Promises, promises - those made, broken, surpassed and a few prolonged. Last night's Academy Awards telecast was one of the most entertaining and exceptionally glamorous in many a year and executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron made good - hell, great - on their promise to deliver a true blue tribute to music in the movies as well as a whole lot more. And deliver they did - it was absolutely excellent in almost every conceivable way. Really. What more could you want?! Especially for fans of Hollywood and Broadway, it was an unforgettable awards show to cherish, with a sleek, witty and delightful presentation - snappy, smart and precisely planned (extended running time notwithstanding). As Seth MacFarlane said prior to Meryl Streep's presentation of Best Actor, "Ladies and gentlemen, our next presenter needs no introduction," and, so, we real movie musical fans should have assumed this would be a jubilant joy given the pedigree - and so it was. Case in point: A triptych of movie musical showstoppers thanks to the estimable Catherine Zeta-Jones & CHICAGO, Jennifer Hudson & DREAMGIRLS and Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and company with LES MISERABLES, as well as Shirley Bassey and Adele setting the stupefyingly brilliantly designed (sets by Derek McLane), gorgeously lensed and suavely presented show alight with "Goldfinger" and "Skyfall" as part of a James Bond 50th Anniversary showcase, all the way to a refined and resplendent Barbra Streisand memory of Marvin Hamlisch best left to let linger lovingly in our memories - and, with relish - last night's Oscars was a Broadway baby's dream and an awards show junkie's delight as well as much, much more. Was it long? Yes. Was it maybe overlong? Perhaps. Was it worth it and then some? Yes, yes, yes - oh, yes. Oh, and as far as heretofore question-mark host Seth MacFarlane and making the most of his unenviable duties? F*** yeah, man! Ted, too. And, oh, yeah - Jennifer Lawrence tripped on her gown on the way to the stage! But, so what?! Like the rest of the night, it was a refreshing slap in the face and a reminder of how wonderful awards shows can be. And should be.
Memories, MacFarlane, Music & More
So many moments to remember and many more still to enjoy again on YouTube in the future, the 2013 Academy Awards was a delectable, delicious treat, as long as it admittedly actually was - which was around 5 hours, by the way, including the pre-show hosted by Broadway baby Kristin Chenoweth (and others), who joined in song with amiable and all-around awesome host Seth MacFarlane for the Frank Sinatra-flecked finale. So, where to even begin? With the movies, for sure.
Without a doubt, more than many years in recent memory, 2012 was packed with a plethora of politically-charged and potent films - from the intrigue of Best Picture winner ARGO to the war-torn vistas of Kathryn Bigelow's ZERO DARK THIRTY; in addition to life sung full out in song, soaring heavenly high in LES MISERABLES and also life going out with a whimper and a sigh in AMOUR; as well as those fantastical landscapes in Best Director winner Ang Lee's LIFE OF PI and the mystical journeys in multi-nominee BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD; plus, who could forget America's own history and the implicit shameful slavery within it, illuminated in Quentin Tarantino's DJANGO UNCHAINED; and, of course, the present, as showcased in the domestic drama of David O. Russell's SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. Yes, more than in many other years, perhaps more than in any other this century so far, the race for Best Picture was virtually up in the air until the final envelope was opened - and ceremoniously shown Best Picture undoubtedly was; with no less than Jack Nicholson introducing First Lady Michelle Obama presenting the ultimate top honors recipient. Now, that's big!
Yet, the talk of the night - and the town; Los Angeles, New York or, well, even CHICAGO - was the tribute to movie musicals. Catherine Zeta-Jones recreating "All That Jazz" from CHICAGO, Jennifer Hudson deigning to do the titanic "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from DREAMGIRLS as well as Anne Hathaway singing a snippet of "I Dreamed A Dream" - after last night, Oscar-winning movie musical leading ladies supreme all - the 2013 Oscars was filled with more musical numbers that packed a major punch per second than any Academy Awards in history. While it may have been one of the longest shows, too, it was well worth the duration - and, after all, the most overlong moment was thanks to the clueless speech of an overzealous winner in a technical category, anyway (here's looking at you, LIFE OF PI guy). Yet, as producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron promised to me themselves - both monumental figures in the movie musical movement of the 21st century, no doubt; their Oscar-winning work on CHICAGO foremost among their considerable, commensurate laurels - this was intended to be the most music-filled Academy Awards show of all time and it more than merely delivered on that premise. As far as glamour and sheer stylish verve and overall sheen, pizzaz and punch? One of the sleekest, smoothest and most attractive shows in recent memory. For instance, where else have you seen something as whimsical as Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron joining together for a romantic pas de deux or Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt convincingly crooning whilst simultaneously demonstrating a pert soft shoe alongside agreeable, able host MacFarlane? Such were the A-list, four-star glories.
