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Oscar Awkwardness

Submitted by on February 28, 2011 – 6:04 pmNo Comment |

As a public speaking instructor, I love it when pop culture gives me a teachable moment.  So, thank you Anne Hathaway, James Franco and the 83rd Annual Academy Awards show for presenting ME with a wealth of instructional content.

Like most people, I was a bit surprised when Anne and James were asked to host last night’s show.  Then again, award show ratings have been declining for years and those two were sure to attract a younger viewing demographic, so smart move, Academy.

But while younger may mean sexier, it doesn’t necessarily mean better or funnier.  Anne’s performance was every bit as endearing as her role in The Princess Diaries, but James (who MUST have been smoking something backstage) seemed to be forcing his lines and was almost off-putting at times.  Coupled with some weird moments from Justin Timberlake and Melissa Leo, Oscar night was somewhat of an awkward amalgamation of public speaking disasters.

Here’s a few things we can all learn from last night’s show:

Grab the audience’s attention from the start: I had high hopes for the night after watching Oscar’s opening sequence.  Anne and James tried to break into Alec Baldwin’s dreams, Inception-style, and took the audience on a tour-de-Oscar nominated films. Anne stole the show right away with her hilarious “Brown Duck” dance.

Know your material: During the opening monologue, it became clear that James had skipped Oscar practice a few times.  He had no idea when Anne’s lines ended and his began and often started talking while she was still in mid-sentence. In addition, Melissa Leo, who won the first award of the night for Best Supporting Actress was completed unprepared to give an acceptance speech and ended up just saying the “F” word. Oops!

Smooth transitions help the flow of the show: Maybe ABC cut out some of Anne and James’ dialogue in order to reduce the show’s running time or maybe James was really that bad, but there were numerous times when the network cut back to the show from a commercial and a presenter was in mid-sentence. At one point, I was watching a Diet Coke commercial then looked up to see Celine Dion singing “Smile.”  It wasn’t until I saw the words “In Memoriam” flash on the screen that I knew we had arrived at the saddest part of the night.

Use humor appropriately: And when I say “appropriately” I mean, tell jokes that everyone actually gets.  Apparently Justin Timberlake didn’t get that memo with his repeated “I’m Banksy” references, which even Mila Kunis didn’t seem to understand.  For those of you wanting some well-played humor, Russell Brand and Helen Mirren and Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law were happy to oblige.

It’s a stage, not a soapbox: And someone should have reminded Charles Ferguson who won along with Audrey Marrs for Best Documentary for Inside Job (which examines our financial meltdown) before he  began ranting about financial big wigs roaming free, not being put in jail.  I know it was apropos to the documentary’s topic, but seriously Charles, no one likes a Debbie Downer.  (And also, this was the place for the Banksy joke, Justin.)

End the show on a memorable note: And this, in fact, is something the Oscars did well.  The P.S 22 Children’s Choir of Staten Island sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the winners appeared on stage with them–many of them singing as well.  I have no idea how those kids were chosen, but I know they were adorable, and I felt warm and fuzzy inside while watching them.

Looks like I’ve got quote a lesson to teach my students tomorrow.

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