This year's Oscars made me long for the lean, modest discipline of an American Idol results show. Overproduced but underthought, the massive slug of a program glugged along for almost four hours, pimpled with crazy-making sideshows (those Best Costume Design models who moved like robots; a choir making funny sound effects territory Michael Winslow exhausted in the first Police Academy movie).
Host Ellen DeGeneres, humble, cheery presence that she is, seemed nearly engulfed by the bombast. Occasionally a tuft of yellow hair and a sliver of her grin actually registered as she popped up to do unassuming (if completely edgeless) bits slip Martin Scorsese a script or have her photo taken with Clint Eastwood. But she so underplayed her role, the entire evening felt unmoored. Who is steering this thing and panic rising! how many shapes are those people behind the screen going to make with their bodies before the night is over? Around hour 3, they could have contorted themselves into a stunning likeness of my own lovely face and I still wouldn't have cared.
The three spotty film montages taught me the following: Writing is both hilarious and frustrating; movies in languages other than English are awesome; and America is...violent? Cool? Racist? Filled with horses? I'm a sucker for a montage, but these did not instill in me the wonder of movies. But back to the ''writing is hard'' theme. Apparently, yes. The night's script was clunky and awkward and generally uninspired. Consider the introduction for presenter Jerry Seinfeld: ''In case you're wondering where he's been...here he is!'' Really? That's what a team of writers brainstormed?
Finally, a word to the winners: Work those speeches! This is a night of pageantry, designed to celebrate the awe and emotion movies inspire in us do something! Say something! What, you're not a speechwriter? Get one. You had a professional help pick out a dress or do your hair, so find someone who can dazzle us with fashionable wordplay. Or else fold yourself into the shape of a hook and we can call it a night. D