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Monday, February 25, 2013

Seth MacFarlane doesn’t rise to the Oscar occasion

Seth MacFarlane is terribly talented. He can sing, dance, do cartoon voices and carry off a tuxedo.
That doesn’t make him a fitting host for the Oscar ceremonies, which begs for a rather more elegant showman who engages the wider audience, someone who honors the industry even while gently knocking it.
“I just want to be a part of it,” he said in the voice of Ted, the star of his movie. But, no. He won’t be admitted to the ranks of best Oscar hosts.
Racist jokes, adolescent boy humor, silliness on the topic of domestic abuse, a Kardashian reference, audio troubles and too many taped bits marred MacFarlane’s night as host of Sunday’s 85th Academy Awards telecast.
Even if you enjoyed the “We saw your boobs” musical number (and Jennifer Lawrence seemed to be the only one in the audience who did), the general tenor of the opening was better suited to “Family Guy.”
We had so hoped Seth would prove a surprising, bold Oscar presence. We never expected classy from the creator of “Ted” and “Family Guy,” but purely entertaining would have been nice.
His reliance on taped bits rather than live performance didn’t help. In fact, there were more pre-packaged songs and bits than for any Oscar show in memory.
By turns too “inside,” low-rent and goofy, MacFarlane wasn’t the worst Oscar host ever (David Letterman’s turn was less amusing). But it was far from distinguised. The infamous Snow White and Rob Lowe production number now has company. The Franco-Hathaway embarrassment now has a rival.
Lipsynching, big kisses to the executive producer’s own film “Chicago” (huffing, puffing Catherine Zeta Jones), and more resulted in a lurching, uneven night.
There were some great moments: The sock puppets re-enacting “Flight.” (In the dryer). Shirley Bassey celebrating Bond’s 50 years with “Goldfinger.” If you loved “Les Miz,” you no doubt approved the grand musical number. And the “Jaws” music to play off the verbose acceptance speeches was a fine touch.
The ironic stance that MacFarlane represents doesn’t match the Oscars’ reason for being. So smugly self-aware, too hip for the room.
Speaking of too inside: The ads rivaled those of the Super Bowl: Diet Coke’s and iPad’s Hollywood themed commercials. But that’s another column.


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