Top 10 Reasons the 2011 Oscars Sucked

by Eric Melin on March 1, 2011

in Top 10s

Beyond the fairly funny opening sketch where hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway go into Alec Baldwin’s dreams “Inception”-style, and another pre-taped segment of auto-tuned 2010 movies, this year’s Academy Awards were pretty lackluster. Thank God Hollywood legend and 94-year-old stroke survivor Kirk Douglas was on hand to lend the hosts a hand and bring some spontaneity to the show. (That, and Melissa Leo’s f-bomb ensured an early peak.) Here are the Top 10 Reasons the 2011 Oscars Sucked. If you’d like to contribute a Top 10 list, email eric@scene-stealers.com.

10. Tributes to Past Winners Never Gelled

Before I launch into a bunch of negativity, here’s one huge compliment. The set design was amazing. The several layers of video imagery on multiple screens including that huge arc behind the presenters was amazing. IF ONLY they had been able to tie what they were doing into the video they were presenting! When “Gone With the Wind” was introduced, the screens changed to show all kinds of iconic images from the movie, but it didn’t come off on TV at all—and then nobody talked about the movie. That was just weird. When Justin Timberlake invited us to enter the world of “Shrek’s” Far Far Away like it was going to be some magical event, there was just an awkward pause and a quick cut to the set changing. Mila Kunis’ joke “You missed a spot” didn’t even register. I’m sure it was more spectacular in the Kodak Theater, but it didn’t have the thematic pull or visual impressiveness at home.

9. Hathaway Trying Too Hard

Again, this is a minor complaint. We’re working our way up to the big offenders still. In a nutshell, Anne Hathaway was a good host. Had she been given a better co-host and better jokes, that would have helped, but she looked genuinely excited to be there at least. Sometimes, a little too excited. One miscalculation: They underused her singing talents in a lame, abbreviated ‘almost-song’ (“On My Own”) about Hugh Jackman abandoning her as a singing partner. On the plus, her comic timing was pretty right on most of the night—but poor Anne just looked exasperated. She put on a brave face as the night went on (and on), but between her whooping (“Hilary Swank, whoooo!”) and her gasping reverence (deserved I suppose for Mr. Douglas, but still too showy), she looked like she was trying too hard. I don’t really blame her though. She basically had to muster all the enthusiasm for the hosting duo by herself. Maybe they should do what the song said and give her another shot—on her own.

8. Bringing Billy Crystal Back Only Reminds Us What We’re Missing

Mr. Crystal is the undisputed modern king of Oscar hosts, and when he was announced, the audience burst out cheering. And with good reason—Crystal has a superb track record of hosting in his eight years between 1990 and 2004. He always has the rare ability to poke fun and pay tribute to the nominated films without coming across bitter or angry, and he could always follow up an unexpected event with a great one-liner. So when it turned out all he was doing was introducing a Bob Hope tribute (the classic Oscar host of yesteryear), all the segment really did was remind us how badly they were both missed at that very moment.

7. Early Awards Predicted Later Surprises That Never Happened

When Wally Pfister beat Roger Deakins for Cinematography and “Alice in Wonderland” won for Art Direction, it looked as if the night might be full of surprises. Hell, even first-time nominee and Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor won an Oscar (with Atticus Ross, for the “The Social Network” score), beating such luminaries as Hans Zimmer and Alexandre Desplat. But as the night wore on, it was clear that the only surprises would be in the technical categories. As the show itself would run out of steam, everything else began to fall into place as most pundits had predicted (see #1).

6. Franco In A Dress

Hathaway had been wearing a tuxedo when she sang her song about Jackman. That was the supposed reason for the lamest and most desperate laugh of the night—Franco coming out in a pink dress with a blonde wig. Specifically, he was aping Marilyn Monroe in “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” strolling out all frumpy and hunched over to make it “funnier.” Instead, it just reeked of desperation. “You got to wear a tuxedo, so I wore this,” he said to Hathaway. What a punchline! Oh, wait, that wasn’t it: He added, “The weird part is, I just got a text message from Charlie Sheen.” Ugh. This dovetails nicely into #2…

