TV Review: ‘The 87th Academy Awards’

Oscars TV Review

While it’s no surprise that the buoyancy of Neil Patrick Harris’ Oscar opening couldn’t last, seldom has an Academy Awards presentation broken down so transparently over one significant shortcoming – namely, the writing. While a number of factors, including a preponderance of little-seen nominees and the predictable nature of the winners outside the best-movie category, were beyond the producers’ control, too much clunky scripted material flummoxed even Harris’ impish, good-natured charms. The Oscars are an unwieldy construct, but fleeting YouTube-worthy moments couldn’t overcome a telecast that played more than usual like a cheesy variety show interrupted by a celebration of movies.

Stilted presenter banter is an accepted part of the territory, but the introductions and bits conjured for the host can be a place for slightly livelier humor. Yet almost without exception those felt alternately flat or forced, best exemplified by Harris strained baton pass to “The Hunger Games’” Josh Hutcherson, saying, “Here’s the Peeta who won’t throw paint on you,” a pun regarding the animal-rights group PETA.

Alas, that wasn’t the only wince-inducing one-liner of the night (a play off Reese Witherspoon’s name was nearly as bad), and efforts to capitalize on Harris’ winning personality by moving him into the audience with a hand-held microphone proved relatively bland.

Moreover, the direction at times looked off: when the host stripped to his underwear in a spoof of “Birdman,” for example, the camera failed to find Michael Keaton or anyone else associated with the film for reaction shots, just as it wandered unnecessarily during the clever opening song-and-dance number.

Some on social media were also quick to second-guess Harris for making a joke after one of the filmmakers of “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” mentioned her son’s suicide, but to be fair, it’s hard to think of a transition out of such a moment that wouldn’t have felt awkward. By contrast, his reference to “Citizenfour” whistleblower Edward Snowden not being able to attend the ceremony almost seemed intended to deflate the situation.

Concerns about the show being immersed in politics because of the nominees proved somewhat overblown. Indeed, there wasn’t a single speech along those lines until supporting actress winner Patricia Arquette tacked on an endorsement of equal pay for women about 90 minutes into the festivities.

The night’s undeniable highlights came in one short, concentrated burst, which nearly brought the ceremony back from the brink: First, Idina Menzel was reunited with John Travolta – who mangled her name last year – and then John Legend and Common stirringly performed “Glory,” the song from the movie “Selma,” which left star David Oyelowo, as well as others, with tears streaming down his face.

The two artists then delivered heartfelt speeches about the lingering state of race relations, which felt like a cathartic moment given the controversy over the lack of minority representation in this year’s awards. (Harris had joked about that at the outset, calling the Oscars a celebration of “the best and the whitest — sorry, brightest.”)

Then again, the speech carried more power because until then, the whole ceremony possessed such a workmanlike quality that it cried out for more passion from someone, anyone.

As for the other performances, Lady Gaga’s rendition of “The Sound of Music” gained stature when it gave way to Julie Andrews handing out the best-music award. And that colorful “Everything is Awesome” staging from “The Lego Movie” might be the first time the Oscars could be confused with Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards.

Even some of the obligatory elements yielded head-scratching decisions. Foremost, stripping the necrology segment of any film clips – even during Jennifer Hudson’s song – robbed that sequence of the power associated with seeing those departed stars doing what made them famous. The grouping of the nominated movies in the clip packages also felt hurried and arbitrary.

That’s not to say there weren’t moving, spontaneous moments. “The Imitation Game” writer Graham Moore referenced his own near-suicide at age 16, urging troubled teens not to despair. Foreign-language film “Ida” director Pawel Pawilkowski plowed through the music to thank his family (living and dead) in Poland, one of several recipients who merely sped up when the orchestra began trying to play them off. J.K. Simmons sweetly told people to call their parents.

In the main, though, this was a forgettable Oscarcast. It’s too bad, because Harris’ opening delivered a taste of his potential to approximate the light-hearted spirit Billy Crystal brought to hosting the ceremony – including having Anna Kendrick and Jack Black horn in on his opening song. As it stands, whether his performance warrants an encore is difficult to divorce from the general malaise of the evening.

