Will Smith responding to an ugly Chris Rock joke with onstage assault was only the nadir of an Oscars telecast characterized by unsuccessful innovations and upstaged emotional moments.
After a fairly promising first hour, the show had begun to flag in basically the same ways Oscar telecasts always flag, proving conclusively that producer Will Packer’s attempt to fix the event was barely a band-aid.
After months of big promises about finishing the telecast by 11 p.m. ET, the Oscars were running long, and one key decision after another was yielding something between embarrassment and a fizzle instead of fireworks.
Let’s go through some of those changes.
Hosts Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes had moments. Their three-person monologue was uncomfortable and showed no real rapport within the trio, no sense of why it was better to have all three of them as opposed to just a single host to make a few snarky comments and move things along. But it wasn’t horrible.
After that first monologue — triologue, I guess — Schumer came out and did a second series of bits that was, in fact, much sharper and funnier than anything that came before. I laughed out loud at barbs about Don’t Look Up and Being the Ricardos — “It’s like making a biopic about Michael Jordan and just showing the bus trips between games” — and it generally felt like she’d been entrusted to handle the Ricky Gervais “roast” portion of the evening.
From there, though, the use of the hosts became more and more sparse, as happens in literally every awards show. That’s just how it goes. You start running out of time, and “banter” is what gets cut. The whole “Regina Hall is horny” thing was creepy and sold short what an utterly vibrant personality and performer the Support the Girls and Black Monday star is. A later bit with Schumer dangling from wires dressed as Spider-Man was lackluster.
The much-discussed choice to move eight categories out of the main telecast, present them before the show and then broadcast trimmed-down versions was not, in and of itself, a disaster. Most viewers probably didn’t notice the lack of walk-up time, the cutting within the speeches and the very selective reaction shots from the crowd. But it was a move made to serve exactly one purpose: Get the telecast to a reasonable three hours. It was not working. The show was going to run long regardless — and if the show was going to run long regardless, then a show dedicated to honoring the industry shouldn’t be going out of its way to insult artisans in that industry. This is definitely one of those “If it wasn’t a win, it was a loss” things. There’s no middle ground.