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MacFarlane, great competition make Oscars a winner



by Jase Howell

The Academy Awards for 2013 had the grand task of grabbing viewers after an incredibly dismal 2012 class.

How dismal? "The Artist," a foreign, silent film and late entry into the running that virtually no one in the states had seen, walked away with Best Picture. Results like that do not exactly keep your average Joe or Jane interested in what is more or less the entertainment industry's equivalent to the Super Bowl.

This year was a different story with a ceremony as crisp, star-studded, and entertaining as one could have hoped for in a rebound. The collection of films nominated this year was one of the finest in at least a decade, and provided a little bit of diversity to give almost any film fan something to love. If that wasn't enough, the producers of the Academy Awards had interest already installed for them from controversies surrounding certain films — some of them self-created. How did Ben Affleck not get a Best Director nomination for "Argo," and would he get the last laugh? How much of the torture tactics and the usage of them figured to effect "Zero Dark Thirty"? Had Quentin Tarantino dropped the n-word one too many times in his spaghetti-western, "Django Unchained"? Would age play a factor in the acting categories with both the youngest and oldest actress nominees competing (Quvenzhane Wallis for "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and Emmanuelle Riva for "Amour")?

The broadcast brought us a first-time host in the revolving doors of hosts. This time it was Seth MacFarlane, the creator of such animated TV shows as "The Family Guy" and "American Dad" as well as the feature film "Ted." Believe it or not, the talking (and drinking, pot-smoking, cocaine-snorting) Teddy bear flick is pretty funny. Certainly, given MacFarlane's skewed sense of humor, the Oscar producers were going out on a limb a bit; but, really, after last year's debacle it was doubtful they could do worse. So let's recap some of the highs and lows of the evening that was surprisingly fresh and filled with energy.

High

The Music

This was the theme for the night, with the integral role of songs and scores that enhance films. Adele was solid in her "Skyfall" performance, and the entire Bond-themed music worked to great effect. One of the highlights of the night was the entire cast of "Les Miserables" coming out in loud fashion for their film, even though they most likely knew it didn't have a chance at Best Picture.

Low

The Music

Not all of it worked. Carting out Barbra Streisand for a rendition of "The Way We Were" was a little tacky, and it wasn't easy to see Adele, Norah Jones and the cast of "Les Mis" perform live while also-rans in the category were relegated to short film montages.

High

Acceptance speeches

By now, everyone knows the winners, but part of the fun is in watching how they handle it. There were some memorable ones to watch. Ben Affleck accepted without resentment for his snub in the Best Director category, and gave a rather moving speech on persevering in the eye of adversity. Jennifer Lawrence, who was due a couple of years ago for "Winter's Bone," certainly made the highlight reel when she accepted her best actress award for "Silver Linings Playbook." Slipping on her way up the stairs to the stage, she shyly mused to the standing ovation that the only reason for the attention was that everyone felt bad for her less-than-graceful walk.

Low

Presenters

This isn't necessarily new, every year we find some presenters that should not be operating a vehicle, nor standing in front of a billion people reading from a teleprompter. This year's "winners" were John Travolta and Kristen Stewart. Travolta actually managed to mess up the pronunciation of "Les Miserables" while also mangling the names of nearly half the stars he was introducing. Yes, he is a scientologist and apparently from the planet Voltan so I guess we have to cut him some slack.

Stewart, meanwhile, just looked as if she was auditioning for the roll of Courtney Love in a bio-pic. I don't know for sure what she was doing back stage, but I don't think it was legal unless she had a prescription or had just flown in minutes before from Colorado or Washington.

High

Seth MacFarlane

A gutsy choice from the beginning, but he paid dividends for this broadcast. Several of his jokes cut a bit deep for some of the audience, but for the most part he straddled the line pretty well being original yet not too offensive. Most of all, it was clear from the outset MacFarlane was not about to copy any of the old ghosts that had graced the stage, and he brought a breath of fresh air to the awards. It was wholly needed.

Low

The 'Jaws' Theme

Yeah, I know we all get a little tired of meandering thank you speeches, but the rather crude "Jaws" themed used as a hook to pull recipients off the stage was a bit crass, in my opinion, especially considering its usage in certain categories. I can hear them saying, "Mr. Short Documentary Winner, we're sicing the shark on you while you 're thanking your mother. Daniel Day- Lewis, feel free to give the Emancipation Proclamation.

All in all it was a great year for films, and the Oscars did a splendid job in showcasing it. Let's hope this year is as good.