Jan. 10, 2013 at 10:01 AM ET
If you missed Thursday's live Oscars announcements, you missed out on the first time that the announcements "show" has ever been worth watching.
To be fair, the Oscar announcements typically get a lot of flack. The broadcast is at an ungodly hour -- 5 a.m. -- for the west coast (where many, if not most, of the nominees live), and at its core, the "show" is just a recitation of a bunch of lists of names. Neither, on the surface, sound like things that make for good television.
But what this year's Academy Awards host, Seth MacFarlane, put together Thursday, with an assist from the ever-lovable Emma Stone, was a live announcement show for the record books. It was snappy, funny, and brought an air of levity that the entire Oscars process so desperately needs.
MacFarlane kicked things off by telling those in attendance and watching on TV, "If you don't know who I am, just pretend I'm Donny Osmond." He said he couldn't understand why the announcements couldn't wait until noon, since "the only people up right now are either flying or having surgery."
Stone and MacFarlane opened with the nods for best actor in a supporting role, a category where it just so happens every nominee has actually won an Oscar before. And that is what MacFarlane and Stone reminded us of at every turn. "Robert DeNiro in 'Silver Linings Playbook,' he has won before ... "Alan Arkin in 'Argo.' He has won before ..." You get the idea. It was a fun way of tossing in a little trivia for the Oscar wonks keeping track out there, but it also drove home the point that hey, we've been down this road before. For once, maybe that tired "it's truly just an honor to be nominated line" might be applicable.
After naming all of the supporting actress nominees, MacFarlane got his biggest laugh by saying, "Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein."
Stone and MacFarlane had another bright moment during the nominations for writing, best adapted screenplay. Screenwriters for "Amour," "Django Unchained," "Flight," "Moonrise Kingdom," and "Zero Dark Thirty" all received nods, an achievement Stone and MacFarlane could be accused of downplaying. But in good fun. "The writers just basically copied stuff from Microsoft Word, and pasted it into Final Draft," MacFarlane said, teasing the writers for adapting content that was already out there.
The directors weren't spared, either. Normally, a crop of people given the lion's share of praise for an Oscar-worthy film's success, this years nominees were taken down a small notch. The directors for "Amour," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Life of Pi," "Lincoln," and "Silver Linings Playbook" were informed by MacFarlane that they'd just been nominated for being the "very best at sitting in a chair watching other people make a movie."
Not entirely true, but the jabs and lack of utter reverence for the Oscars drive a point home. This stuff is supposed to be fun -- it is an honor for the entertainment industry, after all. And thanks to MacFarlane and Stone's playful treatment of the nominations, we were reminded of just that.