LOS ANGELES — The end of an increasingly long awards season has finally arrived. No more hype, no more guesswork – Hollywood's biggest night, the Oscars are over. But for those who sat through the ceremony usually renowned for verbose eulogies and waffling that borders on filibuster territory, did it live up to expectation? ARTINFO was on the scene to case the critics reviews and share some of its own.
To help first-time host Seth MacFarlane kick things off , William Shatner appeared as his “Star Trek” character Captian Kirk, putting an end to MacFarlane’s borderline distasteful jabs at Chris Brown, Rihanna, Mel Gibson, and Jodie Foster – which met with mixed reviews from the audience.
Emerging from a video screen, Shatner descended from the future to help the “Family Guy” creator “from destroying the Academy Awards,” then holding up a paper with the headline “Seth MacFarlane Worst Oscar Host Ever!”
“Your jokes are tasteless and inappropriate, and everyone ends up hating you,” said Shatner.
MacFarlane then segued into a wisecracking tune titled “We Saw Your Boobs,” where he called out actresses names who have gone topless in movies over the years. The lengthy musical performance with Channing Tatum, Charlize Theron, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe just about won over some early doubters of MacFarlane's sense of humor.
“Seth McFarlane's opening was spot-on – a perfect example of blending his particular brand of humor with Academy Awards-style entertainment, livening it up by including genuine A-list stars who were in on the joke and got to demonstrate hidden talents,” Scott Huver, entertainment reporter and pop culture expert, said.
“It may have run a bit long, but it showed both how Seth was going to mix edginess with good natured humor, his musical abilities and his love of pop culture,” Huver added.
Not all agreed.
“After a shaky opening, he seem to have relaxed and gotten into his role as host,” Angela Dawson, a veteran Hollywood journalist who has covered the Academy Awards for 13 years, told ARTINFO.
The first award of the night came 15 minutes into the show, as best supporting actor went to Christoph Waltz for the second time in a Quentin Tarantino film, on this ocassion for “Django Unchained” – a homage to Spaghetti Westerns about a bounty hunter who frees a slave. It was presented to him by “The Help” star Octavia Spencer. No early surprises then, but a first statuette well-deserved.
Former Bond girl Halle Berry then introduced what was anticipated to be a central highlight of the 85th Academy Awards — a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise. Alas, it was as calamitous as Roger Moore's ill-scripted jungle chase in “Octopussy.”
“It was a copout. Running clips from the Bond films and getting a 75 year-old Shirley Bassey to limp through her classic song is not a special tribute to 50 years of Bond movies," Jami Philbrick, Managing Editor of iamROGUE.com, told ARTINFO. “Clearly they couldn't get Sean Connery and the rest of the Bond actors together to do something really special, so they came up with this mediocre event. It was definitely a disappointment to true Bond fans and did not at all live up to what was advertised.”
Musical numbers were a large part of the show this year and a long list of Hollywood’s biggest names showed off their singing talents.
Catherine Zeta-Jones, introduced by John Travolta, sang her provocative hit “All that Jazz” from “Chicago,” while Jennifer Hudson gave a powerful rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.” Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Amanda Seyfried, and the cast of “Les Misérables” sang a medley of songs from their film, including "Suddenly," "One Day More," and "I Dreamed a Dream."
But they weren’t the only big stars to belt out tunes at this years Oscars.
Barbra Streisand, who hasn’t performed at the show for 36 years, took the stage in honor of the late composer Marvin Hamlisch and sang “The Way We Were.”
"Marvin Hamlisch was a composer of extraordinary depth and versatility," she said. "He was also a very kind and generous friend who could always make me laugh."
New mom Adele also brilliantly sang the theme song to “Skyfall,” for which she also won the Oscar on the night for Best Original Song.
All night, MacFarlane teased and abraded the celebrities in a nod to Tinseltown's other big award show, the Golden Globes, but he was fair game himself too and turned the tables with self-depreciating humor. “Your movies are here to receive awards. My movie is in front of grocery stores being urinated on,” he said, referring to last summer's comedy “Ted.”
Mark Wahlberg then appeared with Ted, the talking pint-sized teddy bear, using impressive CGI animation effects as the two bantered back and forth about Jews and orgies. So much for subtelty.
Next up, Academy Award winning actor and screen legend Christopher Plummer presented the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role to firm favorite Anne Hathaway for “Les Misérables.” Wearing a pale pink Prada floor-length frock, the teary-eyed 30-year-old hugged Hugh Jackman and Amy Adams before striding on stage for one of the night's highlights.
“I want to thank my friends, especially the ones who are cheering from Crosby Street tonight. Here’s hoping that someday in the not too distant future the misfortunes of Fantine will only be found in stories and never in real life,” Hathaway said.
Jennifer Lawrence soon took Best Actress for “Silver Linings Playbook,” another widely predicted result after winning the Golden Globe. As she started up the stairs to take the coveted award though, she tripped, providing a few seconds of unease on the sitll largely formal occasion.
Having gracefully picked herself up before help arrived, she was greeted at the podium with a standing ovation. “You all standing up makes me feel bad that I fell, and that's really embarrassing,” she joked.
By now the heavyweights were in abundance and Charlize Theron and Dustin Hoffman next presented the award to Chris Terrio for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Argo.” One of the few surprises of the evening came with Quentin Tarantino’s win for Original Screenplay for “Django Unchained.” “Charlize is my neighbor. So nice to get this from you,” Tarantino said as he held the Oscar.
The prize for best actor had long seemed like a one-horse race, and so it was as British/Irish actor Daniel Day-Lewis became the most decorated lead actor in Oscars history with his third home best actor statuette, for “Lincoln.”
The 85th Academy Awards praise for American patriotism was the prevailing theme as things drew to a close, as following on from Day-Lewis' portrayal of the 16th President of the United States, Ben Affleck – overlooked for best director – took home the top prize for Best Picture of the year for “Argo.”
Alongside “Zero Dark Thirty,” Oscar-winning director’s Kathryn Bigelow’s drama that documents the events leading up to the killing of Osama bin Laden, and “Lincoln,” which retells the story of America's emancipation of African American slaves in the 1860s, “Argo” brought renewed attention to a secret CIA mission to get six America citizens out of harms way in Iran – albeit a fairly dubious usage of artistic license to real events.
Just as it seemed like veteran actor Jack Nicholson was going to present the honor himself to Affleck, in an unexpected video appearance U.S. flag-waving at the ceremony went right to the top as First Lady Michelle Obama, surrounded by formally-dressed servicemen and woman inside the White House, opened the envelope to announce the winner.
Affleck, 40, visibly shaking and emotional, gave his acceptance speech. After thanking everyone who worked on the movie, he then turned his attention to his wife, Jennifer Garner. "I normally don't associate [her] with Iran," he said. “It's work, but it's the best work there is and there's no one else I'd rather work with, " he added.
Usually this would be the end of the night. But MacFarlane had one more card up his sleeve, pairing up with Kristin Chenoweth for a closing number – about the “losers” of the event.
While it was intended to err on the side of potentially offensive, Dawson didn’t mind.
“It went hand in hand with the opening. Who knew Seth could sing like that? Perhaps he should have starred in 'Les Miserables,'" she said.
“After a rough start, depending on the ratings, he may be invited back next year. [He] proved a better than mediocre host.”