Seth MacFarlane and producers focused too much on themselves at the expense of the nominees
Would it shock you to learn that this year's Oscars producers also produced "Chicago"? Not at all? OK.
Self-referencing was the order of the evening Sunday at an overstuffed Oscars telecast where host Seth MacFarlane and producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron decided the ceremony was All About Them.
That was the only explanation for a lengthy opening sequence centered on how MacFarlane would fare as host, and numerous reminders throughout the show of how much we all enjoyed "Chicago."
Thanks, guys, but we kind of took care of praising "Chicago" when it won Best Picture in 2002.
Also read: TheWrap's Complete Oscars Coverage
The Oscars are always a treasure trove of hilarious narcissism – it's inherently obnoxious to hear some of the richest and best-looking people alive praise one another and themselves.
This year had plenty of the usual silliness – as when best supporting actor Christoph Waltz praised Quentin Tarantino for going on a "hero's journey" to make films. And it won't exactly reduce Hollywood's sense of self-importance that no less than Michelle Obama handed out the Best Picture. ("Argo" won.)
Inflated egos are to be expected. But we can usually count on the producers and host to share the spotlight. Not so this year.
You can't really blame MacFarlane for turning the opening into a "Family Guy" episode, with all of his show's requisite pop culture references, parody songs and gay panic jokes. MacFarlane brought in William Shatner to play Captain Kirk critiquing the show from the future.
The "Ted" director and star made it all of eight minutes before his first gay joke. He sang a song about actresses' "boobs" with the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, then clarified that he isn't a member.
"Oh, trust me," Captain Kirk said from the future. "In July 2015, you join the chorus."
The theme of the night was celebrating musicals, but it was hard to find anything else consistent about the ceremony. Like many an overstuffed blockbuster, the three-and-a-half-hour show refused to leave anything out.
Studio slates are so dominated by CGI monstrosities that Oscar voters now nominate pretty much every grown-up movie they see for Best Picture. Rather than make hard decisions, they give us a grab bag.
And so we get extended ceremonies like this one, which somehow always manage to cull names from the "In Memoriam" segment, but not boring parts of the show. Key figures like the host and producers are allowed to protect their vanity pieces, and viewers just have to deal.
We were occasionally rewarded for our patience. Shirley Bassey and Adele gave spectacular performances of Bond songs from five decades apart. Jennifer Hudson delivered another excellent rendition of "And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going" from "Dreamgirls." And we learned that Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron are good dancers.
But of course they are.
Catherine Zeta Jones did a commendable job on "All That Jazz" from "Chicago" – but couldn't we have left it at that? The producers also reunited their cast as presenters – to remind us once again how much we apparently still cherish their decade-old film.
Near the end of the ceremony, Tarantino made his hero's journey to the stage to accept his well-deserved award for Best Original Screenplay and remind us of the importance of writers.
One thing the best writers do is keep it short. Maybe next year should be a tribute to writers.
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