Oscar Recap 2011: What Worked, What Didn't

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards that aired on Sunday night already seem like ancient history.  Every pundit has had his or her say, every critic has voiced an opinion, seemingly every viewer has shared his or her thoughts thanks to the instantaneous nature of today's social networks.  I beg your indulgence as I add my own two cents (or more) to the conversation. 

Let's begin with the hosts.  James Franco was a huge disappointment.  His laughs were few and far between, and he seemed either nervous, bored, or distracted throughout the night.  Maybe it was an intentional attempt to seem cool in a detached kind of way, but if so it backfired.  As he walked on-stage, he was filming the audience with his cellphone, and he later came out dressed like Marilyn Monroe, joking about a tweet from Charlie Sheen -- I almost had the impression that Franco would rather be watching the Oscars from home than be there in person.  He was continually overshadowed by his co-host Anne Hathaway who actually had a number of great moments throughout the night.  I wouldn't mind seeing her return as a host someday (maybe alongside Billy Crystal whose appearance once again reminded the audience of his great run hosting the Academy Awards eight times).  I hadn't been a big fan of hers, but Hathaway finally won me over with her energy, humor, improvisation skills, and great talent, highlighted by her hilarious singing performance dedicated to Hugh Jackman.

This year's production admittedly tried to attract a younger audience, but the best moments involved older legends.  Kirk Douglas stole the show with an appearance that will be remembered forever.  Eli Wallach, who won an honorary Oscar, reminded us all that they don't make great character actors like him anymore.  The holographic appearance by Bob Hope (who had hosted the Academy Awards a whopping 18 times) made me think that maybe modern digital technology could find a way to have his ghost host a future Academy Awards ceremony someday, and that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

What I will remember most is who did NOT win.  Not to take anything away from the F-bomb dropping Melissa Leo from The Fighter, but young Hailee Steinfeld from True Grit deserved the Best Supporting Actress prize.  If Hailee's classy appearance was any indication, I'm sure she would have delivered a classy speech.  And in the Best Actor category, I know everyone loves Colin Firth, but I would have liked to have seen Jeff Bridges win another gold statue as True Grit's Rooster Cogburn, the same character that earned John Wayne an Oscar in the 1969 original.  Yes, everyone is raving about The King's Speech, but I was hoping Inception would pull an upset, if only to vindicate Chris Nolan who was robbed of a Best Director nomination.

The memorial montage is always a touching moment during each year's show, honoring those who passed away, and every year without fail they inexplicably leave someone major off the list.  Last year it was Farah Fawcett.  I know they can't include everyone, but how could they ignore Corey Haim?  The young actor died way too young, but his early career was notable with memorable performances in Lucas, The Lost Boys, Dream a Little Dream, and others.  He impacted show business, and the Academy botched it big time by leaving him out.

Overall, though, I still think this year's show was much better than some of the productions in recent years, and the hosts did a much better job than, say, David Letterman. Let's hope next year's is even better.