Turning to the 90-minute arrivals show, ABC’s “Good Morning America”-heavy hosting team actually acknowledged the #AskHerMore campaign – which appealed to journalists to question actresses about more than just what designer they’re wearing – then proceeded to be achingly gender-neutral by avoiding questions of substance, regardless of sex.

Notably, some of the British performers didn’t quite seem to get the memo, as actors like Benedict Cumberbatch and Rosamund Pike provided thoughtful responses, even if the hosts’ questions (or in the case of Lara Spencer, really non-questions) weren’t structured to elicit them.

Give ABC some credit for addressing the issue at all – as Robin Roberts did while interviewing Witherspoon – and somewhat downplaying the customary emphasis on fashions that most ordinary people could never afford; still, diminishing that time-filling element didn’t elevate the conversation so much as merely further expose the “GMA” gang’s banality – on a night, even with “Birdman” taking top honors, that seldom got off the ground.

TV Review: 'The 87th Academy Awards'

(Special; ABC, Sun. Feb. 22, 8 p.m. ET)

Production

Broadcast live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Crew

Producers, Craig Zadan, Neil Meron; supervising producer, Michael Seligman; co-producer, Lee Lodge; director, Hamish Hamilton; head writer, Greg Berlanti; writers, Michael Green, Seth Grahame-Smith, Andrew Kreisberg; production designer, Derek McLane; choreographer, Rob Ashford; music director, Stephen Oremus; costume designer, Julie Weiss; lighting designer, Robert Dickinson; talent producer, Taryn Hurd. 3 HOURS, 43 MIN.

Cast

Host: Neil Patrick Harris. Performers: Jack Black, Common, Jennifer Hudson, Lady Gaga, Anna Kendrick, John Legend, Adam Levine with Maroon 5, Tim McGraw, Rita Ora, Tegan and Sara with The Lonely Island.

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  1. nancyj says:

    I haven’t watched the Oscars in years, thinking I’m not going to start again. I had to shut it off due to my 6 year granddaughter being in the room. I was shocked, these are the Oscars for pete’s sake. These are supposed to be the best of the best. So they honor them by having some dude parade around in underwear. I can’t tell you how many flubbed lines I heard. I honestly thought actors were supposed to be good at memorization…

    Then, I go and watch the CMAs! OH MY GOD, what a difference. You want to talk about ‘a show’, OMG wow!

  2. TheBride says:

    Nice guy. Don’t invite him back as host. Thank you.

  3. sluggo says:

    The above picture says all you need to know about Hollywood and the Oscars today – the word “gutter” comes to mind immediately.

  4. Mary jones says:

    The writing was horrible, and if that guy had to be in his underwwear, at least wear boxers, gross, i dont want to see that! its the oscars! even that has to be made degrading! worst oscars ever! stupid script, mediocre host1

  5. It was a bit tiresome, but cannot dismiss Neil Patrick Harris’ brilliant many-faceted talent. He did the best he could with the material he was assigned to work with. Lady Gaga was/is stupendous. I was blown away by the range of her voice. Loved J. K. Simmons acceptance; he’s so real and grounded.P Hollywood: please, please, please HEED Patricia Arquette’s eloquent, forceful, rational message. Innaritu, I’m glad you’re in this country—we need you, your talent, your kindness, and your generosity of spirit. Graham Moore’s touching support of and encouragement to those who suffered as he has. These are the good spots; the rest made me nod off and I don’t do drugs!

    Conny Caruso Hutchinson

  6. IT 2 IT says:

    Hollywood’s –WORST– year in its history, such as it is.

    OSCARS –LOWEST– rating? –down 14% from last year’s SNUFF OUT?

    MAYBE they need MERYL STREEP to ‘DISS’—DISNEY some more?

    MAYBE we need MORE STREEP CLONES to grandstand for MONEY,
    while ‘overlooking’ such trifling issues as the ‘VAC–SCENES’ –AUTISM HOLOCAUST?
    —–or the PSYCHOPATHIC ‘SIR–VEIL–ANTS’ state?
    ——————-or the uncloaking of EXTERMINIST EUGENICS?

  7. Dale Sullivan says:

    The first time I can remember watching all the way through, and I only did, hoping to see Matt Bomer. Seeing NPH in his briefs was a delightful surprise; the man is built! Not much else memorable, although “Stay weird” should ring out around the globe!

