Oscars Telecast Review: Kudos for Tackling Controversies, Low Marks for Pacing

Despite host Neil Patrick Harris’ adept stage presence, he couldn’t keep the show from feeling heavy and long

The Oscars telecast should be commended for taking on its controversies right from host Neil Patrick Harris’ energetic start, but it faltered in its pacing.

Early on Harris acknowledged this year’s biggest controversy — the fact that civil rights film “Selma” only got two nominations and for the first time in nearly two decades no person of color received an acting nomination.

“Welcome to the 87th Oscars,” Harris started. “Tonight, we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest, sorry brightest.”

He then skipped the usual monologue to jump right into a really entertaining musical number that included plenty of special effects, holograms and extras to transport Harris into the industry’s most iconic movies.

Jack Black‘s appearance during the number addressed the way some of us are feeling in the post-Sony hack era leaks – that the industry can feel selfish, money-driven and lacking in innovation. All that is easier to digest via song.

Harris was certainly entertaining in the moments between giving out awards and he appeared in just his tighty-whities a la “Birdman” – so that’s dedication. But he played the gig too safely. And at times his lines didn’t measure up to the weight of the moment.

Where the show failed was in its pacing. The first hour or two hit viewers with the original song nominations and then fell off, leaving the audience with the pedestrian handing-out of awards, the In Memoriam section, the Academy presidents’ address and whatever random drama the winners generated during their speeches.

The In Memoriam could have been more moving and timesaving if Jennifer Hudson sang over the presentation rather than singing afterward.

There were some rousing moments during Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs’ address, which seemed firmly rooted in defending freedom of expression without actually referring to the events surrounding Sony and “The Interview.” But as an African-American, she could have responded to the race controversy – that would have been momentous.

A pairing of John Travolta and Idina Menzel after the actor butchered her name during last year’s ceremony made for a creepy reunion, which wasn’t helped by his grasping her face between his hands.

Thankfully, there were moments that weren’t under producers Craig Sadan and Neil Meron‘s control.  We saw Patricia Arquette accept her first Oscar nomination and then go on to advocate for the fight for equal pay for women in the industry – another unspoken reference to the Sony hack, which revealed many actors’ salaries. It made for a perfect Meryl Streep moment.

And Graham Moore, the winning writer of “Imitation Game,” encouraged everyone to “stay weird” after sharing a shocking story of his own attempted suicide at age 16.

Oscar Best Song winner John Legend directly referenced current political issues mirrored “Selma,” the Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic for which he and Common wrote the Oscar-winning song “Glory.” https://www.thewrap.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=429951&action=edit&message=1

But in the end, Harris’ pithy lines and the musical smoke and mirrors couldn’t save the show from its terrible pacing.