Which raises the eternal annual question: What does a good Oscars look like?
Certainly not one overseen by
The preternaturally congenial DeGeneres was so intent on establishing herself as the anti-Seth to the live audience — "let's try to make this all about you," she said early with more sincerity than sarcasm — that she seemed to forget she was at the helm of a famously unwieldy live television show.
A show that was, it must be noted, already bogged down by a theme (heroes), which demanded a bunch of non sequitur clips (of movie heroes) and its own special song ("The Wind Beneath My Wings") that helped stretch the telecast well past the three-hour mark. So while wading into the audience to snap a selfie with Streep and a slew of stars in the hopes of breaking the retweet record turned out to be funny, most of the other comfy, cozy, "we're just hangin' at the Oscars" bits did not.
Watching DeGeneres wander through the audience to pat "Marty" and "Brad" on the shoulder or hand
She was not precisely kindness itself. DeGeneres called out the nominees in general (and poor
But in general, she teased rather than satirized, making only one truly bold joke: That the evening would end in two possible ways. "Possibility number one,
She also, gamely, changed her clothes several times (apparently this is required by California state law of female hosts), though watching her go from a black faux tux to a white one did not provide much excitement. And the less said of her Glinda the Good Witch costume (some girls just really can't wear a crown), the better.
But as the show ground on, her bits increasingly became just another part of the tedium, like all the various editing awards.
The silver lining, or if you're feeling generous, the intent of DeGeneres' low-key-to-the-point-of-flatlining performance was that it provided a backdrop against which the winners, and the musical nominees, could shine.
Pharrell Williams, U2, Karen O and Menzel performed their nominated songs. Pink sang "Over the Rainbow," Midler "Wind Beneath My Wings" and Darlene Love, star of "20 Feet From Stardom," sang her acceptance of the documentary feature award. So many of the evening's high notes were struck by musicians that the Oscars seemed, at times, to be going Grammy.
But it was the speeches that saved the telecast from a total coma state. Jared Leto, winning supporting actor for
He set the bar splendidly high, but many subsequent winners hit it. For years, Oscar producers have begged nominees to prepare actual speeches rather than laundry lists of agents, producers and costars, and this year the winners obeyed.
Cate Blanchett took the opportunity of her lead actress award for "Blue Jasmine" to remind Hollywood that films about women do make money. And Nyong'o, who starred in "12 Years A Slave," accepted her supporting actress award by saying, "It doesn't escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else's."
That was a moment that almost, if not quite, made the long, long evening worth it.