  8. Atomic Fury says:

    “Concerns about the show being immersed in politics because of the nominees proved somewhat overblown.”

    I think the word “somewhat” is misleading. For example:

    “Yet almost without exception those felt alternately flat or forced, best exemplified by Harris strained baton pass to “The Hunger Games’” Josh Hutcherson, saying, “Here’s the Peeta who won’t throw paint on you,” a pun regarding the animal-rights group PETA.”

    PETA is all about social politics.

    “Some on social media were also quick to second-guess Harris for making a joke after one of the filmmakers of “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” mentioned her son’s suicide, but to be fair, it’s hard to think of a transition out of such a moment that wouldn’t have felt awkward. By contrast, his reference to “Citizenfour” whistleblower Edward Snowden not being able to attend the ceremony almost seemed intended to deflate the situation.”

    Edward Snowden is a political hot potato.

    “Indeed, there wasn’t a single speech along those lines until supporting actress winner Patricia Arquette tacked on an endorsement of equal pay for women about 90 minutes into the festivities.”

    Can’t overlook the supposed “War On Women”.

    “The two artists then delivered heartfelt speeches about the lingering state of race relations, which felt like a cathartic moment given the controversy over the lack of minority representation in this year’s awards. (Harris had joked about that at the outset, calling the Oscars a celebration of “the best and the whitest — sorry, brightest.”)”

    Race relations – political.

    “That’s not to say there weren’t moving, spontaneous moments. “The Imitation Game” writer Graham Moore referenced his own near-suicide at age 16, urging troubled teens not to despair. Foreign-language film “Ida” director Pawel Pawilkowski plowed through the music to thank his family (living and dead) in Poland, one of several recipients who merely sped up when the orchestra began trying to play them off. J.K. Simmons sweetly told people to call their parents.”

    Suicide prevention – social politics.

    “Turning to the 90-minute arrivals show, ABC’s “Good Morning America”-heavy hosting team actually acknowledged the #AskHerMore campaign – which appealed to journalists to question actresses about more than just what designer they’re wearing – then proceeded to be achingly gender-neutral by avoiding questions of substance, regardless of sex.”

    Again, the supposed “War On Women”.

    Like many, you may think to downplay anything not directly associated with movie making and the awards as insignificant or “somewhat misleading”, but I find any venture into the realm of social and political causes to be a major turn-off. I don’t care what movie people feel about anything – especially politics. I don’t pay to see them spout off about social-this, political-that sort of subject matter. I pay to see them act in movies – the types of which don’t attempt to beat you over the head with their message. That’s why I’ve paid to see but 2 films in theaters twice since “The Road To Perdition”.

  9. carla singleton says:

    This was the first year I didn’t watch Oscar at all. I saw all of the nominated films, worth the exception of sorts and enjoyed the film’s immensely. Yet, I knew that the show would not reflect me or my interests so I decided to spend the time watching something that reflected my interests, The Book of Negros on BET. In switching past the channel and looking out at the audience The Oscars looked as though they were segregated as in years past. The world is more colorful than it had ever been. If no diversity in the broadcast, no diversity in the Raima. 16% down this year, perhaps 25% next year. No Whoopi, no Chris Rock, no one who could have kept the dialogue interesting, timely and funny for that matter.

  10. Denise says:

    I didn’t watch, but I have enjoyed all your comments, most assuring me I didn’t miss a thing while watching the best channel on tv…PBS. Love the BBC productions. Someone explain to me why the Brits don’t give a care about preserving themselves in plastic and look like regular people instead of some screwed up Hollywood society that has cookie cutter “model” actors? These people look like regular humans, perform amazingly so well that everyone I know is watching them! Here’s to Downton Abbey, Doc Martin, Sherlock, Dr. Who, I could go on!

  11. Solomon says:

    Just face the fact, NPH bombed. Plain and simple. It was terrible and coming out in his underwear? Horrible.

  12. John Minor says:

    The program again was full of sound problems whenever the handheld microphones were used. The lapel mike and presenters stand mikes were fine. Any explanation? It seems from local facebook postings from around the Cincinnati area that some broadcast sources had differing levels of poor sound.

