March 3, 2014


The Ronnies!


The biggest winners last night at the Academy Awards were not present in the Dolby Theater. That’s because we were all sitting at home watching the most enjoyable Oscar-cast in recent memory. Thanks in large part to a winning turn by host Ellen DeGeneres, Hollywood’s annual exercise in self-congratulation was actually fun again. I’m not in the “Cult of Ellen” but you have to give credit where and when it’s due. I hope they’ve locked her in for at least the next five years.

DeGeneres kicked things off with a very funny monologue. It was equal parts dishy and delightful. Her zingers were well timed and poked fun at a host of overpaid targets who were more than game for the ribbing. Sure, Liza Minnelli took the biggest broadside but, when you show up to an event looking like a bad drag version of your former self, you kinda deserve what you get. Any sympathy I might have accorded to Minnelli quickly evaporated during her several attempts to steal the spotlight later in the broadcast.

Yes, the show was overlong and overproduced but DeGeneres still managed to infuse something into the proceedings that has been sorely lacking of late: a sense of spontaneity. Be it the “selfie seen around the world” or the pizza delivery bit (which could have been a disaster in less capable hands), there was a sense of buoyant joy throughout that was so infectious, it made a wildly effervescent performance by Pharrell make me forget (for a few minutes, anyway) how much I hate the Best Song category.

Rather than a boring re-cap of the highs and lows of last night, we’re kicking off our annual post-Oscars presentation of The Ronnies. Enjoy!

Best Supporting Actress winner Lupita Nyong'o


That smile! That beautiful face! That stunning dress! Lupita Nyong’o is that rare “star of the moment” who deserves every bit of the praise that has been heaped upon her. She tore up the screen in 12 YEARS A SLAVE (and tore out my heart in the process) and has ruled every red carpet she’s walked. Not only was her win for Best Supporting Actress well deserved, her emotional and heartfelt acceptance speech is proof that she won’t be a one hit wonder. Her future is bright. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

RUNNER-UP: Jared Leto. I’m not a fan of the self-absorbed Leto but his performance in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB was undeniably effective. After several clunky acceptance speeches this awards season, he finally got it right last night. Extra points for balancing the tricky triumvirate of political plugs, a shout-out to AIDS victims and a moving tribute to his mom.

Pink performs "Over the Rainbow"


Who knew that a tribute to the classic THE WIZARD OF OZ would turn into the musical highlight of the night? Pink took “Over the Rainbow” and made it her own. She sounded as stunning as she looked and earned a well-deserved standing ovation. I’ve always liked Pink but never realized how powerful her voice could be. More, please!

RUNNER-UP: Pharrell. I have no plans to see DESPICABLE ME 2 because I had zero interest in the original DESPICABLE ME. That’s why I assumed the performance of “Happy” would be a lowlight of the night. Wrong was I! Breaking the “Curse Of the BIG, Showy Oscar Musical Number,” Pharrell and company managed to bring the house down (or up on its feet, in this case).

Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor from "12 Years A Slave"


Going into last night, it wasn’t a sure bet that 12 YEARS A SLAVE would walk away with the Best Picture Oscar. Much of the post-show debate (centering on the machinations behind the historic win) has done a real disservice to the film. It won the Academy Award because it was, indeed, the best entry in a field of (mostly) worthy nominees. It is “must-see” in every since of the word.

RUNNER-UP: Alfonso Cuaron. I loved GRAVITY because it was a marvel of technical prowess that never once lost touch with the emotional core of the story. In an age when digital effects typically fill gaping plot holes or distract from weak character development, Alfonso Cuaron managed a tough balancing act and reminded us what genuine directorial prowess is all about. Bravo, too, for his a heartfelt acceptance speech.

Jim Carrey and his tired shtick at The Oscars.


This group category could also be dubbed the “Why The Hell Were They There?” award. There were has-been head scratchers like Jessica Biel and Kate Hudson along with at least one misguided attempt to attract five or six extra young viewers (yes, Zac Efron, I’m talking about you). Throw perennial snores like Bill Murray, Glenn Close and Whoopi Goldberg into the mix and you complete the sad picture.

I was also unaware, until last night anyway, that hawking overpriced coffee makers was all it took to score a presenter gig at the ceremony. How else to explain the presence of Penelope Cruz? She’s done nothing of consequence in a long while yet, there she was again, turning up on stage like a bad penny. Side note: is it me or is her accent is getting thicker with each passing year?

At least Cruz and the rest of the bunch didn’t turn their undeserved moment in the spotlight into a minor train wreck. The same can’t be said for Jim Carrey. His rambling, often incoherent and wholly unfunny segment was a perfect fit with his recent string of box office duds.

Bette Midler is the wind beneath her wings.


I didn’t get the Bette Midler gene, I don’t think she’s particularly nice and I’m absolutely sure she’s not god’s gift to music. Still, it wasn’t her pitchy (and frequently off-key) rendition of the sappy “Wind Beneath My Wings” that ticked me off. Rather, it was the fact that the ditty was a completely unnecessary addendum to an otherwise touching in memoriam package. Sometimes less is more and the lingering final shot of Phillip Seymour Hoffman would have made a better (and more effective) close to the segment.

RUNNER-UP: Sorry, but I found HER to be a painful experience. I guess it’s fitting, then, that the live performance of “The Moon Song” (from the film) was equally dreadful. Silly words strung together by the barest whiff of a tune, it was a shrill reminder of why the Best Song category should be tossed out the door.

Cate Blanchett in "Blue Jasmine"


To be clear, I adore Cate Blanchett. With that said, her showy scenery chewing in BLUE JASMINE is not a career highlight nor is it Oscar worthy. I also call foul on those who have been going ga=ga for a performance they haven’t actually seen (and you know who you are).

Blanchett plays Jasmine, a wholly unlikable mess who deserves just about everything bad that happens to her. After more than 90 minutes of ranting, raving and talking to imaginary friends, Jasmine doesn’t grow one bit nor does she learn a thing. What’s the point? Hell if I know.

The real standout in the so-so BLUE JASMINE is Sally Hawkins, who plays Jasmine’s low-rent sister Ginger. She delivers a winning performance that doesn’t beat you over the head with “Look At Me, I’M ACTING!!!” fervor. If Lupita Nyong’o wasn’t in the mix, I think Hawkins would have taken home the Best Supporting Actress statue.

One final note to Ms. Blanchett: if you’re really serious about advancing the cause of women in film (and I’m certain that you are), try a less passive-aggressive wrap-up to your next acceptance speech. No one likes a harridan and, more importantly, misogynists like Woody Allen are not the answer to your clarion call.

RUNNER-UP: Spike Jonze. When it comes to HER, I must have seen a different film than those who have been singing its praises. In short, the sparkling and brilliantly written AMERICAN HUSTLE was robbed.

Where's Xenu when you need him?


John Travolta managed to do two things last night: show off bad plastic surgery worse than Goldie Hawn’s and make a complete ass of himself. Xenu was clearly in the house at The Dolby.

Sporting eyes pulled back so tightly that he looked like he had just come from performing in a revival of FLOWER DRUM SONG, Travolta capped his oddball intro to “Let It Go” (from the delightful FROZEN) with a complete massacre of poor Idina Menzel’s name. I’m not sure if he missed rehearsal or had a mouthful of Thetans but, I’m convinced Travolta thought he did a bang-up job. He didn’t. In fact, his epic gaffe unleashed the social media circus of the night.

RUNNER-UP: None. How could there be? This category is owned by Travolta, folks. Adele Dazeem forever!