Miller: Not much to be disappointed about on Oscar Sunday

Twenty years ago, film critic Danny Peary released a wonderful book called "Alternate Oscars," which compared his own choices for Best Picture, Actor and Actress to the Academy's for every year from 1928 to 1991. Not surprisingly, he agreed with Best Picture only five times and the other two categories not much more often.

The Oscars wouldn't be nearly so much fun if they got it right — in my opinion, or yours, or your neighbor's — the majority of the time. Part of the reason we implant ourselves on the couch once a year is to supply our own commentary and bristle at the Academy's choices. "Crash" for Best Picture? "Django Unchained" for Best Original Screenplay? And so on.

I can't think of any strong intellectual defense for being an Oscar buff — but then, as "Django" auteur Quentin Tarantino once said about the violence in his films, "I don't have to defend it. I love it!" We're all entitled to our guilty pleasures.

That said, one partial disappointment of Sunday night's Oscars was that I didn't have much to be disappointed about. True, I didn't love "Her," which won Best Original Screenplay, as much as some people did, but all the other choices were met with a ready nod.

"12 Years a Slave" for Best Picture? For sure. Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor? Perfect. "Gravity" sweeping almost every technical award? Well, of course.

Still, regardless of who takes home the gold, the show is never without ups and downs. In no particular order, here were my thoughts on the telecast:

The host: Ellen DeGeneres, we love you. You were warm, witty, homespun and a perfect combination of reverent and biting. The pizzas, the selfies, the affectionate picking on Jennifer Lawrence — no major complaints here. Come back in 2015.

Death to montages: Every year, just about, people complain about the length of the show. As a first step to solving that problem, please retire the clip montages. No matter what their purported theme is, they always amount to the same thing: a series of snippets from a lot of different movies, patched together and set to maudlin music. When Jon Stewart viciously parodied montages in his 2008 hosting gig, I thought the Academy had learned its lesson. No such luck.

And on that subject...: The stated theme of this year's montages, "heroes," was so vague and all-encompassing that it might as well have been termed "lead characters from a bunch of random films." Clips from "42" were understandable, of course. But when the stars of "Footloose" and "Ghostbusters" came on screen, did anyone turn to his or her viewing companion and intone, "They were truly the Jackie Robinson of their time"?

We dare you to cut her off: Could anyone not have been moved when Darlene Love broke into wild, ecstatic song while accepting the Best Documentary Feature prize for "20 Feet from Stardom"?

The torch has been passed: I didn't keep count, but it seemed as though every 10 minutes, the camera cut to Sandra Bullock sitting in the audience and smiling or applauding. Which prompts this question: Why wasn't Jack Nicholson in his usual front-row spot, wearing sunglasses and grinning mischievously ear to ear?

Best intentional rhyming: The writers of "Let It Go," the Best Original Song winner for "Frozen," delivering their speech in couplets.

Best unintentional rhyming: Nominated for Best Director — David O. Russell, "American Hustle"!

Speaking of which...: Don't hang your heads, "American Hustle" cast and crew. Yes, you went 0 for 10. But considering how many movies have become classics despite earning no nominations at all, your place in history is assured.

Proof that they're human like the rest of us: I think this year may have set the record for most flubs among the presenters — mispronounced names, botched cues and the like. These moments can serve to reassure us when we stammer or lock our keys in the car.

Motivational speaker: A few years ago, bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell popularized the "10,000-hour rule" to calculate the amount of time it takes to master a craft. When McConaughey explained in his acceptance speech that his hero has always been the person he imagined himself being one decade later, it was easy to imagine Gladwell scampering to his computer and starting a first draft about the "10-year rule" of personal fulfillment.

Our contest winner: Every year, Times Community News invites readers to beat my predictions in the top six categories. This year, no one did, since I went 6 for 6. Out of false modesty, I have opted to mention that last.

Still, I can't take all the credit for my flawless prognostication. The most annoying part of the Oscars, apart from the clip montages and the tendency to award the wrong movies, is the fact that almost every winner is preordained after months of Golden Globes, guild awards, Entertainment Weekly predictions and the like. One year, it might be fun to watch all the movies but ignore the pre-Oscar buzz until the night of the show, and then be shocked — shocked! — that "The Wolf of Wall Street" didn't take everything.

MICHAEL MILLER is the features editor for Times Community News in Orange County. He can be reached at or (714) 966-4617.

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