Saturday, May 25, 2024

Oscar Anti-Snark: It Was a Great Show, Extremely Entertaining, and A Ratings Hit


Now that everyone has cut the Oscar show into little pieces, let me weigh in. I was at the head of the red carpet for the pre-show, in the audience and enjoying the new Dolby Bar so my perspective is different. I didn’t watch the show on a TV until tonight, when I finally got to replay it. But I’ve sat through almost 20 Oscar shows, and I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff– from Eddie Murphy’s abrupt departure when he lost, to Bill Murray trying to outplay Sean Penn, to James Franco and Anne Hathaway’s hodgepodge that went so badly.

Sunday’s show, I thought, was the most entertaining, best organized ever. It was as if Craig Zadan and Neil Meron rolled the Grammys and the Tonys into the Oscars and came up with the ultimate awards broadcast. The only thing that didn’t really work was the James Bond celebration–no Bonds. Very strange. But the producers knew that — and Shirley Bassey was simply spectacular. Her voice reverberated through that crazy auditorium with stunning drama. What a pleasure.

The other musical numbers were each spectacularly successful. Jennifer Hudson, I think, is not even close yet to being as big a star as she will be. The “Les Miserables” segment was mesmerizing– and my two picks to click from that movie, Samantha Barks and Aaron Tveit, exceeded all expectations. Adele and Barbra Streisand were each so exquisite, it’s sort of amazing that they — and all these other people- were on one stage.

What about Seth MacFarlane? Considering how subversive his humor is, I was surprised how much he was trying to be Bob Hope. He also has a very good singing voice. Some of the material was way off base– Mark Wahlberg and Ted were off base (who came up with that?) and the “Boob” song was not to everyone’s taste. But Oscar shows are full of cringe-worthy moments. These were no worse than ones in the past.

There’s a new crew at the Academy– Hawk Koch, Dawn Hudson, Christina Kounelias and Jasmine Madatian. They worked like dogs for months, and turned the whole Oscar experience into something modern and lively. I loved it, and so did the audience. The ratings were up, which was the payoff. And Michael Douglas said something to us at the Vanity Fair party that kind of summed it up. He remarked: “Some of the people who’ve never been here before, like the foreign film nominees, told me they were surprised how warm the show was. That we’re like a family.”

Douglas was right. It came across. Bravo.

PS Everyone sang live. Quite an accomplishment. Watch the videos. Crazy good. Lisa Kasteller, Jennifer Hudson’s publicist, was kind of agog later. She said she’d been in the wings with Jennifer– “And then she just went out and sang like that. It was amazing. Like it was nothing.” And the audience went nuts.

One more thing: maybe all the snarky stuff is because for once the dresses were all hits. Our favorites in person: Jane Fonda– hands down the best–followed by Jennifer Lawrence, Jennifer Garner, Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman, and Salma Hayek.

And best tuxedos? Both Daniel Day Lewis and Alan Arkin were cleaned up and put in smashing penguin suits by hot New York menswear designer Domenico Vacca. His regular suits, ties, and shirts are much desired, and very, very ‘in.’


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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