Awards Season

Five Oscar-Night Lessons, From Moms To Under-The-Chin Shots

James Franco and Anne Hathaway apologized for their youth at Sunday night's Oscars.

James Franco and Anne Hathaway apologized for their youth at Sunday night's Oscars. Kevin Winter/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Kevin Winter/Getty Images

For me, last night's Oscarcast was more that just a collection of dubious dresses and Helena Bonham Carter reaction shots. It was a source of life lessons. Here are five things I learned from this year's Academy Awards:

(1) If you're going to court young viewers, then you have to apologize to their parents. Three seconds into their hosting duties, co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco cracked about how hip and attractive they were, gamely acknowledging the widespread belief that they were hired to lure young viewers. The producers inserted other Whippersnapper Moments, too, like a medley of auto-tuned clips from the Best Picture nominees and a round of suggestive jokes from Dane Cook.

But for every Nickelodeon moment, there was a vaudeville apology. In case older viewers were confused by Hathaway and Franco, the Academy trotted out former hosts like Billy Crystal, Alec Baldwin and Hugh Jackman. A hologram of Bob Hope even showed up to introduce some presenters, like the Ghost of Oscar Past rising from his grave to apologize for the kids who were trying to do his job.

One could argue that by pandering to every demographic, the show became a disorienting mess, but that means overlooking the sublimely ridiculous final moment: all the night's winners gathered on stage, decked in finery and holding their statues, while a group of Staten Island school children wearing fluorescent t-shirts sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." And in the background? An enormous image of the Emerald City of Oz. You could practically hear the Academy president shouting, "Look! It's kids and glamour and an old movie that doesn't offend anyone! Love me, love me, love me!"

If a plan to please everyone can produce such a ludicrous scene, then it's got to be worth remembering.

(2) 2011 is the year of side angles. Forget looking at someone straight on. Last night's ceremony was bursting with under-the-chin shots, intense profile close-ups, and wacky titled angles. Sure, they made everyone look bad — you don't have all that work done just to be shown from the side, people — but there's nothing we can do. Those camera shots are clearly going to define the season.

(3) Randy Newman is just as angry as I am that Cher didn't get to sing on the show. Accepting his Oscar for Best Original Song, Randy Newman noted that there were only four nominees in the category ... and then rightly suggested that was a bunch of hooey. Clearly, he was as incensed as I was that "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," Cher's showstopping anthem from Burlesque, wasn't nominated, thus denying us the chance to see her perform at the show. Since the four nominated songs were like aural Ambien, it would have been a welcome swig of Jolt Cola to see Cher set the place on fire.

(4) Australians don't care about your stupid alphabetical order. When the nominees for Best Supporting Actress were announced, Aussie Jacki Weaver was named third, even though she was alphabetically fifth in the category. Take that, Melissa Leo! You might have the Oscar, but Jacki Weaver controls language!

(5) Moms are the most powerful force in the film industry. In his acceptance speech for Best Director, Tom Hooper (of The King's Speech) thanked his mom for passing along the script in the first place. When Luke Matheny picked up his prize for Best Live Action Short, he praised his mother for handling craft services on the film. In the opening monologue, Anne Hathaway's mother (and James Franco's grandmother) stood up to make sassy comments. It turns out that if you want to make it in Hollywood, you need to ask your mom what kind of movie she would like to see.

Mark Blankenship writes about pop culture at The Critical Condition.

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