There is good news and bad news about this year’s Oscars. On the bright side, Ellen DeGeneres was the host bringing ratings up 15% in Women aged 18-34. The bad news was the night was a shoddily produced snooze fest. According to the Associated Press, a big opening number was planned that would have included DeGeneres and the penguins from Happy Feet traveling to the Oscars, but the plan had to be scrapped when none of the nominated actors would agree to take part. That left Ellen to open the show in a low-key fashion, unbefitting the biggest night of kudos and egos in L.A. The congenial host poked fun at Peter O’Toole’s eight nominations and complete lack of wins saying, “Third time’s a charm, right Peter?” but followed it up with an Al Gore joke about the 2000 Presidential Election which just seems painfully old at this point.
Also issue was that it seemed inevitability that certain people would win certain categories. As expected, Helen Mirren and Jennifer Hudson wrapped up their award winning seasons with the industry’s top trophies for performances in The Queen and Dreamgirls, respectively. The Academy followed suit with the Best Actor category, handing the Oscar to Forest Whitaker for his portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. The only true surprise in the bunch was Alan Arkin’s win in the Supporting Actor category for Little Miss Sunshine, leaving Eddie Murphy to weep into his fat suit.
The preponderance of clip packages and honorary Oscars ate up an incredible amount of time, with former Paramount chief Sherry Lansing taking home a well-deserved golden man, but Enrico Codde delivering a speech all in Italian, painstakingly translated by a quizzical Clint Eastwood. That left all the major categories for later in the evening, with ABC even running out of ads to run in the final 30 minutes of the show. All of this inconsequential pomp was punctuated by increasingly bizarre performances by an interpretive dance troop who contorted themselves into a gun (signifying The Departed), a VW Bus (Little Miss Sunshine), and a 747 (Snakes on a Plane). Wait, what? That’s right.
The two high points of the evening were both thanks to the comics-you know, that genre the Academy pretends doesn’t exist. Will Ferrell and Jack Black sang a lament about their comedic performances never being recognized that won uproarious laughter from the crowd at the Shrine Auditorium despite it being pretty much entirely impertinent. The other laugh came when Ellen finally made a slam dunk, two hours into the telecast. She ventured into the crowd to ask Martin Scorcese if he felt hot, fanning herself with a stack of paper. “Oh, what’s this? Oh, gosh isn’t that funny, it’s a script I wrote! It’s a cross between Goodfellas and Big Momma’s House.” She also chatted up Best Director nominee Eastwood before asking Steven Spielberg to take a picture for her MySpace. “Let me look at it now. Okay, no, try and get it more even on both sides,” she chided the Dreamworks honcho.
On a night where Martin Scorcese was finally rewarded for one of his weakest films to date, perhaps the most fun parts were what transpired outside the building. Ryan Seacrest was once again court jester of E!’s coverage of the red carpet, serenading Japanese-speaking nominee Riko Kikuchi (Babel) with a few bars of “Come to my Window” in a failed attempt to help her make friends with Melissa Etheridge. If that wasn’t bad enough, he got into an on-air tiff after they coerced him into confronting Djimon Honsou (Blood Diamond). But to really top off the affair, Seacrest excitedly announced he had an exclusive backstage interview with DeGeneres as she was preparing for the show, only to be dismissed with “I’m good, Ryan. I have a show to host so I’m kind of busy. Back to you.” DeGeneres wasn’t done though. She actually rolled her eyes at Seacrest and walked out of frame, leaving the fragile little fashion plate to pick up the pieces of his broken heart.
After the show was just as much fun, with Norbit…I mean Eddie Murphy less than “fattered” at his surprising loss to Arkin. He reportedly stormed out of the auditorium, and if there’s any justice he then cursed the heavens and Scary Spice for his rotten luck.