I sort of watched the Oscars last night for the first time since Dave ("Uma-Oprah") Letterman hosted. I was semi-interested this time in seeing how Jon Stewart would do in that role. I haven't been a regular Oscars watcher in over 20 years. Maybe 30. The production numbers annoyed me. The insincerity of the glitterati and their exaggerated sense of importance rankled. I also pretty much stopped going out to movies during that time, content to wait until they were released on video. Hence I often hadn't seen any nominated movies until well after the Oscars were presented.
What I tended to do over the last couple of decades was tune in to see the host's opening bits and then let my attention drift. Thinking back, Johnny Carson was pretty good. Steve Martin - ditto. Whoopi Goldberg - not so much. Billy Crystal was probably my favourite. Being part of the Hollywood crowd, he knew how and where to insert a playful needle.
I figured Stewart would be well-received by the audience in the theatre, being as they largely shared his left-leaning politics. His early jokes got a lukewarm response though. I got the impression the crowd was nervous. They seemed to come around when he delivered the Cheney-shot-Bjork joke.
If there was a production number this year I must have dozed off and missed it. I confess to picking up my newspaper now and again and I was on the phone for a while too. Ben Stiller's bit was funny. I liked how genuinely gobsmacked the large cast of Crash appeared when they learned it had won Best Picture. I guess Brokeback Mountain was considered the fave.
Despite the fact one woman in the crowd's breasts kept threatening to escape the confines of her dress as she bounced with delight when her movie won something, it was a ho-hum affair. Perhaps if they had managed to escape I'd feel differently.
Letterman's stint as host was largely panned by the critics. I have a hunch they won't be too kind to Stewart either. Both men have a cool, dry, cerebral wit that serves them well in a smaller, more intimate setting. A great Oscar host needs that wit but also needs to be part clown. And it would help if s/he knew, truly knew, the intimate workings of the movie business.
In other words - I vote to bring back Billy Crystal and tell him the job is his as long as he wants it.