5. Those Godawful Songs

Last year, they got rid of them, but this year, they were back! Even winner Randy Newman joked about the low number of nominees in the Original Song Category: “To hell with it. You couldn’t find a fifth song?” The better question should have been: If these were the nest you could find, shouldn’t you have skipped this category this year completely? Newman’s voice was barely there, and A.R. Rahman and Florence Welch performed what seemed to be a song introduction rather than an actual song. Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore dueted on a middling tune from Disney’s “Tangled,” but the funniest part of the songs came when Jennifer Hudson introduced Gwyneth Paltrow as a “singing sensation and country music’s newest star.” She then proceeded to sing “Coming Home”from “Country Strong” into to a big, weird-looking white microphone with nary a hint of camp, much less any twang. Country music indeed. Thank God they were all abbreviated versions of the songs.

4. Lifetime Achievement Awards – Poof! They’re Gone

It’s bad enough that the Academy has cut this portion of the awards from the telecast, but his year was an unforgivable fake-out. First, there was a whole ONE-MINUTE montage of Jean-Luc Godard, Kevin Brownlow, Eli Wallach, and Francis Ford Coppola getting their awards at a ceremony late last year. How generous!

Then, to add insult to injury, three of the winners took the stage to thunderous applause and—wait for it—the telecast cut to commercial! I guess making time for a tribute to film’s living legends isn’t as important as Gwyneth Paltrow’s new singing career.

3. Franco Bored And Above It All

All the hype about multi-hyphenate James Franco was saying “What can’t he do?” Well, now we know. During the ABC Red Carpet special, he looked pissed off that he even had to be interviewed and that overall attitude carried right on into the Kodak Theater as Franco basically slept through the entire show. Or at least it looked like was sleeping. His body was upright and his mouth was moving, but Franco his eyelids were half-closed and it looked like he might nod off at any moment. He had no chemistry with Hathaway and tossed off even his most basic introductions with a demeanor that bordered on outright contempt. For an Oscar-nominated actor to get a gig like this and then not even be able to fake enthusiasm is kind of weird. Maybe he got some bad news that afternoon. That’s the only thing I can think of. Whatever the reason, you can bet that Franco will not be asked back to host another Oscar show.

2. Awful Writing

As Norm Macdonald tweeted earlier in the night, “Hey watching this show raises an interesting question. Is there a writers strike or something?” Seriously. Franco joking about inappropriate movie titles like “Winter’s Bone”? That joke is so old that Dana Carvey and Mike Myers beat it to death weeks ago on “Saturday Night Live.” Maybe Franco was all sleepy-eyed and surly because he knew he didn’t have any good jokes.

At least bad writing also contributed to the show’s funniest moment of the night, a cutaway to Joel and Ethan Coen looking bored during Oprah’s plodding introduction of the Best Documentary category.

1. Tom Hooper and “The King’s Speech”

After adventurous Best Picture winners like “The Hurt Locker” and “No Country for Old Men,” I guess it was time to anoint a more traditional winner, eh? OK, so this isn’t nearly as bad as the travesty that was “Crash” winning Best Picture in 2006, but Tom Hooper beating David Fincher for Best Director will go down in history as one of the most egregious snubs ever. Despite what the early awards were telling us (as “The King’s Speech” was beat again and again), the feel-good period drama went on to win the two biggest awards of the night. By the time they got to Best Picture, the producers had even given up trying to hide who was going to win, as Colin Firth’s voice narrated and tied together the montage of all 10 nominees. Oh well. At least Fincher and company can take heart. Like Steven Spielberg said: The losers are joining the ranks of “Citizen Kane” and “Raging Bull,” so there are worse things than becoming a timeless classic, I guess.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jessica maria March 1, 2011 at 8:21 am

Agreed! I was hoping for a Fincher win; I thought Hooper’s directing was clumsy, unprovocative and distracting. I was surprised he was even NOMINATED. So much eye-rolling during the telecast.

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2 Randall March 1, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Maybe this falls under “Those Godawful Songs,” but–Celine Dion? Seriously? I suppose the choice of a live musical performance during the montage of dead people keeps applause from going up and down throughout (which was always kind of embarrassing for the less well-known figures who died), but having to hear Celine Dion almost made me want to kick the bucket.

