Jolie's leg couldn't save.
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