Seth MacFarlane was, as Captain Kirk predicted during the show, one of the worst hosts in Oscar history, presiding over a cringe-worthy, head-scratching Oscar ceremony.
Finally … an Oscars the guys can enjoy!
That’s how ABC billed the 85th annual Academy Awards ceremony, which aired on the network at 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday night.
Perhaps they meant 12-year-old boys?
The event, honoring the best in cinema for 2012, was a disaster, with host Seth MacFarlane—the creator of a few TV series, including Family Guy, and the blockbuster comedy film Ted—doing an incredibly awkward Rat Pack-meets-Crank Yankers routine, replete with silly jokes touching on rape, race, sexism, Nazis, and the Lincoln assassination.
With the exception of a couple of Sinatra song-and-dance routines, including “The Way You Look Tonight,” where he was flanked by Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum dancing onstage, and “High Hopes,” for which he was joined by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe, precious little worked for MacFarlane. We should’ve really all seen this coming, since his Oscar promos leading up to the ceremony were unfunny, to say the least.
“Daniel Day-Lewis, your process fascinates me,” joked MacFarlane. “You were totally 100 percent in character as Lincoln during the movie … So when you saw a cellphone, would you have to go, “Oh my God, what’s that?” If you bumped into Don Cheadle on the studio lot, did you try to free him? How deep did your method go?”
That was the first of many cringe-worthy MacFarlane jokes throughout the evening, including many slightly sexist barbs aimed at women. There was a crack about Jessica Chastain’s character in Zero Dark Thirty, the CIA analyst Maya, spending a decade hunting for Osama bin Laden being evidence of women never being “able to let anything go,” or another instance where he remarked, “For all those women who had the ‘flu,’ it paid off … lookin’ good.” And in case you were confused about the evening’s target demo, he sang a pre-taped number called “We Saw Your Boobs,” pointing out instances where past nominees posed topless in movies, and voiced a reenactment of the film Flight with sock puppets. Later in the night, he even quipped that we’d “reached that point in the evening” where Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, or someone else [read: attractive Latina] comes onstage and “we have no idea what they’re saying, but we don’t care, ’cause they’re so attractive.”
The joke that attracted the most groans, however, was this little gem about the Lincoln assassination:
“Daniel Day-Lewis is not the first actor to be nominated for playing Lincoln. Raymond Massey portrayed him in 1940′s Abe Lincoln in Illinois. I would argue, though, the actor who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth.”
And, in case you forgot who was hosting the night’s festivities, Ted stars Mark Wahlberg and the titular teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) took the stage. After the teddy bear made a few Jewish jokes about “secret synagogue meetings” in Hollywood, Wahlberg made a quip about a sex party “at Jack Nicholson’s house.” For those who are unaware—and Hollywood certainly is—Nicholson’s pad is notorious for hosting Roman Polanski’s sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl.
It wasn’t all MacFarlane’s fault, however.
Very little seemed to go right. The always-likable Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy completely bombed while presenting the animated awards (Pixar’s Brave won Best Animated Feature, and the director accepted in a kilt), and the winner of the Best Visual Effects Oscar, Bill Westenhofer of Life of Pi, was played off by the Academy’s orchestra with a booming orchestral version of the Jaws theme, completely drowning out his acknowledgment of the 250 poor folks who were recently laid off by Pi’s visual-effects firm Rhythm and Hues.
And the Academy, in a head-scratcher, decided to honor past movie-musicals by having (a great-looking) Catherine Zeta-Jones lip-sync through “All That Jazz” from Chicago, which happens to be one of the worst Best Picture Oscar winners ever, and Jennifer Hudson do a towering rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls. Then, the cast of Les Miserables all gathered onstage—including, yes, Russell Crowe—to do a solid “One Day More”/”I Dreamed a Dream” medley. These performances were all just fine, but if you’re going to honor the history of movie-musicals, perhaps it’d be better to actually recognize the better ones, like West Side Story or The Sound of Music? Oh, I forgot. The Sound of Music WAS mentioned later on in a stupid Nazi joke.
There were a few interesting surprises. Christoph Waltz took home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as a German slave owner-killing dentist-hit man in Django Unchained, besting the favored turns by Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln and Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook. This was the second Best Supporting win for Waltz, who won for 2009’s Inglorious Basterds. And Ang Lee beat out Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) for the Best Director Oscar for Life of Pi, winning his second statuette in the category, after taking one home for helming 2004’s Brokeback Mountain. Pi won the most Oscars of any film (four), followed by Argo (three), which took home Best Adapted Screenplay and, as everyone predicted, the night’s big prize—Best Picture. That Best Picture award, meanwhile, was announced by Jack Nicholson, joined by—in the night's biggest surprise—FLOTUS herself, Michelle Obama, from the White House.
Anne Hathaway took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her turn as the doomed prostitute Fantine in Les Misérables, ambling up to the stage, and—in an ode to “I Dreamed a Dream”—took one look at her statuette and uttered, “It came true.” Ugh.
There was a tie in the Best Sound Editing category between Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall—the first tie since 1994, when Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Trevor tied in the Best Live Action Short Film category.
Best Actor, meanwhile, was bestowed to the great Daniel Day-Lewis, who won his third Best Actor trophy—an Academy record—for his turn as Honest Abe in Lincoln. He even delivered the night’s best one-liner, saying to presenter Meryl Streep, “I had actually been committed to play Margaret Thatcher, and Meryl was Steven’s first choice for Lincoln. I’d like to see that version.”
Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress for the role of Tiffany Maxwell, a widow and former sex addict who falls for a bipolar obsessive, played by Bradley Cooper, in Silver Linings Playbook. In true, adorably awkward JLaw fashion, she tripped on her own dress while ascending the steps to accept the award. She can do no wrong.
The night's biggest kudos were reserved for the ageless Shirley Bassey, who performed an outstanding version of the Goldfinger theme during the night’s 50 Years of Bond tribute to 007, and Adele’s stellar performance of the Oscar-winning song, “Skyfall.”
Host Seth MacFarlane, meanwhile, closed out the show with a duet with red carpet host Kristin Chenoweth called “Here’s to the Losers,” that “honored” the night’s not-so-fortunate. It was, again, awkward and uninspired.
Earlier in the night, William Shatner—as Star Trek’s Captain Kirk—beamed in via satellite and, in a meta-moment, claimed he was from “the future” and labeled MacFarlane “the worst Oscar host ever.”
He might be right.