The Oscars: How the Women Saved the Show From Spiraling Downward

Sunday night's Oscars telecast proved one thing: perhaps women should be running the show -- figuratively and otherwise.

Granted, host Seth MacFarlane had some clever and well-received moments during the 85th annual presentation of the Academy Awards -- the opening, albeit lengthy, bit was inventive ("We Saw Your Boobs" and all) -- but the ceremony will be most revered for the estrogen parade that (barely) pulled the show out of a whirlpool of odd pacing, questionable writing and an evening that smacked more of a vaudeville outing than a prestigious ceremony honoring Hollywood's finest.

At 85, The Academy seems desperate to either a) fit in among today's increasingly watered-down form of mass media entertainment or ... well, let's just stop at 'a.'

Back to the ladies.

Blessings of both class and style came in the form of Shirley Bassey, Adele and Barbra Streisand. The singers graced the stage in three individual performances: Bassey knocked it out the park with a James Bond theme song, "Goldfinger"; Adele marvelously captured "Skyfall," the theme song she wrote (and nabbed an Oscar) for the Bond film of the same name; and Streisand's star power has not diminished -- her performance of "The Way We Were," a tribute to the late, great Marvin Hamlisch, reminded us of an era that seems to have faded to black. (Or somewhere into the vortex of modern-tech, Twitter and Facebook addictions and the current culture's insatiable cravings for the likes of reality TV and celebrity. Culture may want to be fed more of something but by the looks of it, it may not be real entertainment.)

More class arrived later in the ceremony when Meryl Streep presented the Best Actor Award (to Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln.) The biggest surprise? First Lady Michelle Obama announcing the Best Picture award (Argo) via satellite from Washington, D.C.

Although that felt eerily like a publicity stunt. I think I want my first lady doling out programs to enrich society, not Oscars.

Onward ...

Charlize Theron impressed with her dancing chops. Jane Fonda looked elegant next to Michael Douglas as they presented an award. Comedy darling Melissa McCarthy was also bright spot alongside Paul Rudd. McCarthy's timing is spot on and she's a shrewd comic. Still, their banter seemed a bit off. But so did the chemistry between many of the other presenters -- from the awkward moments between the cast of The Avengers to the foursome from Chicago.

While we're on the subject of musicals, producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron wanted to "celebrate" music in this year's ceremony. But even that fell short. Sure, it was glorious to see Catherine Zeta-Jones performing a routine from Chicago. Jennifer Hudson surpassed expectations. Norah Jones -- passionate. And yes, the cast of Les Misérables sizzled on stage. But if we're to celebrate "music" in film -- really honor it -- it would have been much more effective to go back several more decades and include treasured moments -- either via montage or performance -- that truly helped shape the film industry. What, not one reference to Judy Garland? (Odd, considering the producers made the TV outing, Life with Judy Garland). "Keep it modern" may the theme of the day, but it's surprising there wasn't even a modest nod to Grease, Fame, Hair, or -- wait for it -- 42nd Street. (Oh dear, I may frightened those born after 1990. In the words of MacFarlane in his Oscar promos: "Ask your parents." Better yet -- watch the movie!)

But what do I know? I'm just one of many culture vultures watching on. I think something inside of me snapped during one of MacFarlane's jokes later in the evening: "This is interesting. Daniel Day-Lewis not the first actor to be nominated for playing Lincoln. Raymond Massey portrayed him in 1940's Abe Lincoln In Illinois. This is true. I would argue, however, that the actor who really got inside Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth."


A thought for next year: Less boob.

OSCAR RUNDOWN: The Ladies Save the Night