Someone please fix the sound before next year’s Oscars

Another year.  Another Oscar ceremony.  Another Monday morning when I feel like the walking dead after staying up too late to watch the whole damn thing.

All in all, I thought it was a pretty decent show.  The most easy and obvious thing to say is that it was better that last year.  Anything would have been better than last year, when James Franco and Anne Hathaway stunk up the joint with a combination of lifeless apathy (him) and cringe-inducing desperation (her).  Listening to Faye Dunaway complain about Manhattan real estate law for three hours would have been better.  Watching James Cameron bellow “I’m the king of the world!” over and over into a mirror would have been better.  Even a “Clockwork Orange”-esque forced viewing of Sex and the City 2 would have been marginally better.  So last night was better.

That said, it wasn’t great.  I know that when you get Billy Crystal you get schtick, and his schtick is to open with a knowingly cheesy medley about all the films nominated for Best Picture.  But if, as he acknowledged while the music swelled, there are now nine nominated films to cram in instead of five and thus the song gets so rushed that the lyrics are nearly impossible to understand, it becomes forced and lifeless instead of funny.  (During the bit about The Descendants they cut to George Clooney, who was squinting with the effort of trying to make out the words and look appropriately amused.)  The horrible sound quality didn’t help (more on that later).  It made for a flat opening, which robbed the show of momentum.  Thankfully, Crystal really is a pro, and as time went by he found more of a groove and things livened up a bit.

However, what was with those microphones?  All of the presenters sounded tinny, and it was driving me nuts.  They had the same problem last year, and one might think that Hollywood’s marathon of self-congratulation would be immaculately produced.  Can’t they find someone to fix the problem?  Maybe someone in the entertainment industry?

The dresses were generally nice.  I thought Jennifer Lopez looked like some kind of extraterrestrial insect (and her apparently spontaneous attempts at comedy with co-presenter Cameron Diaz were… weird).  Emma Stone’s gigantic red bow looked like it was trying to eat her neck (though she was a charming presenter).  I think my favorite was Milla Jovovich, who was on hand to discuss the previously-awarded technical Oscars, which seemed fitting given her sci-fi/horror-heavy resumè of late.  By and large, everyone looked appropriately glam and well-groomed, with no huge hits or misses.  (I’m sure, as I voraciously consume the best and worst dressed lists in the coming days, I’ll be reminded of more outliers.)

And the winners were almost exactly as I most recently predicted.  [Confidential to JS — your taste in scotch is better than mine, so I will happily accept whatever bottle you choose to settle our bet.  Thank you kindly in advance.]  On the one hand, I got five out of six winners right.  On the other, I got the one true toss-up wrong.  (I will calibrate my SAG vs BAFTA weight accordingly for future prognostications.)  In my defense, the winner was Meryl Streep, and we all knew she was bound to finally win another one sooner or later.  Thankfully, now that she’s won again, I can safely put a line through her name whenever she gets nominated again in the next two decades.  Though, is it just me, or does it feel like Meryl is strangely diminished by her win?  Like her perpetual also-ran status was universally acknowledged to be the result of her consistently Oscar-worthy performances and they couldn’t give her the award every year so they had to give it to lesser talents, and now that she’s won she’s a little more mortal?  Obviously nobody is going to think that she’s in the same category as less talented previous winners (I’m looking at you Paltrow), and she’s still in a league of her own (certainly as far as American actresses are concerned).  I dunno, it just seemed like getting nominated and clapping politely while someone else went up to accept her award was part of her legend.

Anyhow, I enjoyed watching well enough.  However, I’m beginning to wonder if the Oscars are one of those things that really is best viewed with others.  Even last year it would have been fun to loudly complain about how awful Franco was with like-minded friends, rather than sitting in mute horror on the couch with the Better Half.  Perhaps my memories of fun Academy Awards ceremonies past has as much to do with the setting in which I watched than with the show itself (though some of the past shows were really great, like the first year Steve Martin hosted).  Plus, it’s kind of fun at an Oscar party to be the token Guy Who Takes This Semi-Seriously.  Maybe next year I’ll see if I can dragoon some friends into staying up late with me again.

Anyone else make it all the way through?

