Joe Reid February 25, 2013
A couple truths right off the bat:
1) Oscar Host is the single most thankless job in all of Hollywood
2) Everybody was lining up to beat the crap out of Seth MacFarlane long before the curtain went up.
MacFarlane is everybody’s favorite punching bag and has been for years. There’s almost no way his hosting gig wouldn’t have drawn criticism. And I would LOVE to play the contrarian on this one, trust me. The apparent giddiness of the Anne Hathaway haters aside, it is zero fun to be part of a pile-on. But that shit was bad. It goes beyond sexist or racist or homophobic jokes – MacFarlane hit that trifecta, to be sure, but that was expected, as were the built-in “Can’t you take a joke?” defenses. Personally, I think you’re going to hide behind the sacrosanct shield of comedy, you need to make sure your version of comedy transcends being the 1,000th person to make a “This Is 90” joke about “Amour.”
But it goes beyond “offensive.” How many times has Billy Crystal made “Jews in Hollywood” jokes? It even goes beyond “unfunny.” Everybody bombs – just look at Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy last night – and they’re forgiven for it. MacFarlane’s problem, and the problem with most terrible Oscar hosts, is that he didn’t have any real understanding of the audience, both at home and in the room. People constantly harp on the “humorless” Hollywood audiences at these things, but that’s ridiculous. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler just finished playing to one of the hottest rooms in history at the Golden Globes, and it wasn’t just the booze talking (nor were they kissing ass). Part of the job description as Oscar host is to be an emcee for an event in front of a live audience, and if you don’t get that audience onboard? That’s on you.
Right off the bat, MacFarlane proved his tone-deafness. The Jean Dujardin joke wasn’t just mean, it wasn’t funny. The crux of that joke is that after winning his Oscar, Dujardin hasn’t been on American movie screens all year. Of course, that’s mostly because Americans don’t have much room on their movie screens for French-speaking actors. So, like, HA HA, generally nice-seeming guy, way to be a casting challenge for mainstream America’s narrow vision of acceptable movie stars! Calling attention to that isn’t “mean” so much as utterly tone-deaf to the realities of the filmmaking community, and that’s the problem. Crystal (groaner that he is) or Steve Martin showed an understanding of the filmmaking community that MacFarlane just never bothered to get.
The weirdness of that opening number – the Shatner, the dance breaks, the frankly unbelievable way he actually managed to cram “Family Guy”-style flashbacks into his Oscar monologue – may have been received better if, say, the “We Saw Your Boobs” number didn’t seem like the laziest possible way to seem edgy. On the bright side, it provided something of a parlor game for viewers, who got to watch Helen Hunt, Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Chastain and Kathryn Bigelow behind MacFarlane and guess which one of them would crack a smile (the winner: four-way tie!). And yes, “I Saw Your Boobs” was “intentionally” bad, but drawing a box around awfulness doesn’t negate it. MacFarlane’s brand of comedy is half-full of those kind of moments where he points out his own stupidity and then lets it play out long enough that he expects you to laugh at it anyway. See also: the Kardashian/Affleck joke, the Sally Field bit, even the “Sound of Music” goof – easily the best joke of the entire show – got some of the air taken out of it by MacFarlane hanging a lantern on it afterwards.
All in all, it was an incredibly schizophrenic production. The “celebrating musicals” theme was not a bad one, though one wonders how much of a theme the Oscars need every year. The film geek in me liked that the movies and nominated performances got lengthy and well-chosen clips to represent them. The Oscar geek in me liked that Director/Actor/Actress/Picture were the final four awards (some years they like to throw one or two of those awards earlier in the night and it FREAKS ME OUT). And yet: the writing for the presenters was awful (what was that “Avengers” banter even supposed to be?). The “Jaws” music for the run-on acceptance speeches was an incredibly bad call (lord knows the Visual Effects guys need to be reminded they’re nobodies in the funniest way possible!). The Best Original Song performances were really strangely spread out. And presiding all over it was MacFarlane, making the world’s easiest and tackiest Clooney/Quvenzhane Wallis sex jokes. But this is what happens when the host cares less about what’s in the envelope than he does how far it can be pushed.
Categories: AwardsTags: Academy awards, Family guy, George clooney, Jean Dujardin, Oscar hosts, Oscars 2013, Seth macfarlane