Thumbs up for Hugh

The reviews for Hugh Jackman's hosting of the Oscars are in. And it looks like his career isn't over.

hughjaThe fact that most of the reviews didn’t trash Hugh Jackman’s hosting of the Academy Awards means he has passed the test.

As a non-comedian and non-American it would have been easy to stick the knife.

But this year wasn’t a year for America to gloat. After all it was Bollywood that took over Hollywood, and only one major award went to the host nation thanks to Sean Penn.

Variety said:
Clearly, producers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark wanted to create an atmosphere that would conjure warmth and celebrate cinema, and their supper-club approach — starting with Jackman’s musical tribute to the nominees — resembled a clever if rather gaudy Vegas revue. Jackman not only yanked Anne Hathaway out of the audience for a duet but worked the first few rows like Bill Murray’s old smarmy lounge singer bit.

Later, he crooned the entertaining Baz Luhrmann-engineered “Musicals are Back” along with Beyonce Knowles — seriously, let’s make her a mandatory presence at every major awards — and Queen Latifah niftily accompanied the necrology package. Yet what this achieved, primarily, was to buttress perceptions that this was an Oscar ceremony partially yearning to be the Tonys.

Hollywood Reporter said:

Jackman eschewed a traditional monologue for a lighthearted opening production medley paying playful homage to the year’s biggest films, which from what I understand played better in the room than on the tube — where it came off awkward and forced. But Jackman found his sea legs to preside with his typical sprightly charm, faring better around the midway point with a spirited “The Musical Is Back” number beside a vivacious Beyonce.

A viewer also couldn’t help but get caught up in the Bollywood-conquers-Hollywood electricity that enveloped the Kodak Theatre with “Slumdog Millionaire’s” wildly popular eight-victory explosion that came complete with an economic-downturn-friendly Horatio Alger backstory. It was also perhaps fitting that at a time when SAG finds its contract talks imperiled, a film that featured no nominated actors from its cast would pull off such a haul.

The NY Times said:
He sang, he danced, he sat on Frank Langella’s lap and he also presented the 81st annual Academy Awards. Hugh Jackman was a shrewd, even thrifty choice for a recession-era Oscar night — the hosting equivalent of a value meal.

But mostly the actor was chosen to be the first noncomedian Oscar host in more than 30 years for what he didn’t do: deride Hollywood. Mr. Jackman was high-spirited, not mean-spirited. 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.

The movie industry was in no mood for mockery, and perhaps in no condition for it. Every Oscar ceremony tries to reclaim old Hollywood glamour; this one tried to suit the times by reverting straight to old Depression-era glamour.

The LA Times was less glowing, saying:

But even as the combined talents of Tina Fey and Steve Martin made us laugh and Dustin Lance Black’s acceptance speech for winning original screenplay for “Milk” made us cry, along came that darn Jackman again with an apropos-of-nothing announcement that the success of “Mamma Mia!” meant the musical was back. Actually, Hugh, it means that people have a strange and abiding love for ABBA and Meryl Streep, but either way it was no excuse for you to launch into yet another bizarre dance number full of such chestnuts as “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” and “Somewhere.”

Now I’m sorry, but didn’t we decide, like as a nation, that Big Dance numbers were a blight on the Oscars telecast? Weren’t they, in fact, the first thing to go in the ’90s when the show swept past the four-hour mark and everyone decided that things had Gone Too Far? So someone explain to me please why we were forced to watch a chorus line tap-dance in sequins on a staircase when the actual nominated songs were cut down to a medley (prompting nominee Peter Gabriel to refuse to perform)?

29 Responses

  1. Cassssh.

    And they played the full thing live in the daytime, so i dont think its that big a deal that they cut it. If they didnt cut it, too many people would have tuned out before they got to see best picture awarded near the end. it would just have been too late.

  2. That tribute to musicals number was at times entertaining, but overall somewhat bizarre. Then they announced that it was put together by Baz Luhrman and it was no longer so bizarre. Hugh’s work was top notch – I say never let Baz anywhere near an Oscars stage again!

  3. Firstly, ignore the reviewers. They were spiteful because they believed that an American actor should have presented the Awards. Boring! The whole American production was outscored by Bollywood.

    Secondly, Hugh was great. Especially the intro was great. The second dance number was a tribute to the movie musical because it was also performed by actors from High School Musical and Mamma Mia, which I thought was a good touch.

