Last year I begged God to give me back the three hours of my life the worst Academy Awards show in history stole. The Academy’s attempt to make the show more youthful and contemporary, by hiring James Franco and Anne Hathaway to host, backfired and nearly had me poking my eyes out. Apparently, lesson learned.
The 84th Academy Award show moved out of the 18 to 24 demographic and tried to get into the 25 to 49 demographic by hiring Rush Hour director Brett Ratner to produce and his Tower Heist superstar, Eddie Murphy, to host; however, Ratner resigned after saying “rehearsal is for fags.” So, the Academy decided decided to play it safe, really safe. They reached into their bag of tricks and they pulled out… a bunch of old people.
The first troubling sign that the Academy Awards was going after that strongly desired 50+ demographic (sarcasm emphasized) was when they decided they were going to ban Sacha Baron Cohen from the show. It’s like I could hear someone’s grandpa yelling, “Get out of here you, damn kids, with your MTV and video games!” The story made headlines because Cohen intended on showing up in his latest character, Dictator Aladeen, and the Academy was afraid of the unknown that comes along with the comedic actor. Cohen responded by saying, “While I applaud the Academy for taking away my right to free speech, I warn that if you do not lift your sanctions, and give me my tickets by 12 pm Sunday, you will face unimaginable consequences!”
Cohen ended up receiving his tickets courtesy the new Academy Awards producer, Brian Grazer, who stated, “We’re thrilled to have him and he’ll be on the red carpet dressed as The Dictator.” Thank goodness, because as even as it was somewhat rude to Ryan Seacrest, he provided one of the most entertaining moments to what was otherwise a very dull night.
Then came a litany of old people. Sure, we love them, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are old. Morgan Freeman, 74, opened the show. Followed by the generally entertaining opening montage video that cleverly incorporates the host(s) with the Best Picture nominees. Ironically, the opening video promised “the youngest, hippest writers in town,” only to reveal several old men sitting around a table from the film Moneyball. This was followed by a cameo by teen pop star Justin Bieber, who sat on screen doing nothing for a few brief moments in an effort to get Billy Crystal “the 18 to 24 demographic.” These were precursors, foreshadowing an event that could only be fully appreciated at the local senior center or VFW. Billy Crystal, 63, then came on stage to do his shtick.
Crystal, heads and shoulders more entertaining than Franco and Hathaway, just looked terrible. The sexagenarian was giving it his all with some jokes, some singing and some dancing. It was sad seeing clear evidence of plastic surgery, the chubbiness and the age. Putting it plainly, Billy did not look so “marvelous.” But that shouldn’t matter when we’re watching to be entertained. His jokes, although stale, still made us laugh. His singing, although overpowered by the music, made us smile. And his dancing, well, I was afraid he might fall over and break a hip. All said and done, I laughed, I cried, I questioned and I texted.
Even many of the producers, presenters, nominees and winners were old. Christopher Plummer, 82, won for the supporting actor award for playing an gay father in Beginners (the oldest actor to ever win Best Actor). Meryl Streep, 62, won the best actress award for playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Woody Allen, 76, won for best original screenplay for Midnight in Paris. Dante Ferretti, 69, and his wife, Francesca Lo Schiavo, 65+, won for Best Art direction for Hugo. J. Roy Helland, 69, for Best Make Up in The Iron Lady. Martin Scorsese, 69, was nominated multiple times for Hugo. Letty Aronson, 69, was nominated for Midnight in Paris. Stephen Spielberg, 65, was nominated for War Horse. Terrence Malick, 68, was nominated for Best Director in Tree of Life. Glenn Close, 64, was nominated for Best Actress in Albert Nobbs. Nick Nolte, 71, nominated for Best Supporting Actor in Warrior. Max von Sydow, 82, nominated for Best Supporting Actor in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. John Williams, 80, nominated for Best Original Score for War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin. Howard Shore, 65, nominated for Best Original Score for Hugo. Sérgio Santos Mendes, 71, nominated for Best Original Song for The Muppets. Thelma Schoonmaker, 72, nominated for Best Editing for Hugo. Michael Douglas, 67, was a presenter. Don Mischer, 72, and Brian Grazer, 60, both produced the show. Michael David Seligman, 76, was the supervising producer for the show. Also, James Earl Jones, 81, and Dick Smith, 89, both received Academy Honorary Awards. Among many others.
But, really, what do you expect when the median age of Academy voters, according to a study by The Los Angeles Times, is 62 years old? When these guys aren’t chasing the kids off their lawns in Beverly Hills, they are watching the movies submitted to the Academy for consideration. And when they are not getting their vision tested at the DMV so they can drive their Rolls Royces, they are actually filling out their ballots. These are the voters and they are quite simply voting for their peers… and the occasional young punk that’s got some pizazz.
Don’t get mad at me about this, I love old people. I am involved in a service organization that often times benefits the elderly and I constantly brag about my 93 year old WWII veteran grandfather. I am just reporting the obvious. And the obvious is that the Academy Awards can’t find that “sweet spot.” They tried for the younger demographic last year and ended up with the worst awards show in history, and this year they went to the other extreme and ended up with a slightly better awards show that, unfortunately, smelled of Bengay and moth balls. Perhaps next year they will find that happy medium.
Meanwhile, who won? Who cares. Everyone was old. Multiple winners were The Artist and Hugo, each winning five Oscars; and The Iron Lady won two. One comment worth mentioning from my peanut gallery was “France finally won something but how long before they surrender the prize?”
Some advice for the Academy… The short interviews of the Hollywood elite pontificating on what film means to them was a different and enjoyable. The format of having presenters do two awards back-to-back helped speed things along nicely. If the host wants wants to engage in some political humor, it shouldn’t be so one-sided. Lord knows President Barack Obama has provided enough fodder to last all the comedians a lifetime, yet there were no Obama jokes… just a bit putting down the GOP that wasn’t even that funny. What was hilarious was Billy Crystal putting down the Hollywood royalty. He was like Ricky Gervais Light at times, and that was entertaining. The best (and most true) comment of the evening was, “Enjoy yourselves. Because nothing can take the sting out the world’s problems than watching millionaires present each other with golden statues.” Consider a producer and host combo whose ages are between 35 and 55… or at least loved by the 18+ demographic. And if you’re going to do an older host again, please consider Betty White. She’s a lot more “hip” and “cool” — not to mention more relevant — than Billy Crystal.
Something I noticed more so this year than in previous years were the commercials. Sure, the Academy Awards has a huge audience and they usually have a few decent commercials, but this year it felt a little more like the Super Bowl in terms of commercials. In particular, the elaborate JC Penny commercials starring Ellen DeGeneres deserve a mention. In spite of the sad controversy between the “One Million Moms” threat to boycott JC Penny over their decision to hire Ellen as the spokesperson, the commercials were excellent. The only problem with these great commercials were that they were not for Depends, Viagra or Polident. These advertisers really missed a great opportunity.
All in all, this year’s Academy Awards was better than last year’s show, but what do you expect when the bar was set so low last year by Franco and Hathaway?