Yep, it's time for me to pass judgement on the Academy Awards show, even though I, like the majority of the world, didn't see it.
How can I judge a show I didn't see? you may ask.
I'm a blogger, I can do whatever the hell I want.
Besides, who needs to actually watch the show when you can look at recaps written by the handful of people who actually put themselves through the actual event.
Most agree that John Stewart's turn as host was better than his first go round. He seemed less nervous and uncertain and got better as the show went on, sadly, the ratings kept going down as the show went on. In fact, the ratings were the worst in the history of the Academy Awards.
My problem with John Stewart is that he's the media's comedian, and not the general public's. Yes, The Daily Show does do well as a cable show with certain demographics, but its actual viewer-ship isn't all that big when compared to many network shows.
Plus, Stewart's shtick is all about attitude. He doesn't necessarily tell jokes, but dispenses statements with that oh-so 90s detached irony. He's hipper than thou, gives off a smug air that declares that he belongs among the A-List stars and wants everyone to know it.
Now Bob Hope, who set the standard for top-flight Oscar hosting, took a different tack. Sure, he was a bigger star in movies, radio, and later TV, than most of the nominees.
Hope wisely presented himself as the avatar for the audience at home. He transformed himself into the Everyman who stumbled into the strange land of the beautiful people. And in reaction to all the glamour around him he told jokes that gently ribbed the nominees, and made light of his own lack of Oscar success.
"It's Oscar time," said Hope, "or as my family calls it, Passover."
Billy Crystal followed a similar plan as Hope, taking great joy in the work that only a big movie fan can muster. Crystal looked like he was having fun while he was hosting the Oscars, and that fun infected the presenters, the nominees, and most importantly the audience.
I just don't get any joy from Stewart. It's as if being a movie fan was just too "geeky" for him and might cost him his invite to Elton John's party.
The awards themselves held few surprises, except for Marion Cotillard winning over front-runner Julie Christie. And with so few "hits" among the nominees, the audience didn't have much interest invested in the show.
One thing the Academy seemed very good at was ticking people off.
Many people were annoyed that actor Brad Renfro was left out of the annual Memorial Reel, even though he died shortly before Heath Ledger, the last one presented on the list. Now the Oscar producers say it was an editing decision, but I find that hard to believe since the show is a litany of overlong segments, one more face in the Memorial Reel wasn't that much of a burden.
I think there were two reasons, probably subliminal for the oversight.
First, poor Renfro was symbolic of everything wrong with modern Hollywood. He was a child actor whose early success working alongside big name actors in big name movies, who ended up living a life of drugs and despair that ultimately killed him. Heath Ledger's death, also an overdose, could be spun as an accident, instead of a symptom of one of Hollywood's most prevalent problems.
Second, Renfro wasn't on the A-List. He was too young to be one of the Golden Age stars, and his tragic death was overshadowed by the prominent Ledger's. They don't want their tear-jerking A-List tragedy being muddied by its similarities to a poor working stiff actor.
Now take a look at this quote from John Stewart's monologue:
"The films that were made about the Iraq war, let's face it, did not do as well. But I'm telling you, if we stay the course and keep these movies in the theaters we can turn this around. I don't care if it takes 100 years. Withdrawing the Iraq movies would only embolden the audience. We cannot let the audience win."Now on the surface it's a political joke blending the rhetoric of the US government juxtaposed with the disastrous political grandstanding of Hollywood's elite.
But out of the mouth of clowns come truths that go beyond the surface.
It illustrates the prime reason Hollywood, and the Oscars in particular, are suffering. The elite of Hollywood have made the audience their enemy.
They don't give the audience the respect it deserves as the ultimate arbiter of success and failure, instead they look down on the audience with contempt. The attitude of Hollywood is that if the opinions of the great unwashed mattered, they'd all be on the A-List.
And no one likes to be insulted.