presence


Watching iguanas mate was far more engaging than watching the show the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences put on last Sunday night. The lack of presence in the evening's hosts made for a lame, awkward, laggy, unoriginal, stale, drawn out, bore of a show.

It wasn't the films or the music or the theme or the presenters or the acceptance speeches or the sound editing you don't care about that made the Oscars suck.

It was the hosts.

James Franco and Anne Hathaway did a poor job. It's not entirely their fault. Shame on Oscar for thinking it can get away with hiring actors as hosts. Is it because nobody wants the job? Previous hosts have included some very funny people with presence, timing, and charm. The stuff you can't teach. Over the last decade hosts have included comics such as Ellen Degeneres, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman. But the majority of the job in its 83 year history, has been filled by Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal. Icons.

Presenters are off the hook because they're only up there to present, announce, get lost. However some have more presence in that category than others, even for a short while. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis were off, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law were funny, Kirk Douglas was old and funny.

The Academy's history reads in part, that it is, "Dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of motion pictures, the Academy’s corporate management and general policies are overseen by a Board of Governors, which includes representatives from each of the craft branches."

Wonderful.

But, if it's dedicated to advancement, why is it going backward? It started heading south in 2009 with Hugh Jackman as host. Albeit a talented actor, Wolverine is not a standup comic, nor a talk show host. But he was more entertaining than this year. I still wonder if midway through the show someone called Billy Crystal at home and said, how fast can you get here? He's that good. When he took the stage he was comfortable, engaging, witty, and funny. You wanted to watch him.

Billy Crystal is all those things. He is also present. He performs. He listens. He reacts. I heard a reporter on the radio say, "It looked as if Franco was watching a show he was also hosting." The man was distracted. And full of himself. And not funny. Fail.

I agree with Jesse Wente's (cbc.ca) take. "You know something is wrong when one of the funniest jokes of the night is from a hologram of Bob Hope 60 years ago," he said.

But it was nice to see Trent Reznor win and Melissa Leo drop the f-bomb and Christian Bale forget his wife's name. Who does that? I thought he was king of the assholes since the fit about the lighting guy. This bumps his status to Emperor. Was he caught up in the moment? You might forgive someone else, but a jerk who is a jerk is still a jerk. A real prize, that one.

Receiving the award is in itself, a present. A prize. To receive a symbol of excellence recognized by 6,000 people in a Members Only club, who choose the best of the best, by voting on secret ballots. Kind of underground and clandestine when you get right down to it. And the winner ends up in a club of its own. Everlasting glory, fame and a not so little gold statue for the mantlepiece, coffee table, den, bookshelf, kids room.

"Since the initial awards banquet on May 16, 1929, in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s Blossom Room, 2,701 statuettes have been presented." (oscars.org)

Still, I'm glad I don't have cable. I would have felt ripped off from such lousy value. I watched the show on the TV in the gym in my building. Then after an hour and a half workout, I went back to the apartment and caught snippits on a website that was streaming it for free. I saw enough.

Jennifer Westaway (cbc.ca) summed it up diplomatically. The show was "polished and predictable."

I'm also glad Inception didn't win.