PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Host DeGeneres brings laughs to tedious telecast

Tom Jicha
South Florida Sun-Sentinel (MCT)

Hollywood's biggest night turned into a victory parade for television. Helen Mirren, whose signature role is in PBS's "Prime Suspect," won as best actress; Forest Whitaker, who was brilliant in FX's "The Shield" last season and will be back this year, won best actor and "American Idol" also-ran Jennifer Hudson was named best supporting actress.

Unfortunately, the Academy Award telecast didn't live up to this standard of excellence. The Oscarcast is always a slow starter but Sunday's show took this to enervating extremes, lumbering along like a cement truck at a drag strip.

The audience has come to accept getting a couple of significant awards, generally best supporting actor and actress, in the first half hour before the long slog of technical and crafts awards leading to the really big prizes around midnight.

Not this year. It was almost an hour before Alan Arkin's name was called for best supporting actor for "Little Miss Sunshine" and more than another hour before Hudson, who wasn't deemed good enough to be an "American Idol," won show business' most coveted trophy for her supporting role in "Dreamgirls."

While awaiting the significant Oscar announcements, viewers had to sit through categories such as art direction, animated short, live action short, tributes to camera motion and blue screen technology, makeup, sound editing and sound mixing.

Producer Laura Ziskin, who has the distinction of presiding over the longest Oscar telecast ever - a four-hour-plus show five years ago - didn't go quite that long this time, bringing in the program at about three hours, 50 minutes. However, this was still 20 minutes beyond the allotted time.

This wasn't her most egregious sin. The telecast not only lacked discipline, it had atrocious pacing. The liveliest segment of the night was a medley of songs from "Dreamgirls." However, instead of breaking up the minor-awards monotony earlier in the evening, it didn't get on until almost 11:30, a half-hour after prime time ended in the East and Midwest.

Worse, the Oscars that people were most interested in - best actor, Martin Scorsese's first Oscar as best director and best picture - all were pushed beyond midnight. As a result they had to be rushed through, none getting the eight minutes allotted to foreign films in prime time.

The biggest individual winner of the night had to be Al Gore, whose homily on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," was named outstanding documentary. What's more, a tune from the film, "I Need to Wake Up," won best song. That the dirge-like song outranked the music from "Dreamgirls" raises the question whether the nod from Hollywood was for merit or was a political statement.

The only beneficiary of Ziskin's languid pacing was host Ellen DeGeneres, who got funnier as the night wore on. In the midst of this debacle, a chicken-crossing-the-road joke would have generated belly laughs.

DeGeneres was far funnier than that, once she got over what seemed to be an early case of nerves. Recognizing a standard practice in show business, she invited winners to spice up their acceptance speeches with tidbits like disclosing they are from the Bronx, overcame illiteracy and once lived in a car - even if it wasn't true.

Addressing prejudice in a comical way, she reminded everyone that if it weren't for blacks, Jews and gays, there would be no film industry.

She was even sharper between awards, roaming the aisles, pitching a script to Scorsese and later asking Steven Spielberg to take a picture of her with Clint Eastwood, then criticizing the way he framed the shot.

Maybe it was the general ennui the show induced, but there weren't even any snappy or snarky comments in acceptance speeches.

Blatantly political remarks, an Oscar tradition, came as Melissa Etheridge performed "I Need to Wake Up." As Etheridge sang, tips on how to combat global warming played behind her. A notable omission was "don't avail yourself of gas-guzzling stretch limos to make a flashier entrance onto the red carpet."

It's also noteworthy that the Kodak Theater, venue for the Oscars, was not illuminated by energy-saving fluorescent bulbs, as the global warming lobby recommends. This would not merit mention but for the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio, appearing with Gore, declared that the Oscars had gone green.

DeGeneres picked up on the theme. To promote recycling, she said she was bringing back a couple of jokes from earlier in her career, hilarious but dated lines about "Gilligan's Island."

The host's strongest commentary of the night was probably unintentional. As the telecast droned into its third hour, she used a back-lit white screen to shape her fingers into the kind of animal images kids do at summer camp.

But for the "Dreamgirls" medley, it was among the most entertaining segments of the night.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.