tue 25/11/2014

Oscars 2013: Day-Lewis 3, Skyfall 1½, MacFarlane 0 | Film reviews, news & interviews

Oscars 2013: Day-Lewis 3, Skyfall 1½, MacFarlane 0

Not enough Amour, too much blather at long and lumbering Oscars as the statuettes are shared out

Daniel Day-Lewis's performance in Lincoln earned him his third Best Actor Oscar

Emmanuelle Riva travelled all the way to Los Angeles for that? I doubt I’m the only one whose heart went out to the radiant French actress, newly turned 86, as the 85th annual Academy Awards drew to a long and lumbering close well into its fourth hour. Sure, Lincoln star Daniel Day-Lewis made history, becoming the first actor to win three leading Oscar trophies, and Austria could celebrate both Django Unchained co-star Christoph Waltz’s second supporting actor Oscar in four years and the Foreign Film trophy for Austrian director Mikael Haneke and his French-language Amour.

Michelle Obama even made an appearance via satellite to open the envelope for Best Picture, in an alliance between Hollywood and the White House that is sure to enrage that portion of the American populace who see the two as joined at the leftist-conspiracy hip.

But in the end one couldn’t help lamenting not just that the radiant leading lady of Amour didn’t prevail in her rearguard bid to wrest Best Actress away from long-held frontrunner, Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), who is all of 22. More dispiriting was that an octogenarian first-timer to Hollywood’s biggest night had to cross the Atlantic for easily the most witless and blather-filled Oscar ceremony in recent memory.

His jokes for the most part landing with a clangorous thud

Indeed, among the few genuine laughs earned by a host, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, who for most of the night looked entirely out of his league, was not his remark late on that Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) was, age nine, the youngest-ever leading actor nominee but that Riva “was nine when the show started”. Touché to that.

In terms of the winners, this was an unusually even-handed Oscars, distributing the trophies across a range of films, ranging from Life of Pi, which led the field with four awards, to Argo, which took three – an astonishingly slim showing by a film voted the year’s best. (Slumdog Millionaire, for instance, won eight trophies in 2009.)

The James Bond franchise – absent from the Oscars since 1966 – received two mentions for Skyfall, including an expected Best Song trophy for a teary and ever-adorable Adele, and a sound editing prize that resulted in a tie vote with Zero Dark Thirty: a sufficient rarity that some at first assumed that presenter Mark Wahlberg was having the audience on.

There was an agreeable thread to the show prompted by the trifecta of powerhouse female performers, among whom Adele appeared in-between a fierce-voiced Dame Shirley Bassey, heard tearing into “Goldfinger”, and a rather cautious-sounding Barbra Streisand. Herself a beneficiary of one of the few Oscar tie votes in years past, Streisand followed the annual In Memoriam segment to sing “The Way We Were” in honour of her friend and colleague, the late composer Marvin Hamlisch.

But oh dear, what can one say about the rest? Living down to expectations prompted by his disconcertingly arch handling of this year’s nominees, MacFarlane in his debut Oscar gig early on hit a mean-spirited streak that struck a palpably uncomfortable note within the auditorium, his jokes for the most part landing with a clangorous thud that wasn’t helped by the self-consciousness with which the sometime crooner seemed to comment on the success or (more often) failure of every barb. (Sample targets: Chris Brown and Rihanna. I mean, next?)

MacFarlane used his musical skills to join in now and again in one or another of the musical segments that were there to lend a theme of sorts to the night’s proceedings. But even that rubric seemed to pad out the evening unduly, an utterly superfluous tribute to recent movie musicals Chicago and Dreamgirls making one wonder, perversely, whether Day-Lewis would rise from his seat and lead a medley from his flop film musical, Nine.

One also had to ask whether anyone was taking note when Original Screenplay winner Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) took note of what he called a “writers’ year” – a fact evidently not passed on to those who actually penned the 2013 Oscar show itself. It’s been many years since so many sets of presenters fell so alarmingly flat, a low point set early on by Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy as they preceded a sound award by emitting some strange noises of their own.

How the banter about Jewishness between Wahlberg, a self-described Catholic, and the movie world’s ursine Ted made it past the rehearsal stage is anybody’s guess. As for the quintet of Avengers stars, one was left pondering the reconvening of this quintet when the gathering one was truly anticipating – a convocation of James Bonds past and present – was not to be.

Elsewhere, there was a preponderance of men not just with beards (that much was to be expected from the Affleck/Clooney gang) but with singularly long hair, and Sandra Bullock and Renee Zellweger were among the presenters who kept twitter feeds busy with various physical or behavioural peculiarities. Zellweger, for her part, seemed unable to read, handing a victor’s name back to co-presenter Richard Gere presumably once she realised she couldn’t make out what was written on the card.

It was as if MacFarlane was sealing his own doom with the mock-headlines near the start in which he envisaged the variably damning reviews that his hosting was sure to receive. (This was before he was met by a time-travelling William Shatner – no, I’m not kidding – who appeared on video in order to set MacFarlane straight.)

Will MacFarlane be asked back, or will he enter the annals of one-off Oscar hosts that (so far, anyway) includes David Letterman or James Franco (the latter sharing responsibilities with the newly Oscar-ed Anne Hathaway)? I’d be surprised if the Academy makes the same mistake twice. As to whether Mlle Riva will have a second chance? Hard to imagine, but I'm sure I join many others this morning in sending this Gallic titan of the cinema my amour.

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Tarantino took note of what he called a writers’ year – a fact not passed on to those who penned the 2013 Oscar show itself

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Comments

uh check your facts. Jon

uh check your facts. Jon Stewart hosted the show twice.

Bang goes my working day,

Bang goes my working day, now...I'd made a point about not following the show live (I would stay up for the US elections), but having just read Matt Wolf's wonderfully sharp and tingly review, I shall now go and dig out all the relevant bits on YouTube....

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