The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 1, 2013

Benji Tunnell: Performance-filled Oscars night only so-so

By Benji Tunnell
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Academy Awards have finally wrapped up, just in time for next year's ceremony. Last year was pretty solid in terms of truly good movies, and with Sunday's annual self-congratulations finished, it is time to take a look at the good and bad moments from the show.

Host with the Most?

After averting a near-disaster last year when Eddie Murphy bailed and Billy Crystal stepped in, the Oscars decided to go risky again, tapping "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane to host. The question going in was, "How offensive will he be?"

The answer? Pretty darned. People were expecting a lot from a guy who has built a career off of pushing boundaries, but most probably weren't ready for him to go as far as he did.

After a joke about 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis' future as a love interest for George Clooney (Ha! Sexualizing children is funny!), he went on to make jokes about relationship abuse, Latino women only being there for looks and Jennifer Aniston being a stripper.

Arguments have been levied against MacFarlane for being sexist and misogynistic. I'm not prude by any means, but I certainly could see the point, especially after an opening number entitled "We Saw Your Boobs," in which MacFarlane and the Los Angeles Gay Men's Chorus sang about all of the actresses who have done nude scenes.

Especially unfortunate were some of the examples cited in which the nudity occurred in rape scenes. It seemed to be something that would have been perfectly appropriate for his day job, but felt horribly out of place on what is supposed to be Hollywood's grand night.

Trying something new

I traditionally avoid the pre-show red-carpet walk because it usually consists of the same question about who is wearing what. Likewise, I was wary of trying out the Oscars' iPad app because I find the encroachment of new media in such events to be annoying, but this year I gave both a shot.

The only thing I can tell about the red-carpet coverage, at least in the short time that I watched it, is that Kristen Chenoweth is short. I got this because she kept taking her shoes off and standing next to the stars and commenting on her petiteness. Multiple times.

As for the app, I turned it off initially when, while Anne Hathaway was being interviewed, it ran a scroll on the top that said "Anne Hathaway is being interviewed!"

I turned it back on during the actual ceremony just to see what it did. Mostly it was camera shots of the crowd and the backstage interview area. At one point a disembodied voice commented to someone about Samuel L. Jackson's red coat and pimp hat, so I suppose that was worth it.

Music in the Air

The theme of the show was a salute to movie music, and as such we were inundated by so many musical performances that I was wondering if I'd accidentally turned on the Tonys.

Oddly enough, of those, only three were best song performances, and one of those was trimmed for time. But there was still room for unnecessary musical performances by Catherine Zeta-Jones, Barbara Streisand and the "Boobs" song. It allowed for some showstoppers by Jennifer Hudson and Shirley Bassey, but that doesn't undo the damage that one song by Streisand can inflict.

It Ain't the Super Bowl

I don't watch the Oscars for the commercials, but two caught my eye. The first was actually the series of commercials for the Samsung phones. They immediately became grating and annoying, and they kept coming back break after break.

I could care less about their phones. I do, however, really want to play "Unicorn Apocalypse" now.

The other was the return of the Grey Poupon guys. I'd never really wondered what had happened to them up to this point, but now I'm hoping I get to see a battle to the death. Preferably not in mustard.

The Winners

I was pretty happy with most of the choices this year, if only for the speeches.

Christoph Waltz was the first surprise of the evening, and his classy speech helped offset some of the classlessness that preceded him. His director, Quentin Tarantino, gave a heartfelt recognition to all the writers while looking as schlubby as possible.

Jennifer Lawrence gracefully recovered from a fall on the stairs while going to accept her award, bouncing back up to joke with the crowd about their standing ovation being pity for her clumsiness. And Daniel Day-Lewis had the funniest line of the night when going to accept his award from Meryl Streep.

The Losers

Paul Rudd, who is usually pretty versatile, got saddled with Melissa McCarthy and an unfunny bit about voice work, and it just keeps going downhill from there. Jennifer Aniston's attempt to be pithy with dull sack Channing Tatum fell flat as they joked about waxing special areas.

But the dead weight of the night belonged to Kristen Stewart, who hobbled out without crutches after cutting her foot on glass, playing up her limp for the greatest amount of sympathy, even grunting and groaning while co-presenter Daniel Radcliffe tried to get through the presentation.

And when she opened her mouth to speak, you could almost see the energy being sucked out of the room and into her soul, where it would suffer a long and lingering death. Perhaps they were trying to re-create the "Twilight" experience for home viewers.

Hey, I've Actually Seen That!

This year Joplin was actually able to see many of the nominees before the show took place. Pictures were big enough that the regular theater was able to show many of them, and if they didn't show them there was a good chance they played at the Joplin Electric Theater. That meant that the Oscar show wasn't Joplin's first glimpse of the nominated films.

With the possibility of competition coming to town, the change of ownership at the current multiplex and the Electric continuing to win over fans with its options and presentations, I can only see this trend continuing.