    Thirdly, I liked when 5 previous winners were presenting individual awards (apart from obvious schmooze). Overall it was much shorter than usual and very sleek to the point.

    Top scores from me!

  4. What the hell did Nine do to the night time version of the awards?!! Who won the best foreign film, best animated short, best documentary – who won best original and best adapted screenplays???? Who cares says Nine.

  5. To be fair (!), I guess they made the decision to air a truncated version at 9.30 a fair time back.. in previous years it probably didn’t matter because there was so much dead material, but this year there was hardly a flat moment.

    Having said that, whilst the Oscar producers showed great respect for all aspects of the film-making process, those at Nine did not. Not to air the Screenplay awards at least showed poor judgement… they set the tone for the evening, the presenters were funny and the winner of Original Screenplay was articulate and moving. A dumb move.

    Perhaps, Nine, when you have three and a half hours free one Saturday or Sunday afternoon, you can air the entire show again?

  6. I was lucky enough to get the afternoon off to watch it Live, and Craig F, if you are right, that is a terrible move by Nine. I totally agree that they were some of the best parts. Terrible move Channel 9!

  7. Yes Lisa, they cut Steve and Tina.. and along with it the Milk writer’s acceptance speech.. they also cut that beautiful Documentary montage.. and Ben Stiller’s parody of Joaquin Phoenix…

    Pity.. this was the one year Nine should have repeated the entire ceremony, seeing the whole show was structured around the development of a motion picture, from the development of the idea, the writing, through to design, production and post-production. It kinda lost the point when Nine cut so many categories.

  8. i watched it during the day and saw a bot of the ch 9 repeat last night and too my horror i think they edited out the screenplay awards whihc meant no Steve, no Tina (who both hilarious) and the best acceptance speech of the night was not included either.

    Am I right? Did anyone watch last nights show who can confirm?

  9. the musical number in the middle was a mess (this is not the Tony awards) and after that hugh was barely sighted… highlight for me were both the very moving accpetance speeches of the writer of Milk and of sean penn.

  10. @Andrew B, that’s so true, I’d never made the connection before, but yes in the the past we haven’t seen the movies they’re talking about. Having been able to view the movies and performances beforehand makes such a difference to enjoying the show.

  11. Best ever for years, Hugh brought it back to life. And the fact we had actually heard of or even been able to see the movies nominated helped as well. Some years, half the movies don’t get released here in time and others are just too boring or weird to bother with (like No country for old men for example). Not to mention anyone who has seen Slumdog Millionaire would have agreed with the result.

  12. I watched it from 12.30 to 4.00 and was surprised when it was over because it was so enjoyable and moved along quickly. Hugh was good. The acceptance speeches were not over long and embarrassing except for one akward moment by the guy who won for composing. The usual stilted, unfunny chatter between pairs of presenters did not exist (take note writers for Logies). I hate it when actors use the event as a stage for political comment but there were only two instances of that but there was no uncomfortable half clapping by the audience which can be a bit of a downer. I would love to see Hugh back next year. This is the first time since Billy Crystal hosted that I have not been disappointed.

  13. Surely the Oscars is one place where over-the-top song & dance is acceptable. I must admit muscials aren’t my thing but it suited the occasion.

    I didn’t watch it all but what I saw was good – except for those creepy actor awards with the 5 former winners droning on about the nominee – they struck the wrong note for me – at the academy awards a person is nominated for one performance not their entire life’s work yet almost all of the speeches blathered on about more than just the one nominated performance

  14. Bringing out 5 previous winners for each of acting awards was a good touch, but when they each had to suck up to one of the nominees, quite clearly reading from a script… how un-genuine can you get!?

    Another point of the show is that most of the actors are good when they reherse and perform on a movie set, but woeful when it comes to speaking live and in front of an autocue!

  15. I liked the trend towards “intimacy”, with the nominees sitting arena style and Hugh interacting with them. It almost felt like a private function that had decided late in the planning to let the cameras roll. An occasion appropriately pitched to suit these austere times. Well done!

  16. I thought he was brilliant! LA Times pull your head outta your a*se! The dance number was fantastic, Hugh made it seem like more of a familiar get together than an uptight ego fest that it could be.

  17. i loved that 5 people presented to 5 nominees. that was a good touch. and tina fey and steve martin where too funny. the opening number was great the 2nd one not needed i thought. and the acceptance speech from sean penn and the writer of Milk was great. teach that backward state and country a thing or too boys!

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