Review: Oscars ceremony grandly mediocre

23:48, Mar 08 2010
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Best Actor and Best Actress nominees appear during the 82nd Academy Awards.
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Penelope Cruz presents the award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role during the 82nd Academy Awards.
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Cameron Diaz, left, and Steve Carell present the award for best animated feature film.
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Christoph Waltz accepts the Oscar for best performance by an actor in a supporting role for "Inglourious Basterds".
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Pete Docter accepts the Oscar for best animated feature film of the year for "Up".
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Miley Cyrus, left, and Amanda Seyfried present the best original song.
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Ryan Bingham, right, and T Bone Burnett accept the Oscar for best achievement in music written for motion pictures for "The Weary Kind" from "Crazy Heart".
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Robert Downey Jr, right, and Tina Fey present the award for original screenplay.
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Host Alec Baldwin is seen during the 82nd Academy Awards.
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Hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin during the 82nd Academy Awards.
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Molly Ringwald, left, and Matthew Broderick are seen on stage during a tribute to the late director John Hughes.
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Carey Mulligan, left, and Zoe Saldana are seen on stage during the 82nd Academy Awards.
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From left, Jon Cryer, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Macaulay Culkin, and Matthew Broderick seen during a tribute to the late director John Hughes.
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Ben Stiller presents the award for best achievement in makeup during the 82nd Academy Awards.
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Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams during the 82nd Academy Awards.
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Geoffrey Fletcher accepts the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push'.
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Mo'Nique accepts the Oscar for best performance by an actress in a supporting role for Precious.
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Mark Boal accepts the Oscar for best original screenplay for "The Hurt Locker".
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Sandy Powell accepts the Oscar for best achievement in costume design for “The Young Victoria”.
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From left, Rick Carter, Kim Sinclair and Robert Stromberg accept the Oscar for best achievement in art direction for “Avatar”.
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John Travolta appears during the 82nd Academy Awards
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Elizabeth Banks appears during the 82nd Academy Awards.
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Jeff Bridges wins the Oscar for Best Actor at the 82nd Academy Awards.
Sandra Bullock
Sandra Bullock accepts the award for best actress for The Blind Side during the 82nd Academy Awards.
Kathryn Bigelow wins Best Director Oscar
Tom Hanks hands director Kathryn Bigelow her Oscar for best motion picture for her work in The Hurt Locker.
Kathryn Bigelow wins Best Director Oscar
Kathryn Bigelow reacts next to presenter Barbra Streisand after winning the best director Oscar.
The Hurt Locker wins best picture Oscar
Director Kathryn Bigelow speaks in front actors Jeremy Renner, Brian Geraghty, and Anthony Mackie after The Hurt Locker won best motion picture during the 82nd Academy Awards
The Hurt Locker wins best picture Oscar
Kathryn Bigelow holds her Oscars for best motion picture of the year and best achievement in directing for The Hurt Locker with hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin at the conclusion of the 82nd Academy Awards.

Crucifying the hosts of televised awards ceremonies has become such a popular sport in recent times, you almost have to ask yourself twice - was the opening really that flat?

Was the staging really that unimaginative? If it hasn't already, the answer will come to you like a well-aimed house brick as the 82nd annual Academy Awards clocks the 200-minute mark and goes beyond.

Better known as the Oscars - to those who are licensed to use the fiercely protected trademark - it opened with a feathers-and-showgirls musical number in the tradition of Old Hollywood titled No One Wants To Do It Alone, led by actor Neil Patrick Harris; a curious choice, as he works primarily in TV and his most recent film credit was the memorable but hardly Oscar-worthy Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Kathy Ireland
GLITTLERING GOWN: Kathy Ireland arrives at the 82nd Academy Awards.
Ryan Seacrest
GOLDEN BOY: Ryan Seacrest arrives at the 82nd Academy Awards.
Rico Rodriguez
EARLY ARRIVAL: Rico Rodriguez arrives at the 82nd Academy Awards.
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Anna Kendrick arrives on the red carpet.
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Deborah Ann Woll arrives on the red carpet.
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Stana Katic arrives on the red carpet.
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Mariah Carrey arrives on the red carpet.
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Amanda Seyfried arrives on the red carpet.
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Zoe Saldana arrives on the red carpet.
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Giuliana Depandi arrives on the red carpet.
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Nicole Richie arrives on the red carpet.
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Sandra Bullock arrives on the red carpet.
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Anika Noni Rose arrives on the red carpet.
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Jane Seymour arrives on the red carpet.
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Sigourney Weaver arrives on the red carpet.
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Elizabeth Banks arrives on the red carpet.
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Carey Mulligan arrives on the red carpet.
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Tina Fey arrives on the red carpet.
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Best Actress nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal, right, and husband Peter Sarsgaard arrive on the red carpet.
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Molly Ringwald arrives on the red carpet.
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Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick arrive on the red carpet.
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Director Kathryn Bigelow arrives on the red carpet.
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Gabourey Sidibe arrives on the red carpet.
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Best Actress nominees Carey Mulligan, left, and Maggie Gyllenhaal size each other up on the Oscars red carpet.
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Jennifer Lopez, left, and Demi Moore arrive on the Oscars red carpet.
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Kate Winslet arrives on the Oscars red carpet.
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Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey arrive on the Oscars red carpet.
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George Clooney and his hair arrive on the Oscars red carpet.
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Vera Farmiga arrives on the Oscars red carpet.

