By Wayne Harada
Ellen DeGeneres dipped, Jennifer Lawrence slipped, John Travolta tripped.
Host DeGeneres had her moments, some good, some bad — but lacked sparkle over-all, spending far too much time schmoozing with the audience, filling time by cradling a guitar, and looked wide-eyed in wonderment if she was clicking with the viewers.
Um, not always. She went overboard in put-down comments to Liza Minnelli (once) who had blue-streaked hair, and Jonah Hill (twice) for his exposure in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Actress Lawrence, again radiant in red, had another fall at the ball, as she exited a limo, before her red carpet stroll. Remembering Lawrence’s trek and slip when she went to pick up her Best Actress Oscar, DeGeneres said that perhaps if she won last night, the statuette should be delivered to her seat. Bad karma — Lawrence lost to Cate Blanchett.
Saying he loved musicals, John Travolta introduced Idina Menzel who performed what would become the Best Song winner, “Let It Go” from “Frozen.” But he mangled her name, uttering something like “Adela Dazeem,” and she was a Tony winner who was a “Wicked-ly” Elphaba.”
Shameful. What was he smoking?
The evening lacked a spectacular opening number; after all, this was the crown jewel of the awards show, and aside from performances of the four Best Song nominees, there wasn’t that “aha” moment with song and dance.
Paging Neil Patrick Harris, paging Neil Patrick Harris: He hosted the Tonys and will do so again this year; his brand of summarizing the slate of nominees and shows in tuneful reflection was first-rate; and at the end credits, he did a similar chore recapping the winners before sign-off, a task that required swift writing as the show was unveiling, and incredible delivery of raw material.
There were two guest singing spots: Pink’s Judy Garland/“Wizard of Oz” tribute and Bette Midler’s vocal of her hit “Wind Beneath My Wings” hit, with the former representing the now generation, the latter reflecting the past though the Hawaii-born Divine Miss M still has Magic. Pink sparkled like Dorothy’s glass slippers, in her red gown; Midler earned a standing ovation for her bit, which was a strange tack-on to the usual awards memorial to those who have passed on, which should have been integrated into the tributes. Midler’s performance brought tears to Julia Roberts’ eyes.
Some moments to love or hate:
Happy-ness: Pharrell Williams, complete with his trademark hat, made his Oscar-nominated “Happy” song a danceathon with A-list movements from Lupito Nuyong’o, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. Probably spontaneous rather than staged — and precisely the kind of surprise the show needed.
Cute: DeGeneres ordering pizza, collecting bucks from the likes of Harrison Ford. Well, you do get hungry and the show ran 3 ½ hours and the grinds were waiting at the after-parties.
All right, all right, all right: Matthew McConaughey’s spontaneity, speech and sizzle — he waited long but obviously believed his time was now.
Touching: Jared Leto’s savvy and sincere acceptance speech, saluting his mom who was an inspiration for his success.
Dreams come true: The “it” girl of the awards circuit, Lupita Nyong’o, said in her acceptance speech, dreams are valid; and she expressed gratitude to the real-life figure who inspired her and enabled her to snag the statuette.
American nightmare: It was 0-for-10 for “American Hustle,” with an A-list roster of nominees and a prolific director; it was a complete wipeout for the film.
Split hits: The buzz before the Oscars was that this was a season of close races; not so. The anticipated winners won; the occasional split between Best Picture and Best Director was also predictable, as Academy Award voters spread the wealth around — “12 Years a Slave” copping the big prize, but “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuaron reeling in the director’s trophy.
The Gap: Did you notice the divisive and distant relationship between “12 Years” adapted screenplay winner John Ridley, and the film’s director Steve McQueen, who didn’t win?
Share your observations, if you have a moment you loved or hated.