Blog: Oh, What a Night: Reactions to the 87th Academy Awards

John Travolta gets a little too apologetic with Idina Menzel in what was arguably one of the most uncomfortable moments at the 87th Academy Awards.

by Ken B.

First off, answers to the questions I asked at the end of my final predictions post:

  1. Something that would have been significantly more enjoyable had it been shorter or earlier in the show. She still killed it, regardless of time.
  2. Eh, about a six and a half.
  3. No.
  4. About 30 seconds in, no less.
  5. As far as I can tell. Didn’t happen though.
  6. The numbers went through the roof. One of my best looking traffic reports in months.

As for Neil Patrick Harris in the hosting position… what a letdown. I love the guy (who doesn’t), but I thought he really fell flat here. With a mildly promising opening number (“Moving Pictures”) behind him, NPH was stuck with reams of poor material and bad jokes, delivered at inopportune times and a fatally bad setup to a trick (the locked briefcase with his predictions) which had a payoff that was way too late in the night and way too unspectacular to be worthwhile. While it’s obvious that he was giving a real effort to keep the show going, it doesn’t help when you don’t have worthwhile content to start with (“best and the whitest” line notwithstanding). One of the arguably oddest bits of the night was a recreation of the Times Square scene in Birdman, which culminated in Harris walking onstage and introducing the next presenter in his underwear. Already feeling like a bad comedy sketch to begin with, the question becomes how much of the viewing audience actually saw Birdman and understood the reference? Assuming an average movie ticket price of $10, less than ten percent of roughly 35 million viewers in the United States.

Speaking of Birdman, it turns out I was wrong in thinking it would split Best Picture and Director with Boyhood. I’m surprised the Academy was able to avoid a split in a year this competitive. (Maybe part of my erroneus predictions were due to my personal opinion of the two films intruding my judgments in the races.) The show felt excruciatingly long this year, with Best Picture left a mystery until just after midnight on the East Coast. The bloat is becoming obvious. If AMPAS is listening, get new producers next year – while Neil Meron and Craig Zadan have had a good few years running the show, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a new creative team.

There are, however, two things that I felt saved the show from being unredeemable – the acceptance speeches and the musical performances. As for the former, many of the winners had tasteful political comments (if such a thing as “tasteful politics” exists) – not so vague it wasn’t noteworthy, but not borderline obnoxious rabble rousing like a certain documentary winner from last decade. Patricia Arquette got the crowd on their feet with a call to close the wage gap, Alejandro G. Iñárritu slipped in some thoughts on immigration when accepting the Best Picture prize, Graham Moore spoke incredibly personal words that were arguably better than the script he just won the trophy for, and in John Legend and Common’s speech, following a chillingly effective performance of their winning song from Selma, a reiteration of the startling statistic that right now in America, there are more black men imprisoned than there ever were enslaved.

However, it doesn’t change the fact that regardless of how good (Lady Gaga’s The Sound of Music tribute) or bad (that headache inducing “Everything is Awesome” performance) they were, these performances are needless, and do nothing except stretch out the already too long runtime. My suggestions if I had executive control over a future Oscarcast? Cut the song after In Memoriam (what a roster this year – very saddening), cut the Best Original Song performances, cut any numbers or segments (exlcuding In Memoriam) that run longer than five minutes, move the short film presentations to one of the non-televised ceremonies and briefly recap them during the program (you could even move a couple other of the “low-tier” awards there too if you were feeling especially adventurous), and try a year where we eliminate the host – instead, have the announcer move things along while brief presentations and comedy bits are done by various guests invited to perform on the show. Maybe then we can scale this thing back to around 11:30.

But alas, no such luck will likely ever be pursued in the near future. The hosts and musical guests are vital parts of the core advertising for the Oscars. Oh well, it was worth asking. I guess we’ll do this all over again next year.

My prediction score: 17/24 (71%)
Best Picture announcement time: 12:04 A.M.

P.S.: Oh, wasn’t that bit where John Travolta started getting all touchy with Idina Menzel’s face (pictured above) while apologizing for last year’s pronunciation gaffe just the creepiest thing?