  13. Janessa says:

    Downton Abbey second last episode was brilliant!!! I heard the 87th Academy Awards was ‘the schitz’. And ‘golden era movie stars’ were spinning in their graves at the lower than sub standard event. You forgot Polly Bergen in ‘memorial’ segment? WTH! The Oscars have become a self absorbed night filled with shock value lame jokes too long acceptance speeches that no viewer wants to listen to. May be producers writers should read these comments or keep it a Hollywood private event next year. We’re done.

  14. Fredthemandarin says:

    Don’t blame NPH. The biggest laugh is watching everyone suck up to everyone else. FFS, pretending that making movies is some kind of benefit to mankind is a joke. So many insecure wannabes. Cuntz all of them

  15. Jacques Strappe says:

    Harris is simply not up to the task of hosting the granddaddy of award shows, the Oscars. The host has final say in the comedy schtick and is left to their own creative improvisational skills. He didn’t bomb spectacularly but he wasn’t very good. He doesn’t possess very good comic skills, especially for the film audience crowd. He looked nervous and out of place. Overall, I didn’t think this Oscar ceremony was appreciably different from any one from the recent past. They all have inspired and tired moments but it’s still mostly fun to people watch.

  16. Mr. Derp says:

    What a stupid waste of time. Why are liberals so childish?

  17. cadavra says:

    Ramis was cited last year. Rivers was a TV star, not a movie star. SNIPER did win an award. And why would a “Jewish industry” snub Jews? You bigots are so insane you can’t even keep your delusions straight.

  18. occultology says:

    So…someone actually thought that having the Oscar Host run around in his underwear was funny? The writing was so substandard that I actually heard a “Poo Joke”. This ceremony wasn’t even up to Junior High School standards, let alone the Royalty of Movies Celebration that used to be common. And, yes, using still images of the “In Memoriam” segment, instead of living, moving remnants from our dearly departed robbed this usual highlight of its own metaphysical movie magic. Where has all the talent, and CLASS gone? That said, Lady Gaga actually impressed me with her singing chops.

    • goodbyenoway says:

      Do you even understand what the underwear thing was a reference to? I didn’t think so.
      By far, the highlight of the show was the Sound of Music tribute and the appearance of Julie Andrews.

      • Jacques Strappe says:

        Since Birdman was not widely seen by the vast majority of television viewers, I truly believe most people just assumed Neil Patrick Harris thought it would be funny to appear in his tighty whities while hosting. I read some social media comments alluding to his desperation to be funny by appearing in his underwear on national television. The Birdman reference was totally lost on most television viewers. No wonder ratings were lower since all of the nominated films other than American Sniper could be considered art-house films that no one has ever heard of and none of which spent much time, if any time at all at suburban multiplexes.

      • Mr. Derp says:

        You mean the Sound of Music from 50 years ago? Sad. Hollywood has run out of ideas.

  19. mariah says:

    The WORST ever! Get a REAL HOST. Get WRITERS.. and new producers. This guy has finally proven to EVERYONE, he has very little talent and NO! he CAN’T do EVERYTHING. He can’t even sing. It was totally embarrassing from start to finish. Enough of Neil Patrick Harris… whoever keeps throwing him into all these award shows and at US… please get someone else!
    This honestly was painful to watch this kid trying to be clever and witty with no talent OR material..And obnoxious insensitive remarks to boot. Nice of him to ‘out’ the poor hard working extras who weren’t lucky enough, like him! to have been child stars and to have never stopped working since! And have to get all glammed up so fill the seats. What a jerk!
    NPH needs to grow up and learn some things..starting with HUMILITY!
    Lady GAGA was brilliant, however..

  20. Leal says:

    This was my last Oscar telecast; I am appalled at Sean Penn’s racist comment. What rock does Penn live under? I am a Hispanic in Arizona and have endured Sheriff Joe Arpaios racist rants and policies; I was born in the U.S. but have to walk around with my passport just in case I get rousted by one of Sheriff Joe’s goons; I have heard every Latino-slandering joke there is; and witnessed merciless and ill-conceived immigration laws in action. I know racist ideology when I hear it…even the root of it. I watch the Oscars to see the apex of the entertainment industry honored. Is this the introduction that Innaritu deserved? Shame on you Sean Penn. Shame on the academy for asking a volatile actor like Penn to present such an important award. Signed, Disappointed in AZ.

