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Oscars 2013: Seth MacFarlane could've learned from Clint Eastwood

February 25, 2013|By Mark Z. Barabak

So where's Clint Eastwood when you need him?

Sure, he hijacked Mitt Romney's convention with his bizarre soliloquy, a man and his chair. But the moment was spontaneous, surprising and captivating in the can't-turn-away fashion of an impending train wreck.

Most of Sunday night's interminable Oscars ceremony consisted of seriously unfunny jokes, painful repartee and a parade of otherwise talented actors forced to read from stilted scripts like benumbed captives in a hostage video.

FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2013 | Winners

(Who, by the way, was responsible for approving that hideous dance number name-checking the actresses seen baring their breasts in various movies? Mr. Skin? Or maybe the person who told host Seth MacFarlane, "A Lincoln assassination joke? Hilarious!")

What passed for unexpected was a guy showing up onstage in a kilt. The evening's suspense was limited to the question of when the winners would be cut off mid-speech -- the music from "Jaws" being a fine touch, and worth considering at overlong political events -- and how each presenter would pronounce "Les Miserables."

The big "surprise" of the night was First Lady Michelle Obama appearing via satellite from the White House, looking elegant and intrepid at around midnight  local time for her appearance announcing the Oscar for best picture.

Oscars 2013: Nominee list | Red carpet | Highlights

That, however, was pretty much the extent of drama in the category Three And A Half Hours Of Your Life You'll Never Get Back.

Political conventions are heavily scripted too, which doesn't make them any less stultifying. But at least there is some justification. (See Chicago, 1968; Houston, 1992; and -- thanks to Eastwood -- Tampa, 2012.)  But the Academy Awards are supposed to be about entertainment, not choosing a leader to mend the economy and command America's nuclear arsenal. What would be the big deal if Oscar lived a little, cut loose from the script, let the speeches run a little long? Eliminate some of the awards categories (shocker: a tie for best sound editing!) and, for mercy's sake, find some way --  any way -- to cut the show's running time in half.

Who knows what people might say or do, left to their own devices? A muffed line wouldn't send the Dolby Theatre crashing down. A little controversy might enliven things; it's not as if Americans will stop going to the movies because some blathering actor wants to save the planet, or impeach President Obama.

There was, of course, the suspense of waiting to see who won in the various categories -- or, rather, to whom the Oscar went, in the delicate phrasing preferred by, all rise, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (There are no winners or losers on Oscars night, unlike, say, Election Day.)  Not that I much cared. There are great many people for whom the Oscars matter a whole lot. I respect that. But I am not one of them.

Oscars 2013: Backstage | Quotes | Best & Worst moments

I see fewer than a handful of movies a year, most of them via Netflix or on the DVDs my wife brings home from the grocery store, subject to my narrow and maddeningly picky tastes.

(She is also the one who turns on the TV and DVD player, as I don't know how. I don't watch television, either, and thank my oldest daughter for informing me that MacFarlane created "Family Guy," which is apparently some sort of cartoon show. I also learned, by watching Sunday night's program, that Channing Tatum is a man.)  After spending most of last year on the campaign trail, I agreed to go to the movies three times last fall,  an unusual string of cameos at the cineplex. ($22 for two adults? Really?)

I enjoyed "Lincoln" -- save for that treacly scene where he's headed to Ford's Theatre and his rendezvous with John Wilkes Booth -- and liked "Argo" a lot, despite its phony, tarted-up Hollywood ending. But another movie I enjoyed far more than "Lincoln" --  "Flight"-- wasn't even nominated for best picture.

Which just goes to show, I really should stick to covering politics.

ALSO:

Telecast length padded, but not historically so

A box office milestone for best picture nominees

FLOTUS Michelle Obama announces best picture Oscar

mark.barabak@latimes.com

Twitter: @markzbarabak

MORE OSCAR COVERAGE

WINNING BALLOT: A list of the 2013 winners

PHOTOS: Best & worst moments

TIMELINE: Academy Awards through the years

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