Timewarp quality leads to a not-so-wonderful night for Oscar
Of the nine films nominated for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards, only "The Descendants" was set entirely in present-day America. Parts of "Midnight in Paris" took place in 2011, but it spent more time on the Hemingway end of things. And the other nominees were period pieces ranging from the turn of the millennium back to the 1920s.
It was a year where the Oscars had little interest in what was happening in the world today, and an Oscar telecast that had very little interest in what's happening in the movies today. It was a telecast that, over and over and over again, wanted to remind people of how much they used to love going to the movies — especially back in the days when the big winners were also box office hits that most of the viewing audience had seen. We got one montage after another whose only theme seemed to be "Movies: weren't they just swell when you were growing up?"
The nostalgia ran right through to the choice of host Billy Crystal, doing the same act he'd done 8 times previously, trying desperately to recapture the good feelings he got 20 years ago when Jack Palance did those one-armed push-ups. At one point, he even trotted out his old Sammy Davis Jr. impression from "Saturday Night Live," not recognizing that the reaction to blackface is a bit different a quarter century later.
But all that those grabs to past movie and Oscar glory couldn't disguise a lifeless show featuring a bunch of pre-ordained winners and Crystal looking repeatedly surprised that his jokes were dying.