AWARDS SHOWS weary me. I simply don’t have the patience to sit and watch the host think he’s funny in between seemingly random musical numbers and the endless commercials, when I can just go to bed and read the results on the Internet in the morning, like you’re no doubt doing right now. So in the attempt to help you skip the Oscars, I watched part of them—just the big musical numbers that were the spiced-up “show” Hugh Jackman promised during his pre-ceremony sit-down with Barbara Walters.
I’m sorry to say that even the Broadway pandering in this year’s Oscars didn’t change anything for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Hugh Jackman as much as the next girl, but even his singing and dancing couldn’t relieve the tedium of the Academy Awards. Actually, they may have aggravated it. Like that little opening number in which he summarized all this years films, in song, on sets he claimed to have made in his garage? Oh, except The Reader, which he wasn’t able to see, so he just told us all about how he still needed to see it. Though he was trying his damndest to be funny, and it was kind of a cute for the first 10 seconds or so, I ended up kind of staring at my screen, mouth agape wondering how it all happened. In other news, who knew Anne Hathaway had such a set of pipes?
Then came the trainwreck of a musical medley so wretched it was amazing. Jackman's given justification for the Broadway explosion was the “fact” that “the musical is back.” (Apparently this is the conclusion we’re to draw from the unqualified excellence of recent stage-to-screen adaptations like Hairspray and Mamma Mia.) The now officially ubiquitous Beyoncé dropped in for the biggest musical event of the night, which also starred Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens (straight out of another sign of Broadway's return to glory, the High School Musicals). It was all loosely held together by Irving Berlin’s “Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails” and I’m not ashamed to admit that I laughed so hard there were tears, actual tears.
This supremely indulgent mid-show number might be called a “medley” if the songs excerpts had consisted of more than a few notes—literally, like three—of each. My favorite: Beyoncé, clad only in a sparkly red leotard, appearing behind Hugh Jackman with a slew of chorus boys and singing just the title of “Hey, Big Spender” from Sweet Charity immediately followed by Jackman crooning only the title of “Maria” from West Side Story. But best of all was an attempted point-counterpoint between “You Can’t Stop the Beat” (Hairspray) and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” (Jesus Christ Superstar). That’s not something you see every day, and not something you pull off … well, ever. Pretty much all this maelstrom had going for it was its scale and spectacle and, last I checked, Aristotle had something rather nasty to say about that. But gee golly was it fun to watch! My recommendation: mute it and watch the dancing. It’s a choreographer's dream.
Just in case anyone forgot what the Oscars are for, there was one medley that featured the nominees for Best Original Song: two songs from Slumdog Millionaire (“O Saya” and “Jai Ho”) and one from Wall-E (“Down to Earth”). It’s no wonder Slumdog took the award for this one. The medley opened with “O Saya,” dancers, a beautifully warm lighting design, and many, many dudes with huge drums. Poor Wall-E’s mellow ballad got crammed in between that and the eventual winner, “Jai Ho,” which was equally spectacular, what with the lights and the dancers and the drums. Both song and performance were dynamic in a way “Down to Earth” could never approach.
Perhaps musical numbers are considered a necessary distraction. Maybe they settle the stomachs of nervous artistes, dying for the approval of their peers. Regardless, this year’s Oscar night proved that though some musical numbers may not be praiseworthy, they often end up all the more entertaining for being so ridiculous.
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