What the Press Said About the Oscar Ceremony: Different Is Good

By Michael O'Connell February 23, 2009, 12:17 PM EST

The press is decidedly divided about what worked and what didn’t at last night’s rejiggered Academy Awards ceremony, but everyone seems unanimous in the assessment that it was different. And any departure for a show that saw its lowest recorded ratings just last year seems to be a welcome one.

  • The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley posited that the night’s best move was the selection of Hugh Jackman as host. “Mr. Jackman was high-spirited, not mean-spirited,” she wrote. “He spoke with sass, but unlike more satirical predecessors like Chris Rock and Jon Stewart, there were no smirks; he came to the task with Broadway sizzle, not a stand-up routine.” [NYT]
  • Whether the production numbers were effective or not doesn’t seem to matter to most. The fact that there was such a dramatic change to the format was enough for The Hollywood Reporter to note that the franchise is “undeniably the better for it.” [Hollywood Reporter]
  • Variety’s Timothy M. Graywho was actually inside the Kodak Theatrewrote an overwhelmingly positive review, praising the set design and, particularly, the incorporation of music. “The best decision was to move the orchestra onstage, which made a closer physical connection between audience and performers, helping break down that best-behavior attitude; the looser mood was contagious even to the balconies.” [Variety]
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  • For the viewers at home, Variety wasn’t quite as impressed with the attempt at reinvention, citing some efforts far less successful than others. Most specifically, the lumping together of some of the more technical awards for makeup and costumes carried on for a bit too long. “It was a noble stab at cohesion,“ wrote Brian Lowry, “but the show pretty much ground to a halt there.” [Variety]
  • The Chicago Tribune TV critic Maureen Ryan thought the producers became a little too obsessed with their vision of how things would go this year. Their choice to showcase Hollywood’s past in long production numbers, while only giving nominated scores and songs brief montages, didn’t seem to make sense. [Tribune]
  • Some people found no good in the show at all. Mary McNamara, over at award season blog The Envelope, thought the musical numbers, drawn-out announcements of nominees, and host Hugh Jackman were all unforgivable missteps. [LAT]

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