If there’s one word I would use to describe the Oscars, which clocked in at three hours and 35 minutes, it would be “long.” Maybe “boring” would be the second word, but just overall the show drags and that’s how it is every year. I’ve said many times that they need to put the awards for things like cinematography, visual effects, sound editing, and makeup into that other non-broadcast ceremony for technical awards (where they also moved the honorary Oscar award after a 98 year-old dude gave a three and a half minute speech in 2008). They need to tighten it up, get a single theme and stick to it, and get people in and out of there in two hours or less. That’s not going to happen, and apart from 2009, when Hugh Jackman killed it as a host in a kind of “nightclub” theme, the Oscars haven’t been very entertaining.
So this year they hired Seth MacFarlane, known for “Family Guy” and Ted. Of course he made some off color jokes that were edgy and that some would consider offensive. (Which unfortunately didn’t do much to save that bloated mess of a show. What was the theme: musicals meet modern entertainment? It didn’t go together.) Now watchdog groups are commenting on his performance, and many are offended by his jokes about women, people of color, gay people and Jewish people.
Jewish, women’s and family organizations on Monday publicly flung knives at Seth MacFarlane’s off-color Oscar show. Hollywood for the most part stayed true to form and aimed its cutlery at his back.
Post-Oscar Monday found the movie capital coming to grips with a 3-hour-35- minute ceremony that climbed in the ratings but at its best seemed to hide a great year for film behind a flurry of musical numbers, TV memories and Michelle Obama. At its worst, members of the Academy of the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said, the ceremony trafficked in offensive humor.
“I think I’m a very liberal guy, but I actually winced,” said Lawrence Turman, an Academy member who is chairman of the Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.
He echoed criticism that a number of people in Hollywood voiced privately, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid complicating relations with the Academy and the show’s producers.
Mr. Turman, who described the producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, as longtime friends, referred specifically to a joke by Mr. MacFarlane about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Cathy Schulman, a producer who won a best picture Oscar in the past for “Crash” and is the president of the industry group Women in Film, took aim at a song-and-dance routine about female nudity in film. “Among the women I’ve talked to today I would say I haven’t heard from any who thought it was in good taste,” said Ms. Schulman. She expressed particular chagrin that the dance number poked fun at nudity, which is generally a difficult issue for actresses, in connection with performances that were often “wrenching and moving in many ways…”
But the post-mortems here included unease over gay jokes that began with an appearance by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, and frank dismay at some of the riskier humor, particularly bits that turned on gags about women and Jews.
“It is offensive, even though comedians have great latitude,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, speaking of a skit in which Mr. MacFarlane, in character as the trash-talking teddy bear from his movie “Ted,” counseled Mark Wahlberg that it’s best to become Jewish and donate to Israel if you want to work in Hollywood. Rabbi Hier, an Academy member and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center here, was seconding an opinion offered earlier in a statement by Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Speaking by telephone Mr. Foxman said he was particularly troubled by the “duration and intensity” of a skit that was likely, in his opinion, to be seen as reinforcing anti-Jewish stereotypes among Oscar viewers around the world.
“It wasn’t funny,” Mr. Foxman said. “It was ugly…”
Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, an organization that recently released a report on the shortage of female movie directors, said “The sexist tone throughout the show indicates a critical need for the Academy to expand its talent pool of female writers, producers and directors.” Ms. Burton added that instead of celebrating film, “the whole world saw them honoring men and mocking women.”
The Parents Television Council, a group that has been a continued critic of Mr. MacFarlane’s animated “Family Guy” series, was also harshly critical.
“The Academy Awards broadcast contained sexist, misogynistic and sexually exploitative content,” Tim Winter, the president of Parents Television Council, said in a statement. “Clearly, families are no longer a welcome part of the audience.”
Asked whether they regretted having included the number, Mr. Zadan and Mr. Meron, in a telephone interview on Monday, both answered, “No.” Mr. Zadan pointed to the show’s strong ratings, and said, “You hire Seth MacFarlane, you want something to be cutting edge and irreverent.”
Hawk Koch, the president of the Academy, did not respond for requests for comment. An Academy spokeswoman defended Mr. MacFarlane and the show’s producers in a statement.
“If the Oscars are about anything, they’re about creative freedom,” the statement said. “We think the show’s producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, and host Seth MacFarlane, did a great job, and we hope our worldwide audience found the show entertaining.”
Did Mr. MacFarlane want to say anything about how he thought it went?
“Nope,” his publicist, Joy Fehily, wrote in an e-mail.
I wasn’t offended at the jokes about women, but I run a gossip blog for a living. I did get a little uncomfortable by how long that Jewish bit went on, with the CGI Ted and Mark Wahlberg. They could have just dropped a one liner or two but they went pretty far with it. The thing is, this is Seth MacFarlane. Have people even seen one episode of Family Guy? He’s known for being really offensive, that’s his thing, and in his mind he probably toned these jokes way down for the Oscars.
Again, to me the real probably was how long and boring this was. It was also inconsistent. There was a tribute to musicals which was cool but didn’t go with the superlong tribute to Bond clip montage. (Credit for Kaiser for reminding me of that.) There were some really clever presentations in which the celebrities had some faux banter, but that only happened in about the first quarter of the show and it gave way to straight presentations for the duration. (I actually thought at first that Kristen Stewart was playing a character when she presented with Daniel Radcliffe.)
Maybe the issue is that the Oscars tried to appeal to the younger generation by having MacFarlane host and tell kind of risque jokes – for the Oscars. If you listen to any other current comedian that stuff wasn’t that out there. Then they tried to appeal to the more conservative folks with song and dance numbers. None of it went together and apart from some rare bright moments (JGL and Daniel Radcliffe dancing for one) it wasn’t particularly entertaining. This is nothing new and is how the Oscars always go. Except this year they offended people.
In the end it might not matter, the ratings for The Oscars this year were really high, and it was the most-watched “entertainment telecast” in three years. It beat out The Golden Globes and The Grammys this year, and earned ratings that put it in the top 20 Oscars of all time. So MacFarlance could be asked back.
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