Jemma Wolfe

Senior ANDY Editor

Oscar turned 84 this year, and his birthday celebration, which was more gimmicky than ever before, was not classy for such an old guy.

Let’s face it: the Academy Awards are going downhill. The reprisal of Billy Crystal’s role as host was highly anticipated, yet most of his jokes fell flat. It seems that after the ninth time around, he’s lost his charm; telling Jonah Hill he’s fat and cracking jokes about black poverty isn’t clever, and certainly isn’t classy.

It was Justin Bieber’s self-reflexive, gimmicky appearance in Crystal’s opening montage that set the tone for the night. “What’s up? I’m here to get you the 18-24 demographic,” Bieber recited awkwardly. While somewhat true, the segment failed to entertain.

Robert Downey Jr.’s mocumentary stunt while presenting the Oscar for best documentary with Gwyneth Paltrow was also stilted and dull. He pretended to be shooting a behind-the-scenes film about the Academy Awards, claiming to be experimenting with the art form of “live documentary,” to which Paltrow quipped, “that’s called the news.” It was one of the less cringe-worthy moments of the night, but still didn’t quite hit the mark.

Cirque du Soleil’s performance midway through the evening was visually stunning, as expected from an acrobatic company known for setting industry standards. Its presence, however, which was a first for the Oscars, felt gimmicky. It was an obvious ploy to increase ratings and number of viewers.

Finally, Sacha Baron Cohen’s media stunt on the red carpet was the cherry on top, despite occurring before the evening even began. Dressed in a white army suit, sunglasses and a peaked cap as General Aladeen – the main character from his upcoming film The Dictator – he carried an urn with Kim Jong Il’s face on it, and professed to Ryan Seacrest during an interview that it had always been the former North Korean leader’s dream to have his ashes sprinkled on the red carpet. With those panic-inducing words, he spilled the contents (which were rumored to actually be Bisquick) all down the front of Seacrest’s Burberry tuxedo. Cohen was promptly escorted off the premises by security guards, but not before his crazed act of self-promotion and sabotage was complete.

It’s sad to see the Academy Awards used and abused by such pathetic stints of gimmickry and self-promotion. What was once an opportunity to see the best of the best receive well-deserved honours during an evening of reserve and class has very clearly deteriorated. No wonder they’re fighting for ratings. Oh, the irony.

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