Also, I hope I never have to hear another Melissa Leo acceptance speech. She was fine in the movie, but her speeches at the Oscars and Golden Globes were really annoying.

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3 Jason March 1, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I thought Anne Hathaway was an absolute delight. Maybe to liven up those horrible best songs, she should sing them! Better her than the tone-deaf performers that were trotted out. Strong suggestion that she host on her own in the future, or with Justin Timberlake. That would be a great pairing.
Yes, the songs were awful, and here’s a category where the Academy kills itself by refusing to be up to date with current trends. Any song that uses a sample is ineligible because it’s not considered an “original” song. Half of all pop songs now use samples, and hits like “Steal My Sunshine”, “Can I Get A”, and “You Can Do It” couldn’t be nominated under these rules. Bull. Get with the times, Academy.
I disagree that this was a bad telecast, though. Just over three hours, and no embarassing song/dance stuff. Remember the travesty of 1997 that was over four hours, and it just delayed the inevitable that Titanic would win everything? Ugh.

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4 Reed March 1, 2011 at 2:00 pm

The first time I missed the Oscars in something like 20 years. Sounds like I picked the right year to skip.

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5 Jason March 1, 2011 at 3:07 pm

@Jessica: Really? Hooper’s direction was the best use of deep focus photography that I’ve seen in a long time. Every shot in the film was five or six layers deep with visuals. Clumsy directing comes from folks like Chris Columbus, who keeps the main person squarely dead center in the frame and just blurs the background rather than make an interesting shot.

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6 jessica maria March 1, 2011 at 3:17 pm

@Jason There were many times where the shots distracted me from what I was watching. The odd way he filmed a conversation between Firth & Rush juxtaposing them on either side of the screen in an up-close frame and cutting it quickly distracted me from what they were actually saying (you know, their acting). There were some shots that were wide when they should have been tighter (specifically one where Firth & Bonham Carter descend some stairs). Overall, there were some good shots, but I wouldn’t say “EVERY shot in the film was five or six layers deep with visuals.” Some were. Personally, I found Hooper’s directing incoherent, and that’s why I call it clumsy.

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7 L. Keene March 1, 2011 at 3:47 pm

When I saw A.H. on SNL the other day, I knew it was gonna be a long night. She’s annoying. J.F. is cool enough, but who on earth thought he was right for this gig? Hated it. Everything you said is true. All the interesting stuff was shortened or cut out. Halle B’s thing was boring and pointless. The music thing was terrible. Ugh. Funniest FB post I saw about Gwyneth’s song: She didn’t look like she was enjoying it anymore than I was. Ha!

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8 Jason March 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm

@Jessica: I know, it’s opinion, and no one is wrong or right, but there was a reason for that shot on the stairs. It was a counter to the shot in the elevator where they were on top of each other and barely fit. The common folk live and work in tight spaces, and the royalty has an ornate house where two can fit side by side down a staircase (I’ve been to London and trust me, wide staircases and elevators are nonexistent). I actually thought it was a great idea to show the differences between the two lifestyles.

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9 jessica maria March 1, 2011 at 4:19 pm

@Jason I see your point with that one. For me, the jilted directing was apparent from the start and it truly distracted. I do like the movie (especially the acting), just not directing-wise. Even moreso because I really think Fincher (or Aronofsky, the Coens)was more deserving of the honor.

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10 Will March 1, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Was I the only one who thought that Franco looked Drunk and/or Hight?

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11 Will March 1, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Ooops, I meant High. Damn keyboard

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12 James March 1, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Eh oh well. I don’t know if this leaves movie fans unexcited cause I know there’s alot of passion for The King’s Speech both young and old, but as soon as it was over I was like “Meh. That’s the best picture winner? Huh. Alright. Strange division from the critics and the industry.”

Sometimes I wonder if the telecast really wants to make history. If they do they want to do it in all the negative ways whether its the choices they make or the show they create.

