Oscars 2014: five reasons this year fell a bit flat

The dust has settled, the verdicts trickled in – and we wonder if we’re the only ones nostalgic for Seth MacFarlane?

No jazz hands

We had Bette arm-waggling to a slideshow of dead people. We had Pharrell and his big hat. We had Idina Menzel belting it to the back row. But we didn’t have a show. There were no barnstorming song and dance numbers, no razzle-dazzle, no rootin-tootin old school Hollywood. Why? Perhaps it was the spectre of Hugh Jackman cavorting, or Seth MacFarlane’s ill-judged ballad to big-screen breasts. But given Ellen’s fondness for a dance down the aisles, plus an auditorium rammed with high-grade show-offs, you’ll forgive us a disappointment at the lack of hoofing.

No upsets

Almost all of the awards went as the the expected. The only upset was in the best animated short category, in which the French-Luxembourgish collaboration Mr Hublot beat Disney’s much-fancied nostalgia-fest Get a Horse! Needless to say, the jaws of the audience remained firmly in place and there were no audible gasps of horror.

The only film that seemed hard done by was The Act of Killing, and because nobody seemed to have seen documentary winner 20 Feet from Stardom, it hardly caused a stir. While Fox Searchlight’s “It’s time” advertising campaign for 12 Years a Slave seemed like a desperate, terrified bid to shame Academy members into voting for it, Ellen’s joke about Academy racism in her opening monologue confirmed to any doubters that Steve McQueen’s film was as good as anointed. Anyone who tuned in hoping for Crash or Marisa Tomei-level drama was left disappointed.

No tears

Some voices broke a bit. There were some wobbles to the diction, some lumps in the throat. But the waterworks were all from above – ie, the rain – and though you couldn’t fail to be touched by Nyong’o’s speech, nor amazed by Matthew McConaughey’s, you’d struggle to be really, truly moved by anyone or anything. However eloquent the oratory, the impact of even the best of them was muted by over-polish and conscientious rehearsal. We’re not saying they shouldn’t prepare a speech, just that they might want to work on their faux-improv skills.

No hot potatoes

Jared Leto made an early stab for controversy with his shout out to the people of Ukraine and Venezuela. There was the flicker of a suggestion that Ellen DeGeneres actually was accusing the Academy of racism. But these were, at best, flashes in the pan, at worst, red herrings. No one had a bad word to say about Woody Allen. No one had any word to say about Philip Seymour Hoffman. Everyone stuck strictly on-message. The only possible hoo-hah we can think of at this stage was that George Clooney didn’t turn up.

No-risk host

After sexist Seth MacFarlane, the organisers reacted by picking a safe pair of hands. The closest Ellen DeGeneres came to controversy was introducing Anne Hathaway as “our first white presenter” and joking that Liza Minnelli was, in fact, a male impersonator.

She was warm. She was funny. She was likeable. But, unlike MacFarlane, she was forgettable. DeGeneres moved from matt black tuxedo to white tuxedo to shiny black tuxedo, the only element of adventure being a short stint in a fairy princess costume, presumably in tribute to double winner Frozen. Her running gags about selfies seemed a little dated, and returning to the pizza joke after every ad break got stale fast. She even passed up the opportunity to rib Julia Roberts about Mystic Pizza while standing next to her holding some.

Ellen delivers … DeGeneres dished out pizza to Meryl Streep, Harrison Ford and others at the Oscars.
Stale … DeGeneres dished out pizza to Meryl Streep, Harrison Ford and others at the Oscars. Photograph: Ampas/Rex Photograph: Mandatory Credit - A.M.P.A.S/REX


Clare Margetson, Alan Evans and Catherine Shoard

The GuardianTramp

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