Oscars 2013 Roundup: Baffleck, Bond, Boob Jokes, and…JAWS?

Another year over, another topsy-turvy, that-wasn’t-the-scandal-you-were-looking-for Oscars night. Argo became the first film since 1989′s Driving Miss Daisy to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination, Jennifer Lawrence got in the way of a historic Best Actress win (86-year-old Emmanuelle Riva would have been the oldest, 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis the youngest) but was too adorable for anyone to mind, and Bond was recognised by the Academy but not quite in the way it perhaps merited.

No-one will be able to discuss the 2013 Academy Awards Oscars without addressing Seth MacFarlane’s divisive hosting style. Bookended by two pretty good jokes – making Tommy Lee Jones laugh with a joke about making Tommy Lee Jones laugh, and introducing Meryl Streep like this – the middle section was where the most controversy could be found, including as it did a song about actresses getting out their boobs (that namechecked four rape scenes), a joke about Chris Brown and Rihanna (that alluded to the same in Django Unchained‘s violent sexual assaults), and the conclusion that Zero Dark Thirty is really just about a woman who likes to nag the men around her. Seth MacFarlane is certainly renowned  for this kind of humour, so it’s not a surprise – but it would have been nice if the jokes weren’t retreading the same material that was thrown out 30 years ago. Maybe next year Tina Fey and Amy Poehler can do a song about male genitalia? Featuring Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, and Graham Chapman in Life Of Brian?

The other big Oscars controversy was the continued plight of the VFX industry, which was and continues to be vital to not just the success but the existence of half the nominees. Life Of Pi in particular, which won Best Visual Effects and was played off with the JAWS theme, interrupting a speech the highlighted the plight of the industry and the VFX artists who were at that moment picketing the ceremony on the back of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Rhythm & Hues, the very company responsible for the VFX on Life Of Pi. It was exascebated when Ang Lee, winning Best Director, failed to thank his VFX team. Bruce Branit, a Hollywood visual effects artist, took to Facebook to accuse Lee (as well as his Oscar-winning cinematographer, Claudio Miranda) of some serious ingratitude:

“Neither Ang nor his winning cinematographer, Claudio Miranda felt they needed to thank or even mention the VFX artists who made the sky, the ocean, the ship, the island, the meerkats and oh yeah … the tiger. Ang thanked the crew, the actors, his agent, his lawyer and the entire country of Taiwan right down to the team that built the wave-pool on the soundstage where Pi was shot. But failed to mention 100s of artists who made not only the main character of the tiger, but replaced that pool, making it look like a real ocean for 80% of his movie.”

Without them, Life Of Pi would have looked like this.

Back to the films. It wasn’t a particularly surprising year for winners, with Ang Lee’s win over Stephen Spielberg for Best Director perhaps the biggest surprise. There have been ruminations that Zero Dark Thirty‘s pro-torture stance and the gradual emergence of alleged collusion with the US government have started a kick-back on what once seemed the most promising of films. If so, it certainly showed in the awards haul: Zero Dark Thirty seriously underperformed, failing to win anything except for Best Sound Editing, and even that a joint win with Skyfall.

The rest went according to plan. Lincoln gave Daniel Day-Lewis his historic third Oscar, the only actor ever to win three, and a chance to show off his humour. Jennifer Lawrence got Silver Linings Playbook on the score sheet, and Argo evened everything out by taking Best Picture, which seemed to satisfy pretty much everybody. Especially Ben Affleck, who gave a speech just as emotional as his first in 1998, if a little different this time around. Anne Hathaway also kept everything to plan by winning Best Actress, with a speech that ended “Here’s hoping that some day in the not-too distant future, the misfortunes of Fantine will only be found in stories.” Take note, Seth MacFarlane.

All in all, the 2013 Oscars didn’t leave much to stick in the memory compared with other years, save for a JAWS joke that was probably funnier when it wasn’t being used to curtail a much-needed and heartfelt speech on what is arguably Hollywood’s most important modern commodity. But then, as the Oscars continues to struggle in the 18-34 audience share, it’s important to remember that the average age of an Academy voter is 62, that 77% of them are male, and they are 94% Caucasian. Are the Oscars becoming less and less relevant?

Whatever happens to film in 2013, one thing is clear: Tina and Amy for hosting next year, Academy.