We’ve learned a big lesson Sunday evening: Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler can save anything.
After the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences couldn’t seem to find anyone to host the Oscars following the Kevin Hart debacle, it finally threw in the towel and decided to focus on presenters. Skip the opening monologue, the song-and-dance number, the Trump digs by a late-night host. Just zoom in on fun, famous groupings who would entertain a dwindling Oscars audience.
In a Grammys-like opening, Queen and Adam Lambert rocked you a room full of Hollywood’s elite. Then, Rudolph, Fey and Poehler swooped in, perfectly tossing out jokes about everything from Spanx in your “Spider-verse” to Bradley Cooper peeing himself. We saw Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry, dressed in ridiculous period pieces, hand out the award for Best Costume Design to Ruth Carter of “Black Panther.” We watched Khaleesi herself, Emilia Clarke, brag about her dragons while introducing performer Jennifer Hudson. We giggled as James McAvoy and Danai Gurira showed off their vocal intonations during the sound categories. We smiled as Keegan Michael Key floated down into the auditorium under an umbrella, a la Mary Poppins. We chuckled as Mike Myers and Dana Carvey revived their “Wayne’s World” characters.
Sunday night’s Oscars might have been the best we’ve seen in years, and it’s all because the academy was able to stray from tradition, allowing viewers in turn to let go of expectations and embrace change.
Anne Hathaway took to Instagram ahead of the awards ceremony to remind people just how awkward the Oscars-hosting gig can get.
“No matter what happens with today’s show, just remember, it’s already been worse. Happy Oscars!” she wrote under a still from the time she headed the show with James Franco in 2011.
As right as she may be (sorry, Anne), the terribly awkward gig she endured is pretty much what audiences have come to expect from an Oscars host. For the last 30 years, the Oscars have had a frontman ― everyone from Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg to, yes, Anne Hathaway. While honoring the nominated films, they toss out one-liners about the who’s who of Hollywood, attempting to keep those watching and the starlets wearing form-fitting bedazzled ball gowns entertained and excited. But it’s a lose-lose gig as they’re applauded at one moment and tortured on social media the next. They’re hilarious, then dull. Too woke, then not woke enough. They, as is the case with everyone else, can never be perfect.
Hosts like Ellen DeGeneres and Jimmy Kimmel fill the show with little bits, off-color jokes and field trips to movie theaters. Viewers have come to expect a pizza gag or two to pop up during the four-hour event, which begins to drag pretty rapidly as awards are handed out to stars and non-celebrities alike. We end up laughing one minute and sighing the next, looking at the clock to check what time we can expect the Best Picture honor to finally be presented.
This year, the Oscars were whip-smart, fun and fast-moving. There was no host needed to segue between segments, just charming, shiny stars and their charming, shiny smiles. The award show’s director, Glenn Weiss, used interesting camera angles to move the night along as fast as possible, ending the show at, wait for it, 11:15 p.m. Eastern time. (And they didn’t even have to move four critical film categories to commercial breaks to do it!) Under his direction, presenters walked out, told a joke, got a few laughs and handed out the awards ― no random skits in sight. Because the show’s weight wasn’t placed on one star’s shoulders, people could get a taste of humor from the likes of John Mulaney and Awkwafina to Sarah Paulson and Paul Rudd.
Take the pressure off innocent TV personalities and let a host of professional actors do the work. It’s so much more enjoyable to watch Rudolph, Fey and Poehler succeed than Anne Hathaway fail.