02.23.09 11:12 AM ET
A Barack-ified Oscars
I love the Oscars—I haven't missed a broadcast in twenty years. Still, I never thought it was possible to find the show actually engaging, let alone meaningful. But in our post-Obama nation, when so many of us are in search of meaning in the unlikeliest of places, the Oscars have been Barack-ified. There was a new emphasis on multiculturalism—the neon Bollywood song performances woke me up after a dull stretch, and there were more Nehru collars on stage than tuxedos. Japan had a big night, with Animated Short winner Kunio Kato making one of the more memorable speeches (he landed a "Mr. Roboto" joke—not easy), and France's Philippe Petit (star of Best Documentary Man on Wire) took over for reigning Oscar trickster Roberto Benigni by balancing his statue on his nose and making a coin disappear.
But what really resonated--and why I think I got so many overwhelmingly positive reactions—as the sheer joy of the ceremony. Hugh Jackman turned the Oscars into the Tonys, with glitzy musical-theater camp numbers. It was such a refreshing change from a host who tries too hard to crack jokes and rarely succeeds. It was an entertainer simply entertaining. By bringing other stars into the act—Anne Hathaway, Beyonce, Amanda Seyfried, the High School Musical puppy dogs—the producers exposed the fact that all Hollywood royalty, no matter how elegant and highbrow, probably started out in the business because they sang show tunes into their mirrors and fantasized about chorus lines. Transparency! It's a new era, indeed.
Rachel Syme is culture editor of The Daily Beast.