The queen of the show was the one and only Barbra Streisand. Who else? Pure perfection. What more can be said? Nothing - that's what. With the exquisite gold-encrusted costume and impeccable styling to the heartfelt dedication at the outset in her tasteful evocation of the exceptionally moving and most tenderly rendered rendition of the classic Best Song-winning movie theme - THE WAY WE WERE's title song, that is; a Marvin Hamlisch masterpiece - this was a remarkable Oscars moment to remember. Wow. Also, Adele took home top Best Song honors for "Skyfall", previously given a quite stupendous singing earlier in the show and Norah Jones sang TED's theme live. As far as momentous musical numbers go, Shirley Bassey, too, made pure Oscar gold from her "Goldfinger", earning the first of many well-deserved standing ovations that occured over the course of the evening. These divas all got it - and, clearly, always will.
Other O-worthy "wow" moments of last night's superb show: the entire main cast of the star-studded LES MISERABLES put all naysayers to shame with their impassioned and ultimately tremendously triumphant performance of a selection of tunes from the movie musical super-sensation ($380+ million at the box office and counting) - Best Song nominee "Suddenly" voiced by Hugh Jackman, a bit of "I Dreamed A Dream" byway of Best Supporting Actress winner Anne Hathaway as well as a stupendous "One Day More" complete with a superb showing by all concerned (Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Aaron Tveit, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter; plus a cast of 50 more made up from the West End and touring casts of the musical) made for an unforgettable "O" moment in more ways than one - it was absolutely orgasmic; for film fans, musicals fans and perhaps even everyone else out there in the audience, too. Live.
With the major awards evenly spread across ARGO, LIFE OF PI, DJANGO UNCHAINED and LES MISERABLES - with many more winners, too; LIFE OF PI was the overall winner, numbers-wise, with 4, while LES MIS and ARGO both received 3; LINCOLN and SKYFALL scored 2 each - the 2013 Oscars will perhaps not go down as a decisive year with regard to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and their stance behind one or two foremost films above all others, it was a generous and genuine indicator of the many pertinent topics of today as well as a celebration of the wide swath of subjects shown in films these days and what can be achieved by those willing to take the charge, whatever that may be - after all, it has been a long time since we have seen a list as unique and as diverse as the spate of films nominated last night. That is a testament to a changing Hollywood as well as a changing Oscars and nominating committee itself. As Ben Affleck said while taking the top prize, "All that matters is that you've gotta get up." Up? It positively floated - hugely humorous opening monologue to sensationally sung, albeit supremely snide, wink-wink, snap-snap closer. Cool, man - real cool. KCheno, too - just the best. Flub? So what!
Surprises of the night, you ask? Hmm, well, insofar as winners went, there were few, actually. Jennifer Lawrence expectedly accepted Best Actress for her quirky character study in the enjoyable SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, as did Daniel Day-Lewis take home Best Actor for his towering Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's picaresque LINCOLN - making history in the manner of being the first triple Best Actor winner ever in the process, by the way. ARGO took Best Picture in addition to Best Adapted Screenplay, while Best Original Screenplay went to Quentin Tarantino for his controversial, but inarguably accomplished western revenge epic DJANGO UNCHAINED. As far as the rest of the big prizes go, in secondary catagories, AMOUR took home the prize for Foreign Language Film, with director Michael Haneke accepting, while LIFE OF PI scored in technical categories - Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects, as well as Best Director. LES MISERABLES took home top honors for Make-up and Hair and ANNA KARENINA for Best Costume Design.
Effervescent, ebulliently bubbly and effortlessly elegant, it was the Academy Awards we always hope for but rarely - let's be honest, never, ever - get. A big bravo to all involved.
"Here's To The Losers"? Last night there were none - especially all of us out there in the dark.