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Oscars show may be overstuffed, but still plenty on menu to enjoy
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Oscars show may be overstuffed, but still plenty on menu to enjoy

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Oscars show may be overstuffed, but still plenty on menu to enjoy

BOB FISCHBACH

COMMENTARY

So what did you think of the Oscars?

It's the inevitable question in the days after the Academy Awards. And, no, I never tire of the topic. So in case you're interested but too shy to ask, here are a few things I thought:

I thought the show was longer than it needed to be, as it is every year — but I never tire of watching, even though the midsection sagged and dragged.

Some of the musical numbers worked great (Lady Gaga's "The Sound of Music" medley was the show's high point, closely followed by Common and John Legend's rendition of "Glory" from "Selma"). And some of them fell flat. Literally, in the case of Tim McGraw's pitchy rendition of best-song nominee "I'm Not Gonna Miss You." For me, that huge, frenetic production of the "Lego Movie" song was a snore. And I

wish they didn't feel the need to follow the "In Memoriam" segment with a singer.

Neil Patrick Harris? Good job, but my expectations were maybe too high. The opening number was a hit with the audience, and Harris got off some great quips.

But he also had a few wince-inducing moments, like when he said "American Sniper" was the Oprah of the best-pic nominees (because you're rich, he had to explain to her), or when he joked Edward Snowden was not present, "for some treason." The magic-trick gag got old, and its culmination was anti-climactic.

The tighty whities? That was a rare inspired moment in which Harris managed to satirize bits from both "Birdman" and "Whiplash." Many people didn't get the joke, because they hadn't seen the movies — especially "Whiplash," which has taken in just $11 million at the box office.

The 16 percent drop in TV viewers? I wouldn't blame Harris. This year's nominations shorted some of the most popular box office hits, such as "The Lego Movie," "Interstellar," "Gone Girl" and "Into the Woods." Fans of those movies tuned out. The one best-pic megahit at the box office, "American Sniper," has made more money than the seven others combined both globally ($430.4 million) and domestically ($320.8 million). But it wasn't expected to win much, and it didn't (sound effects editing).

Also, there was an online show-boycott campaign because all the acting nominees this year were white (first time since 1998).

I loved the moment when John Travolta and Idina Menzel presented an award together, bringing closure to his mispronunciation of her name last year. Clever, funny, good-natured.

I didn't like Sean Penn's profane green-card joke aimed at best-pic winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, even if Gonzalez Inarritu said he didn't mind.

But I didn't mind all those personal and political statements that became part of acceptance speeches - not that they were anything new, it's just that there were more than usual. To me, they provided some of the most personal and moving moments of this live show. It's what I watch for.

I was glad to see plenty of people of color among performers and presenters, a wise move on the part of the academy. Now they need to get serious about making their membership more representative of women, blacks, Hispanics and other minorities in the industry — and younger than it is.

What about who won? I don't get too wrapped up in that. How we respond to individual movies is such a personal, subjective thing. Julianne Moore was right: There is no such thing as "best" in the arts. Who wins can feel like it's as much about business savvy and personal politics as it is art.

But I'd have given best picture to "Whiplash," a miracle of a little microbudget film that told a very human, emotionally impactful story that left me squirming in my seat for nearly two hours and then thinking about those characters for days afterward. Great script, great acting, great direction. And an underdog of a movie.

Not that I didn't love "Birdman" and "Boyhood," which I gave four-star reviews, and nearly all the other best-pic nominees.

Best actor? In my book, David Oyelowo was deserving as Martin Luther King Jr. in "Selma," and he wasn't even nominated. But there were so many deserving nominees, too, including winner Eddie Redmayne for his uncanny portrayal of Stephen Hawking.

No way could I pick between Moore for "Still Alice" and Marion Cotillard for "Two Days, One Night." Two shades of greatness.

And how do you say a splashy role like J.K. Simmons' in "Whiplash" was "better" than an understated performance like Mark Ruffalo's in "Foxcatcher," which was all about subtext and what was left unsaid? Both stellar, from where I sit.

Supporting actress? I'd make a case for Emma Stone in "Birdman," but then that bird has already flown (groan here).

Proof I'm not tired of talking Academy Awards: Stick around for next week's column, when I'll speculate on some potential Oscar contenders coming up in the year ahead.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1269, bob.fischbach@owh.com

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