Well, I suppose after the high point that was last year's Oscar ceremony, the only way to go was down. And the signs were there that this year's program was going to be a letdown for some time now, from co-producer Adam Shankman referring to it as the "best-dressed reality show" to the axing of the Best Song performances. But who knew it would fail so badly?
From the sloppy direction to the banal presenter banter to the needlessly complicated eyesore of a set, first time producers Shankman and Bill Mechanic cranked out one bad choice after another, turning the show into a prime example of what most people knee-jerkingly call it year after year: a long, dull evening filled with the moviemaking elite congratulating themselves.
Did we really need yet another cheeky/cheesy Neil Patrick Harris/Marc Shaiman musical number? How about hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin trotting out the ol' standard, let's-poke-fun-at-Hollywood schtick? And all do respect to John Hughes, but how do you justify giving seven minutes to someone who was never nominated for an Academy Award and relegate poor Honorary Oscar winner Lauren Bacall to an awkward "stand up and take a bow" moment? And don't get me started on the "In Memoriam" omissions, most glaringly Farrah Fawcett and Beatrice Arthur.
To be fair, the longer film clips of the nominated movies were welcome, and the actual awards themselves (though screamingly predictable at this point in the season) offered some of the evening's few highlights, including great speeches by Sandra Bullock, Up composer Michael Giacchino and Mo'Nique, among others. And who could resist the "only on live TV" awkwardness that was brought to us by the documentary winners?
And let's not forget the evening's milestones, including the Academy's first ever female director winner, The Hurt Locker's Kathryn Bigelow, and its first ever African American screenplay winner, Precious' surprise victor Geoffrey Fletcher. Oh, and I'll just say it: thank god Avatar didn't win Best Picture!
On the other hand, by the time the lead acting categories rolled around, with its sloppy seconds take on last year's unique presentation, this longtime Oscar watcher was more than ready to draw the curtain on the 2009 movie awards year. And that's just what we'll do later today, with our third annual yearly round up of the best of the best of the year.