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March 1, 2011

Not quite fit for a king: The Oscars merely bore and confuse

We watch the Oscars to see glamorous dresses, witty speeches, and shocking upsets. Instead, this year, we got a really awkward, boring, and predictable show. Most of the winners were safe bets, and even the few surprises, like Alice in Wonderland’s two technical awards, were more confusing than satisfyingly surprising. However, the dull broadcast was in itself rather surprising, as the Academy strove to draw in a younger and hipper demographic this year.

The most obvious direction towards a younger Oscars was choosing Anne Hathaway and James Franco to host the night. Their opening montage worked surprisingly well, nicely mixing just the right amount of irreverence and humor. However, the rest of their appearances fell flat. Franco seemed extremely standoffish and apathetic (and stoned), while Hathaway seemed nearly hysterical with enthusiasm. Early in the show, Franco even checked his phone onstage while Hathaway spoke to the audience. Another clear attempt to make the Oscars a little less stuffy was an auto-tuned montage introducing the music and sound awards. The montage echoed the self-aware and contemporary tone of the opening, but this time it seemed desperate and overplayed.

Even the red carpet, which has become a sort of show in itself, was dull. As usual, no men in particular stood out, but this was shockingly true for the actresses as well. Everyone seemed to be playing it safe with minimal, monochromatic evening dresses. One of the most daring and most successful looks of the night was 14-year-old Best Supporting Actress nominee Hailee Steinfeld’s nude tea-length Marchesa gown. Some of the worst looks came from hostess Hathaway and her many changes throughout the night. Her Valentino gown for the red carpet was pretty enough, but the long-sleeved, turtlenecked Tom Ford gown she wore toward the end of the night was monstrous and bizarrely matronly.

As for the wins themselves, especially with the most important categories, anyone could have predicted them. Natalie Portman won Best Actress, Colin Firth won Best Actor, and The King’s Speech—which swept up several BAFTAs and a Golden Globe—took home Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Despite the Academy’s attempt to appear fresh and new, their picks were traditional and comfortable. The more mature The King’s Speech won out over the edgier, and arguably more relevant, The Social Network. The Academy may be willing to update their image in the fickle arena of hosts and jokes, but when it comes to what they actually do, awarding the best Hollywood puts out each year, they may not be so ready to change.

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