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I've seen your boobs, all right


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It took too long to give these things out.
  • Christopher Polk/Getty Images
  • It took too long to give these things out.
Recently I got a chance to look at archival film of the 1949 Academy Awards ceremony, which was hosted by actor Robert Montgomery at the Academy Theatre in Hollywood. The big winners that year were Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, which took best picture, actor, art direction, and costume design, and John Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which won best director, screenplay, and supporting actor (Huston's father, Walter). But the remarkable thing about the program was its brevity—a fleet 72 minutes, with no commercial breaks because the ceremony had yet to be broadcast live. Incredibly, many of the winners barely spoke as they came onstage to pick up their statuettes. "If you want to acknowledge your indebtedness," Montgomery advised the nominees, "please do it by letter or phone tomorrow."

I could have watched the 1949 program three times in a row in the same time it took this year's bloated broadcast to reach a merciful conclusion. Christoph Waltz's acceptance speech may have been 72 minutes all on its own: accepting the best supporting actor statuette for his performance in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, Waltz recognized the four other nominees; thanked his own character, Dr. King Schultz; thanked another 15 people; and concluded, "We participated in a hero's journey, the hero here being Quentin. You scaled the mountain because you're not afraid of it, you slayed the dragon because you're not afraid of it, and you cross through fire because it's worth it." By the end of this Tarantino had almost swallowed his trademark smirk, realizing perhaps that there's nothing left for him now but the papacy.

Of course the man of the hour was host Seth MacFarlane, a man so courageous he allowed his teddy bear to twit the Israel lobby. I think I laughed at only two or three of his jokes, and the next morning each of them was being publicly denounced. The show was full of botched introductions (from the cast of The Avengers, among others) and disastrous improvisations (Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy's obscure bit about animation voice talent, which was greeted with funereal silence). Now that the telecast has scored the highest ratings of any awards show in three years, the humor will probably get even meaner and more petty in 2014. But with luck we'll be spared another endless cameo from a Big Brother-like Bill Shatner, whose best moment on the big screen was 52 years ago. From Hamlet to hambone is quite a slide.