In a "Sun" interview last week, Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic listed several ways they were going to make the Oscar telecast a leaner, faster, younger TV production.
This is a rolling a review of how it played Sunday night ... (If you are pressed for time and want the short version written after the telecast ended, here it is: The program was a mess.)
Fun opening with Neil Patrick Harris, but not exactly, the younger, leaner, faster show the producers promised. And you have to admit it was kind of uneven in tone with starts and stops -- and lots of tympani trying to fill the gaps between, dancers, singing and the onstage arrival of the co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin.
Ragged and uneven opening dialogue with Martin and Baldwin having a very hard time setting a tone thanks largely to weak, insider-ish material. I hope the telecast finds its feet fast. I'm starting to get flop sweat. Martin and Baldwin are clapping at the end of each call-out to performers in the Kodak Theatre audience -- and almost no one is clapping with them. Shankman and Mechanic insisted this telecast was not going to play to the room at the expense of the home audience -- and that is all this opening is doing. It is one of the worst openings I have ever seen.
And then comes Cameron Diaz and Steve Carell as presenters, and the script is wretched, and she can't read the TelePrompter. Was it really malfunctioning as she said? Who cares? The telecast is a mess so far.
I do like the camera placement and set design, which places the stage much closer to the room. But it is not nearly enough to make up for the incredibly choppy feel of the telecast so far.
And could Mylie Cyrus talk faster? She sounded like an animated character during her moment as a presenter. Well, getting younger does come with a price, doesn't it?
Robert Downey, Jr. and Tina Fey were the best presenters so far -- which isn't saying much. But it's something in a telecast this weak. Maybe we hit bottom with Mylie Cyrus and Cameron Diaz.
I have to be honest, I didn't think the last part of the John Hughes tribute worked at all -- with members of the Brat Pack standing on stage and saying a few words. I know it is always dangerous to be at all critical of a tribute, but there are tributes, and then there are tributes. This one, not so great.
Give Ben Stiller a little credit for his "Avatar" outfit -- but only a little. He was presenting for best makeup, which is why it kind of made sense. But his jokes -- hard to tell if they were scripted or ad-libbed -- were embarrassingly bad. (I am starting to sense that people in the hall can't believe how badly this telecast is going either. But I can only guess at that from the reaction shots of people looking uncomfortable, confused or bored.)
It took almost 90 minutes, but finally there was some real emotion onscreen at 10 p.m. as Mo'Nique was announced as the winner for best supporting actress for her performance in "Precious." And the Baltimore native went on to deliver the best speech of the night up to that point, thanking the academy for showing with her award that "it can be about the performance and not the politics." Maybe there is hope yet for this show.
I was wrong about the hope thing. So much for that moment, as the telecast again went off a cliff and underwater with the filmed skit of Baldwin and Martin sleeping together -- and then the walk-on by Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart as presenters. Could there have been less applause? So much for the "youth element." And nice move by Stewart clearing her throat in the middle of reading her lines.
While there was nothing wrong in a major way with the performance by James Taylor during the montage of film moments featuring those who died last year, the segment again felt empty, flat and disjointed from what came before -- a microcosm of the entire TV evening.
OK, it's 10:50 p.m., and I want some major winners. But what I have is a stage full of dancers -- and maybe it's me, but I am not in the mood for this kind of interpretative dance. Not after the kind of unfulfilled evening I've had in front of the TV with this mess of a telecast.
This was the big number of the evening -- and they couldn't get a standing ovation from the full room. I guess it isn't playing in the hall either.
It is now 11:12 p.m., and it is actually getting painful to watch this telecast. I think Mechanic and Shankman have lost control -- if they ever had it. Maybe a big win by "Precious" will end the telecast on an emotional high, but it will be no thanks to the show itself. I am beginning to think this is one of the most misguided Oscar telecasts I have ever seen. All of the awards shows are up in ratings this season, but if there is one that could reverse the trend this is it.
Now 11:30, and I think I am going to pass out if these "tributes" to the leading actor nominees go on for one more minute. What absolute goop. Let's talk about their performances -- not what great guys they supposedly are. This is the faster, leaner broadcast the producers promised? On what planet?
Jeff Bridges won, and everyone in the hall is happy. So, that's a nice moment. But it is not nearly enough to make a dent in the misery of this telecast.
Sandra Bullock won for best actress for "The Blind Side," and that's a decent moment, too, thanks to her gracious speech.
Barbra Streisand, a pioneer in directing, did indeed give out the award for best director and she gave it to the first woman to ever win it: Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker."
The producers were hoping for an emotional moment, and they got a fairly big one with the winner in this category. But again, it was too little and far too late to redeem the telecast, even when "The Hurt Locker" picked up the top award a few moments later as best picture.
It was past midnight when Baldwin and Martin said goodbye with Bigelow standing between them, and I was just grateful to see this sorry excuse for an Oscar telecast come to an end.