  21. Jack West says:

    I enjoyed it for the technical achievement in the presentation of the nominees ala the graphics and I thought it moved along at a good pace.

  22. Dave Hill says:

    A cheesey variety show is pretty much what TV is.

  23. Charles Holloway says:

    I never saw anything to even chuckle at and turned it off about midway through. It’s all about them and their kooky world. None of them could make a living outside of Hollywood.

  24. I’m 64 and have never missed an Oscars broadcast since I was about 6. In my opinion, this was the WORST EVER. Truly pathetic — and not a “celebration of movies” AT ALL. Neil Meron and Craig Zadan should be fired. Period. Time for some fresh ideas. And new writers.

  25. The “awards” should be viewed as a documentary on the most misguided inbred out-of-touch dysfunctional self-congratulating clique on the planet. Then it makes perfect sense.

  26. Pma95 says:

    An unfunny twink in his underwear??? Really???

  27. Jack Ryan says:

    I was going to watch the self absorbed Bozo in his underwear but that’s bingo night.

  28. Country_Dog says:

    Watch the Academy Awards from the 50’s and 60’s. Shorter with more class.

    • gwendolyn robbins says:

      I agree with you. Way, way, way more class in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The Academy Awards have been demoted from The Dorothy Chandler Pavillion (class act) to the Dolby theater. The glitz and glamour in today’s world is not impressive. The “Senior Prom” has glitz, glamour and designer gowns with fancy hairdos!

      • Janessa says:

        Until the 1990’s; the Academy Awards presentation was an event not to be missed. I remember my parents grandparents watching and recalling the overall class act of movie ‘stars’ as they truly were. I watch footage from 50’s and ’60’s Oscars and it was a ‘regal’ night of Hollywood royalty.

  29. jackson says:

    Another boring show………..as usual.

  30. Don says:

    I treasure the time I spent decluttering my closet instead. A big narcissistic group hug.

  31. TOM says:

    Also – what exactly is Maya Angelou’s big contribution to cinema? One of books was adapted to a lackluster movie about 40 years ago? Guess that is more impressive than Joan Rivers or even Polly Bergen in Cape Fear.

  32. TOM says:

    Bombed early with the Oprah/Sniper joke that nobody got. The Octavia gag was really going nowhere. Even at the end – when he opened his ‘prediction’ envelope.. I was under the impression that he’d be revealing his Oscar picks-Predicions! Wasn’t that the set- up? Bring Ellen back.

  33. KorbanDallas says:

    Bunch of stuck up snobs didn’t give the rendition of Glen Campbells, Not Gonna Miss You a standing ovation? I have zero respect for anyone that’s involved with Hollywood now. Also, what kinda BS was that to just gloss over revered actors and actresses like James Garner, Robin Williams, Richard Attenborough, and Lauren Bacall with only a fleeting 2 second picture. We needed to see clips of them performing.

  34. Marc Winger says:

    There wasn’t enough comedy balancing out the cheese. Bad writing for the host. He should have said something or been able to detect how bad it was during rehearsals.
    I came across as the most boring awards, that I can remember.

  35. Gary Jakacky says:

    Salami….salami, BALONEY! :)

  36. Mary says:

    Hollywood does not care about what the public wants at these award shows. The two best movies of the year did not get the awards they deserved: best picture, best actor, best director. That would be American Sniper and Unbroken. For all their hallow words these people don’t give a darn about the military or their families.

    • Philip Zamora says:

      You understand that the Oscars are about honoring the best achievements in cinema and not the military, right?

    • cindy-in-tx says:

      Ugh, Unbroken was a horrible film. I couldn’t wait to get out of the theatre. It could have been so much better if they would have taken ten minutes out of the lifeboat scene and added some of his life after the war. The entire time I just wanted to leave. I didn’t even shed a tear the whole time, and I cry at commercials. It didn’t wring any emotion out of me because I didn’t care about the characters.

    • Sheril says:

      Mary the show isn’t about what the public wants. Box office shows that. It is about being rewarded by those in the industry. And the best movie was Boyhood. Just because your favorite or my favorite doesn’t win, doesn’t mean people don’t care about the military. Or in my case, families, childhood, etc.

