Oscars Pull It Off: Better Late than Never


ABC’s 80th Annual Academy Awards telecast ended 20 minutes late last night – but considering how close this year’s awards show came to being a virtual no-show, that’s no cause for complaint.

In fact, because the resolution of the writers’ strike gave host Jon Stewart and the producers and writers less than two weeks to mount a show, causes for complaint are few and far between. Maybe the three songs from Enchanted should have been packaged as a medley – but really, the rest of the telecast was fairly streamlined.

Stewart, as host, was welcomed warmly, and performed efficiently. As when he hosted the last time, Stewart was most impressed, and animated, when winners showed the most surprise and enthusiasm – even in so-called minor categories.

Awards were scattered democratically enough to provide several nice moments. Best Actress Marion Cotillard, who channeled Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, giddily spoke enough English to say, “You’ve truly rocked my house.” Former exotic dancer Diablo Cody, winning best original screenplay for Juno, burst into tears while ending her acceptance speech by saying, “I want to thank my family by loving me exactly the way I am.”

And give Jon Stewart extra special kudos for ushering Marketa Irglova, original song winner as co-composer of “Falling Slowly” from Once, back on stage for a do-over. She hadn’t gotten a chance to say thanks, and Stewart stopped the show to give her the opportunity.

One element of the Oscars introduced last night is good enough to keep. Before the acting categories, montages of previous winners were shown, putting contenders in a long, glorious, charismatic context. Before Daniel Day-Lewis won as Best Actor for There Will be Blood, viewers were reminded that previous recipients of that award included Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, John Wayne, Jack Lemmon, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington… and Daniel Day-Lewis.

To read what other critics thought, click here.

David Bianculli has been a television critic for a very long time. Currently, he’s TV critic and guest host for NPR’s

Fresh Air with Terry Gross,

teaches television history at New Jersey’s Rowan University, and offers nightly viewing recommendations and observations on his website