It was intended as a Broadway-style nod to the collaborative process of film-making, but the double meaning was hard to ignore: if you're going to be crucified for doing a lousy job of hosting the Oscars, make sure you're not alone.

This year's hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, weren't just lame, as a double act they were lame squared, kicking off proceedings with routine that fell extraordinarily and unexpectedly flat, wallowing in the obvious (compliments for the too-brilliant Meryl Streep, stern glances for the too-perfect George Clooney) before drowning in the predictable ("He's high", aimed at much-loved stoner Woody Harrelson).

Their joint high point: a parody of Paranormal Activity. Their joint low point: a Snuggie joke which was, as they say, so 2009.

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Oscar shockers
SURPRISE KISS: Actress Halle Berry reacts to actor Adrien Brody kissing her as she presented him with the best male actor Oscar for his role in The Pianist at the 75th Annual Academy Awards in 2003.
Jack Palance
TOUGH GUY: Jack Palance, who won an Oscar with his comedic self-parody in 1991's City Slickers, clutched his award in one hand and dropped to the ground for a round of vigorous one-handed push-ups.
Oscar shockers
EVER THE PERFORMER: Roberto Benigni danced across the furniture and the audience after winning Best Actor for Life is Beautiful in 1999.
Anna Paquin
KIWI LASS: Eleven-year-old first-time actress Anna Paquin holds up her Oscar for best supporting actress at the 1994 Academy Awards. Paquin won for her role in The Piano.
Oscar shockers
OOOH, I SAY: A naked man shocked onlookers when he streaked across the stage during the 46th Annual Oscars ceremony.
Oscar shockers
CRY ME A RIVER: Gwyneth Paltrow was overwhelmed during her acceptance speech after winning the Oscar for Best Actress at the 71st Academy Awards in 1999. Paltrow won for her role in Shakespeare in Love, which also won for Best Picture.
Oscar shockers
MOORE TO SAY: Director Michael Moore makes an anti-war statement after winning the best documentary feature Oscar for his movie Bowling for Columbine at the 75th Annual Academy Awards in 2003. Moore is joined on stage by his wife Kathleen Glynn.
Oscar shockers
HAPPY, HAPPY, JOY, JOY: Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. displays his Oscar and jumps on the stage during the Academy Award ceremonies in Los Angeles. Gooding won his Oscar for best performance by a supporting actor for his role in Jerry Maguire 1997.
Oscar shockers
YOUNGEST EVER: Tatum O'Neal, then age 10, winning Best Supporting Actress in 1974 for Paper Moon.
Oscar shockers
STAND-IN: Marlon Brando also raised eyebrows in 1973 when he won Best Actor for the The Godfather. Brando snubbed the awards and instead sent a woman called Sacheen Littlefeather up on stage.
Rob Lowe
RED-FACED: Actor Rob Lowe and Snow White during the opening of the 1981 Academy Awards. The ceremony was proclaimed "an embarrassment to both the Academy and the entire motion picture industry".

Abandoned with a mediocre script and the kind of chemistry you would expect from a couple of barflies doing a half-tanked version of Who's On First? they were mercilessly set adrift on a cavernous stage, styled to look like a gilded cage, which managed to be both architecturally impressive and artless at the same time; a metaphor, in some respects, for the entire telecast.

Their material was hollow, trying to score laughs by mocking Hollywood's arcane traditions, but delivered from the rostrum of the oldest and most arcane of all Hollywood traditions.

If it did achieve anything, it was to make the red carpet coverage, with inane questions about borrowed designer frocks asked by a less-gracefully ageing press corps, look far more sophisticated than it actually was.

Overall, the telecast was mediocre, with some standout low points including a horror movie montage (which inexplicably included the action films Jaws and Alien and comedy Young Frankenstein) and the two most frightening words in the lexicon of live television: interpretive dance. Why watch the visually splendid Avatar when you can see it expressed through jazz hands and spirit fingers?

The winning films - Inglourious Basterds and Precious along them - were creditworthy, but even they were let down by speeches that fell short of the mark.

Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) thanked his publicist and Mo'Nique (Precious) thanked her lawyer, instantly sapping the delirious magic from both moments.

There were some genuine highlights - a touching tribute to John Hughes (peppered with so many A-list stars in early career roles it could have been re-titled Before They Had Botox), Ben Stiller presenting best make-up dressed as a Na'vi warrior from Avatar (which was, ironically, not nominated in the category) and a sweet, unaffected acceptance speech from short-film winner Nicolas Schmerkin.

The cinema cognoscenti have spent decades fighting the urge of TV networks to snip and trim the Oscar telecast from a slow, stumbling behemoth to a leaner, meaner piece of tight, taut TV.

The 82nd annual Academy Awards, with patchy presentation, too many long lingering shots of the star-studded audience and enough flab to make Gabourey Sidibe look like Calista Flockhart, will not be remembered as the most persuasive closing argument for that case.

Sydney Morning Herald