I really enjoyed the show this year. It was much more enjoyable, and much more in-character for the Oscars, than last year. I don't know what the producers and Tom Sherak have taken away from the experience, but I was glad they stopped caring - for this year, at least - about courting the young demographic (and even poked fun at it). Seriously, aside from the Justin Bieber cameo in the opening, I think there was only one presenter under the age of 30 - Emma Stone, who I'll get to below.
Best Presenter - Emma Stone with Ben Stiller. After all of Stiller's outlandish appearances in year's past (going back to 2001's Best Costume Design gag when he was trussed up as Gimli while Owen Wilson was much more understated in Hogwarts robes), I loved that they poked fun at that and had him be the straight man to Emma's hilarious overexuberance.
- Also loved the Bridesmaids gals. I seriously think no one has told Martin Scorsese about the drinking game, which if I remember correctly came from the SAG awards, and I don't think he attended those. His "what's going on?" reaction was hilarious.
Best Acceptance Speech - Octavia Spencer, who seemed so genuinely overwhelmed at not only the award but the standing ovation.
Obligatory Cirque du Soleil Comment - This is something that I'll bet played really well to the room but just didn't quite translate on television. Nothing wrong with that, in my opinion. This night is for the people in that room; my entertainment is secondary.
Captain Von Trapp, For the Win - At 82, Christopher Plummer is now the oldest recipient of a competitive Oscar. Previous record-holder was Jessica Tandy, who won for Driving Miss Daisy when she was 80.
Oh, THAT's What That Was - I was boggling at the women in tiny outfits passing out popcorn, but it seems to have been part of the "old movie house" theme of the year. Very fitting, given the unofficial Best Picture theme of "nostlagia."
Minor Disappointment - I was not wild about the opening medley. There were parts of it that were great, like the "Amore" thing with Scorsese. But there were misses. For example, I thought it was weird to dedicate basically the entire Moneyball section to the fact that Jonah Hill lost weight.
Not-So-Minor Disappointment - Don't get me wrong. I loved seeing Meryl Streep win last night. But I felt so sad for Viola Davis. Having said that, I agree with a comment I saw on Twitter and would like it a lot more to see Davis win for playing someone who is not a maid. And it helps to know that she and Meryl are friends and would be horrified to think that people are getting upset and creating stories about some rivalry.
People were amazed that Best Actor was presented before Best Actress, as if it was somehow a Big Moment for women, to have been deferred to the more dramatic next-to-last award. But in actual fact, they usually alternate the order of those awards.
People are also offended by Billy Crystal's Sammy Davis, Jr. impression, and while I get that a bit like that is no longer really acceptable, Crystal has been doing that gag for years. And he's been doing it at the Oscars since at least 1996. I think the outrage should be accompanied by acknowledgement that it wasn't that long ago when that was an acceptable impression.
Controversy aside, I thought Billy Crystal rocked, for the most part. Yeah, it was "safe" comedy and felt a bit like filler and going through the motions, but look - the Oscars (again, in my opinion) are not meant to be Great Television. They usually turn out to be something close to it, because they're live and they're all about seeing our favorite actors in their own skin, as it were. Lame jokes and poignant clip reels are meant to help nominees and presenters relax on what must be the most stressful night of many of their lives. The first priority of the show should be to play to the room, which is why it was never going to fly to have the Muppets host. Sorry, Kermit.
One final note...