On the plus side, while it was disappointing to see Deakins yet again lose, it was nice to Wally Pfister winning after 4 nominations I believe in the last 5-6 years. At least he will never be overdue. This tied Inception up for as many wins as The King’s Speech, though I wish they changed the category from Best Art Direction to Best Production Design, so Inception’s best and most unique technical quality would win over something obvious like Alice in Wonderland.

Still props to handing every tech craft to The King’s Speech. Its possible they did so, because King’s Speech is a considerably smaller film. Its not a large studio effort. Also Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross winning was somewhat of a surprise. A nice one though.

Firth carried his film on his shoudlers so he got a well deserved Oscar. I’m glad child actors like Bale and Portman were rewarded for their intensity. I would have preferred Steinfeld too win, but I have no problems with Leo winning. As for Fincher losing……eh. Like I said the Academy couldn’t do that otherwise they would be a joke to have King’s Speech win BP. Social Network wins Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Score, but not BP? Then again they don’t care if they look like a joke.

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13 Xavier March 1, 2011 at 10:05 pm

I agree those tributes were really, really awkward they just sort of happened without any explanation, and I’m not sure why they chose only one picture (gone with the wind) to be featured on the screen with only a couple of clips from the film with no commentary from current filmmakers, or something like that.
The writing is always terrible, remember last year’s jokes they felt like they were something out of the 60s in all the wrong ways, even baldwin couldn’t make them funny, here’s a tip academy, if you’re going to try to appeal to younger audiences update the jokes and not just the birth dates of the hosts.
I also agree that watching billy crystal made me wish he was hosting instead.
I didn’t think that the awards were terrible but they were just boring, predictable and ultimately completely unmemorable. I think I saw on your twitter status on the main page eric that you called them pointless, which I think is the most appropriate description for both the outcomes and the ceremony.
Also two awards for Alice in Wonderland for doing the same things tim burton does in every film? If memory serves didn’t something similarly head-scratch-worthy happen with Sweeney Todd. I think art direction and costumes would have made my list of why the awards sucked

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14 Xavier March 1, 2011 at 10:09 pm

@ james I think you meant to write that the social network won score, adapted screenplay and editing not director. Also the King’s speech was entirely shut out of the technical awards it won Picture, Director, Actor and Original Screenplay.

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15 James March 2, 2011 at 12:07 am

Oops, I meant props for them not giving The King’s Speech any tech crafts. Thanks for pointing out my error. And yea, I meant to say had The Social Network won Director along with the other awards that it actually won, the Academy would look foolish if they gave to The King’s Speech.

I mean imagine if this was the scenario
King’s Speech
Picture
Actor
Original Screenplay

compared to…

Director
Adapted Screenplay
Editing
Score

Although sometimes, a performance can really carry a flick for them the director comes second oddly enough.

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16 Xavier March 2, 2011 at 5:00 am

See I could imagine splitting the director and the picture this year. For me the Social Network was the best picture of the year, I don’t think any of the performances would win for me but they were all great, the strength of the movie comes from the script and editing. I would give director to Aranofsky because moreso than any other film last year Black Swan was great because he made it great, he took a reasonable script and made a brilliant film whereas fincher took an amazing script and made it an even better film. Aranofsky also drew performances from his actors that I’m not sure anyone else could all the while dazzling the audience with his technical wizardry. So for me Social Network for Picture Aranofsky for Directing.

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17 James March 2, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Oh definitely. I mean I think Fincher deserves it, but Aronofsky’s direction is audacious and bold and would be well deserving. He had a good original script, but he elevated the script. Fincher, Aronofsky, the Coens, O Russell, Nolan, Boyle, are just a few filmmakers we will be talking about over the years. These filmmakers have voices. I’m not so sure about Hooper. There’s certainly a personality behind camera and The King’s Speech could have been considerably dryer, but I keep thinking that talent won’t go over the heads of the Academy. This is the second time I bought into Nolan getting nominated. I promise not to do it again.

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18 Hartmut March 18, 2011 at 5:02 am

The Oscar 2011 hosts were lame,
The movies nominated were lame,
The whole show was lame,
The people turning up were lame.

Where was the excitement and glamour of great movies
and of great movie stars?

Has everything gone the way of the lowest common denominator,
to appeal to the most(common?)people possible?

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