[Update:  I knew I forgot to add something, and clicking through the “Best and Worst” galleries jogged my memory.  Angelina Jolie!!  You are gorgeous when you look like a human being.  Unless you’re angling to be cast as Skeletor in a hush-hush live action remake of “He-Man,” I implore you to eat something.  Anything.  If you come to my house, I will make you a sandwich.  I promise you will feel better.]

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. As you may well be aware, Dr. Saunders, I used to watch the Oscars accompanied by friends and food and drink and laughter. Total blast. Now that I only have a barely willing husband (“Come on, honey, there’ll be really hot women in skimpy dresses….”) and no local Oscar-y friends, I don’t even watch anymore. I can’t force myself. Although I was pleased to hear that Billy Wilder got props.

    • What? You used to have Oscar parties? I had no idea! I’m sure, had I been there, I would have gleefully filled out a ballot and told certain loud-mouthed mutual friends to shut up already and let me hear the speeches. Y’know… if I’d been there.

  2. My girlfriend and I watched it, even though we have seen exactly one (1) movie at the theaters this last year (Iron Lady….we loved it). Still, we like watching the spectacle, and I like feeling superior to all those people who seem to take themselves too seriously. (Disclosure: I take myself too seriously too much, but it’s nice to be on the high horse once in a while.)

    I agree, though: it is something best watched with a group of friends.

    I also agree about the Diaz/Lopez “joke”: ??????

    Finally, I think Billy Crystal does a great job.

  3. I sat on my girlfriend’s couch and watched the Oscars — the whole damn thing — for the first time in … close to 7, 8 years probably. And it was strangely enjoyable. I WANTED to stay up until the very end — I was expecting to be grumpy and wander off around 10 or so. We’d caught a matinee of THE ARTIST earlier, and were still kind of in an amused glow from it, I suppose.

    And Billy Crystal’s schtick, I’ve decided, is kind of like the somewhat distant uncle who decides that he needs to get up and give a speech in the middle of a bar/bat mitzvah party. Which is probably why I enjoyed it.

    Also — I thought the sound thing was just the TV here. Apparently it was everywhere…

    • I have yet to see The Artist, and I’m sure if I had I would have found it more rewarding to watch it win. I have no doubt that part of what makes watching now a diminished experience is that I used to see almost all of the movies (for a few golden years I managed to see every film nominated in every notable category, including supporting performances and screenplays), and it made the winners and losers seem a bit more meaningful. (I managed to see four this year before the ceremony, which is a lot better than last year’s zero.)

      So, what do you think? Did The Artist deserve the win? And I like your take on Crystal. Don’t get me wrong. I like his schtick, I just think it didn’t play as well, or maybe just needed a bit more warming up than when he did the Oscar gig every year.

  4. Please feed Jolie a massive sandwich. I’ve been saying this for years. Get her back to her Tomb Raider body so she doesn’t look so fragile.

  5. I always love Billy Crystal as Oscar host, and I loved him last night. He does look botoxed, and Meryl Streep looks as though she has cheek implants. I am a 60-something who has done none of that stuff, but I’m just an ordinary citizen.

    I thought the “Wizard of Oz” sketch fell as flat as a pancake.

    So glad about “The Artist” wins–delightful movie!

    Needless to say, much, much better than last year’s awards show.

  6. I did think that the astonished/surprised look on Meryl’s face was authentic, so either she deserves her 18th nomination for managing to look kind of like a kid at a candy store, or she deserved the win just so that she can feel kind of like a kid in the candy store, for a change.

    It’s probably nice to be an otherworldly talent, but batting 2-for-16 might be a little tough on the ego.

    • No doubt. I certainly don’t begrudge her the win in the least. And now she can hang out at the bar with Helen Mirren and Kate Winslet in the “Obviously Best Actress Who Will Lose to Someone Else” section the next time any of them get nominated again.

  7. I’m glad someone else noticed the audio problem, I thought maybe it was just my hearing going out. It sounded like some form of feedback. It seemed to diminish at times and then come back worse than ever. This is Hollywood?

    • It wasn’t your hearing. Thanks to my handy, dandy new stat counter, I can see that I’ve gotten over 100 hits from people searching for some variation on “what was with the sound at the Oscars?”

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