Dear Oscar, Your Host’s Flipness Was for the Birds

We went in expecting an #OscarsSoWhite—and Neil Patrick Harris ensured that we got it, with glib jokes undermining powerful speeches that could have redeemed the evening.

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Dear Oscar,

I hate to bother you after your big night. You must be exhausted, having been lusted over, passed around, fondled and caressed. Not to mention practically dry-humped by Eddie Redmayne. But we need to talk about last night’s show. You see, I think you and the new owners of the mantles you’ll soon occupy were done wrong. What should have been an evening of the best and brightest of cinema was more like a second rate Siegfried & Roy. All that was missing was a tiger. Or Left Shark.

Don’t get me wrong; it was not without great moments. Really great moments, in fact. Julianne Moore finally winning, something that was long overdue. Graham Moore urging kids who feel like they don’t fit in to “stay weird, stay different.”  Paweł Pawlikowski’s determination to finish his speech no matter how loudly the orchestra tried to play him off. The yellow M&M winning Best Supporting Actor and telling everyone to call their mom. John Legend using his moment to deliver the brutal truth of the new Jim Crow. Lady Gaga reminding the world that behind the meat dresses and telephone hats is a voice that is unparalleled. Patricia Arquette and the call for women’s equal rights that elicited a million hell-yeahs from across the country and from the front row.


Then there were the clunkers. The omissions of Elaine Stritch, Taylor Negron, and Joan Rivers (JOAN RIVERS!) from the In Memoriam. John Travolta’s super creepy pawing of Idina Menzel’s chin. Giving away the ending of Gone Girl. The 13,000 crowd shots of Oprah. Renowned wife-beater and garbage person Sean Penn’s racist joke.

But the worst clunkers of all came from one person. A person who must never be allowed to host your show again, Oscar.

Neil Patrick Harris.

What did we (and Octavia Spencer) do to deserve this? Has there ever been a running gag with less payoff than the prediction box? Not only was it completely devoid of humor, it was also tone deaf. Wasn’t there anyone in the writer’s room with foresight to mention that choosing a black woman to pretend to be at his beck and call might not be a great idea for a show already under fire for its glaring lack of diversity? Seriously? No one?

Few people in history have ever been more simultaneously self-aware and oblivious as Patrick was last night. Joke after joke fell flat (“Eat her with a spoon?”), and yet Patrick laughed at them as though they were actually clever and we were just missing the humor. Maybe all of the good jokes were locked in the prediction box. And the moments he went off-script were even worse. When producer Dana Perry accepted the award for her documentary Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, she closed her speech by remembering her son who had committed suicide. As she left the stage, Harris made a joke about her dress. The millions of live tweeters at home had better timing and they hadn’t had months of preparation. The gratuitous Birdman send-up in his underwear, the illogical comparison of Oprah to American Sniper, mispronouncing Chiwetel Ejiofor’s name (so 2014), the gay joke about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (so 1997), making David Oyelowo read terrible jokes as if his snub wasn’t punishment enough. It was all horrendous.

You see, Oscar last night had the potential to be an extraordinary night. There were important moments, the kind of moments that transcended film and spoke truth to the issues of racial injustice, immigration, isolation, and equal rights. People were willing to make their moment on the world’s biggest stage about more than just themselves And those moments were shortchanged by a host who thought he was too clever by half.  

And so, Oscar, it’s up to you. You have to do whatever is in your power to make sure Neil Patrick Harris doesn’t host next year’s show. And your power is quite considerable. After all, there ain’t a show without you.

See you next year, when Kristen Stewart will be a Best Support Actress nominee for Clouds of Sils Maria. Put that prediction in a glass box.




Photo credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images





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