  37. KorbanDallas says:

    It’s obvious they made a deal to throw a bone at Selma and choose Glory over Glen Campbell’s, Not Gonna Miss You. Ridiculous Glory won over Glen’s song.

  38. I found it interesting they didn’t include Ann B Davis in the montage of those that have left us. What gives. Really, you couldn’t include Alice?

  39. The show and the process of voting has deteriorated to junk.

  40. bevus says:

    It reminded me of BurleyQ, the old style, cheap. and w ithout much talent. The old Burley at least had vaudville stars, now it is just diaper material.

  41. jona says:

    Stop this nonsense. Give the SWAG money to a charity and announce the winners with a simple press conference, like they used to when this backpatting began.. Humility is in order. We really don’t want to hear the political views of any of these characters. Much less sit through a couple of hours of embarrassing sideshows to hear it.

  42. Bill Wilson says:

    Once again, it’s obvious I’m missing nothing, having cancelled my cable TV months ago.
    I think America is tired of failed, lame attempts at poopusher chic.

  43. Dinah says:

    The whole show stunk. They should leave their politics at home. The Academy Awards is not supposed to be about politics (or is it?). I’m sick to death of the divisive politics that this president and his ridiculous, clueless, sycophantic followers use to destroy the fabric of our America the beautiful. These people do not live in the real world like the rest of us and have no business using their celebrity to try and influence the public on issues that this horrible president and the democrats want to try and force upon us. Patricia Arquette showed absolutely no class and looked ridiculously stupid with her “rant”. The same with all of them who chose to insert politics where it doesn’t belong. Where they should “insert it”? I won’t say, but it rhymes with gas.

    • ken says:

      And she sounded like a 2nd grader reading from See Dick Run

    • Bill Wilson says:

      Perhaps Arquette could find out why Hillary and Obama both pay their female staff members considerably less than the males.

      • cindy-in-tx says:

        I don’t think it’s so simple that women should get equal pay since people’s wages are all over the map, depending on how much they schmooze, their experience, education, how many hours they’ll willing to give to a job. A big reason women tend to make less is because they’re more likely to not take the job that requires 60-80 work weeks, or heavy travel, or they put their careers on hold while having children.

        However, actresses get a really bad deal in Hollywood. The roles dry up as they get older. Look at Julia Roberts. She was commanding huge salaries for her movies and then suddenly she couldn’t get a role to save her life. Ditto Meg Ryan, or Goldie Hawn, or any woman except Merrill Streep.

      • mojitomom says:

        If Arquette is being paid less than her male colleagues, perhaps she should fire her male agent.

  44. dinagk says:

    What the Oscars was lacking was what we are all attracted to movies for: glamour, class, mystery, intrigue. It seems that the rush to “social mediaize” our society has deflated what seemingly separated Hollywood from the rest of us. We want our celebrities to be larger than life…and…have their clothes on.

    Shame on you Oscar producers. A dull show that robbed Hollywood of its sparkle.

  45. Allie says:

    Downton Abby was much better!

  46. Lesley says:

    The show was dreck but the ads were interesting. Better than the Super Bowl.

  47. Charles says:

    I loved the opener… it was all fast down hill from there

  48. bobonnit says:

    Someone should let Arquette in on the dirty little secret about how the so called “income inequality” numbers are calculated. The IRS takes all the tax returns, and then for examples says male taxpayers made a total of $500 billion and female taxpayers made a total of $400 billion so therefore women only make 80% of what men make. This is not the same as saying women only make 80% of men for doing the same job. But people on the left, especially wealthy ”celebrities” with their delusions of grandeur and superiority complexes must open their pie holes in inappropriate venues. If they think they are so important, how about calling a press conference at their own expense and see how many reporters show up to hear their political views.
    No wonder the ratings suck. Oh, by the way, did anyone see the Diane Sawyer interview with Mealy Mouth Streep a few months ago ? She could barely construct a thought or sentence. She’s really not very bright is she.

  49. cristo says:

    Next time just publish the names of the winners in the morning paper and skip this whole Mickey Rooney-like we-got-a-barn-so-let’s-put-on-a-show rubbish.

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