Oscars’ Highlights: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

• The Oscarcast moved swiftly and it had superb production values. (Loved how those stage arches pulsed with video and graphics.)

• Peak ceremony moments: James Franco and Anne Hathaway‘s video intro was a howler, especially the “Black Swan” part. Celine Dion‘s understated rendition of “Smile” during the “In Memoriam” segment was lovely. Originally, I pooh-poohed the concept of having those schoolkids croon “Over the Rainbow,” but it was staged with terrific heart with a truly grand finale as all of the winners joined them en masse, descending that staircase. Bravo!

• Anne Hathaway’s performance of the tune from “Les Miserables.”

* Best acceptance speeches: Christian Bale acknowledging his rascal past; Colin Firth confessing – with that proper British accent — how hard it was for him to contain his joy; Aaron Sorkin addressing his son. I loved hearing “King’s Speech” scribe David Seidler say, “I accept this on behalf of all of the stutterers throughout the world. We have a voice. We have been heard — thanks to you, the academy.”

• Why didn’t Anne Hathaway’s “Les Miz” bit go anywhere? It was cut off abruptly after a brief tease. Why wasn’t she given a big song-and-dance production number? That was the major recurring problem of the whole telecast: too many missed opportunities. Many things started well, but then failed to build to a pay-off. Like James Franco coming out in drag. Yeah, that was a fun joke, but with no punchline. Or Billy Crystal‘s tribute to Bob Hope – a fine concept that began great, then suddenly ended. Huh? I got the feeling that Don Mischer and Bruce Cohen stifled the show’s creativity because they were trying too hard to keep the show short and fast. Memo to Mr. Mischer: these aren’t the Beijing Olympics. There’s no tight timetable. The Oscars are supposed to be a long, rambling train wreck. That’s why we (usually) love them.

• No surprises among the award winners. You know you’re in trouble when the big jaw-dropper of the night is “Inception” winning Best Cinematography.

• Why didn’t someone bother to write good material for poor Kirk Douglas? It was a terrif idea to bring him out on stage, even in that feeble state, but he foundered and flopped around awkwardly with unfunny wisecracks. Everyone felt awkward.

• Why didn’t someone bother to write Anne Hathaway and James Franco a decent opening monologue? It was agony watching them squirm on stage, begging for laughs while performing dumb bits involving Anne’s mom and James’ grandma standing up in the audience.

Melissa Leo trying too hard to be cool by throwing f-bombs around. If she had said something clever while doing so, fine, but she was pathetic.

• What a slap at nine of the 10 nominees for Best Picture to have their footage played under narration from “The King’s Speech” just before the Best Picture winner was revealed. The telecast producers were forcing them to bow to the “King” even before he was crowned. Aren’t British royals supposed to have better taste than that?

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