DeGeneres delivers safe jokes, solid performances at Oscars

Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Sunday’s 86th annual Academy Awards went off without a hitch. After Seth MacFarlane’s controversial hosting gig last year, Ellen DeGeneres was a welcome change of tone and pace, presiding over an evening filled with beautiful dresses, heartfelt speeches and countless retweets.

DeGeneres came out for her opening monologue dressed in a stylish velvet suit jacket and delivered several minutes of tame but entertaining jokes about the weather, the awards and Liza Minelli. Throughout the show, she continued to entertain with her special brand of anti-joke.

The night’s running gag came in the form of food, when DeGeneres asked several celebrities in the audience if they were hungry. The joke got a little tired, but kudos to her for carrying it through by ordering three pizzas and handing out slices to stars including Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey and Martin Scorsese. Later in the show, DeGeneres collected real money from various actors (and the one and only Harvey Weinstein).

As for the actual awards, it was a relatively dull night, with most of the categories unofficially locked well before March 2. The first award of the night, Best Supporting Actor, went to Jared Leto, who gave a sweet and heartfelt speech about his mother. He set the tone for the night, as every winner that followed delivered an equally eloquent and grateful address.

Best Actress Cate Blanchett’s speech was a standout, as she took time to recognize the success of women in film. In one of the night’s more suspenseful categories, the stunning Lupita Nyong’o won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress over Jennifer Lawrence, and gave a graceful speech to inspire young girls everywhere.

Perhaps the most surprising part of this year’s Oscars was that almost no one got played off stage during their acceptance speeches. This made a huge difference in the night’s mood, even if it did add a bit of time to the proceedings.

The usually laborious musical numbers were largely entertaining this year, with Pharrell Williams’ infectious and crowd-pleasing performance of “Happy,” nominated for Best Original Song. Karen O and Ezra Koenig put on an intimate rendition of “Moon Song” from “Her,” and U2 performed “Modern Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.”

Unfortunately, the talented Idina Menzel struggled through her performance of “Let it Go” from “Frozen,” though the hit still went on to win Best Original Song.

Pink also gave a beautiful tribute to “The Wizard of Oz,” and after the In Memoriam tribute, Bette Midler performed a touching version of “Wind Beneath My Wings” to a standing ovation from the audience.

This year’s Academy Awards were pleasant, although not particularly riveting. Thanks to DeGeneres and her antics — including a photo-retweet that supposedly “broke Twitter” — this Oscars broadcast at least had the biggest web presence in history.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 4 print edition. Ife Olujobi is the film editor. Email her at iolujobi@nyunews.com.

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