A collection of thoughts from five hours spent in front of the Oscar telecast

Sidney Poitier’s hearing isn’t very good. The woman at the red carpet asks him a question, and he leans in and asks her to repeat the question. He shouldn’t have bothered. It’s just one of those questions that anchor at red carpet events always seem to be asking — How does it feel to be here? Which movie are you rooting for tonight? — and no answer you give is going to make you look any less foolish. At least, he doesn’t have to go through what Viola Davis and her husband experience at another swatch on the red carpet, where they’re asked if they still have date nights at the movies, and the husband says they prefer to have their date nights in their jacuzzi, and the man with the mike asks if he can come too, and, after a second’s stunned silence, he’s assured that, yes, the jacuzzi is big enough. “I’m coming over,” the man with the mike says, plastic smile intact. Now, it’s back to the woman, who has cornered Chiwetel Ejiofor. “How surreal is this for you?”

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At least Sandra Bullock refuses to play along. Asked how Gravity had changed her, she said, “It’s hard to do this in a sound bite.”

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Ellen DeGeneres, inside, begins the evening with a bit of perspective. It’s been raining the past two days in L.A. She assures the rest of the world, “We’re fine. Thank you for your prayers.” There’s a sting behind her smile, and it says: We are absurdly privileged people with little real connection to the rest of the world.

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Can we insist on Pharrell Williams (and his hat) being part of every Oscar evening in the future?

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Why are so many speeches so full of thank-yous? These are movie people. We want passion. We want emotion. We want humour. Jared Leto, in a burgundy bow tie, manages to be extremely moving in his dedication to a girl, “a high-school dropout and a single mom, but somehow she managed to make a better life for herself and her children. She encouraged her kids to be creative, to work hard and to do something special. That girl is my mother, and she’s here tonight”. That’s what we want to hear. Lupita Nyong’o says, “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s.” That’s what we want to hear. Instead, we keep getting laundry lists of thank-yous.

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Pink wears a ruby-red dress and sings ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ to commemorate the 75th anniversary of The Wizard Of Oz. Two things. Why the arch phrasing, with the pause between “some” and “where”? The song now sounds like there is some wear over the rainbow, maybe due to its age. Two: Why ignore the other major movies of 1939, generally considered one of the best movie years ever? There was Stagecoach. There was Wuthering Heights. There was Ninotchka. There was Gone with the freakin’ Wind.

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Who decides that Kim Novak is the best person to present the award for Best Animated Feature? Could it be the same genius who decides that Will Smith, star of the Razzie-festooned After Earth, is the best person to present the night’s biggest award, the one for Best Picture?

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It’s surreal to open the newspaper during one of the breaks and read about the demise of Alain Resnais. That kind of capital-A Art Film — do people make them anymore?

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Are they really playing music from ‘Out Of Africa’ as Tyler Perry comes on stage? As in... he’s out of Africa? And speaking of stereotypes, did they actually show a photo of Angelina Jolie clutching a dark-skinned baby in the clip that showed her getting the White Person Saves The World Award... sorry, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award?

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Bill Murray seems to be the only person who feels something. While the numerous other standing ovations seem to occur due to an Emily Post-dictated sense of occasion, Murray leaps up spontaneously after the spectacular Darlene Love, one of the subjects of the documentary that won the Oscar, belts out a number. How about handing him the next hosting gig? Seriously.

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Did anyone expect the Oscar telecast to feature Harrison Ford helping himself to a slice of pizza?

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Robert De Niro, on stage to present the screenplay awards, describes the mind of a writer as “isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy”. He could be talking about me.

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Will Roger Deakins ever win an Academy Award? But I like what Emmanuel Lubezki, the eventual winner for Best Cinematography, says: “I’d like to thank my teachers, not all of them but some of them.” Some teachers can really, really mess you up.

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Star Movies keeps showing this ad for a contest that asks viewers to guess who took home last year’s Best Actress Award — Jennifer Lawrence or Jessica Chastain, and the winner will get “a trip to the Oscars in L.A.”. Do they realise that the ad is being screened during the Oscars in L.A.? Or is this for next year’s ceremony?

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Kiss on one cheek or both? This seems to be the etiquette conundrum of the evening.

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How weird is it that Bette Midler keeps smiling through her rendition of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’, in memory of those who moved on to that great screen up in the sky? Weirder still is that flapping gesture she does with her hand, as if it were a wing. It’s a terrible song, but at some point, those chunky 1980s synth- chords take me back to another lifetime. ‘Take My Breath Away’ (tang-dang, tang-dang-tang-dang). ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’. ‘Glory Of Love’. And the awesome title song of Against All Odds.

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Matthew McConaughey believes in God?

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Notes from a criticMarch 14, 2014