Good to know I'm not the only one who needs pizza to make it through a long night at the Oscars.
With Ellen DeGeneres serving up laughs along with slices, disarming the starry crowd with stunts like a pizza delivery for the starving captive audience and a Superstar Selfie that temporarily broke Twitter (and during the taking of which Meryl Streep delightfully blurted, "I've never tweeted before!"), even the Oscars' inevitable dull patches felt less painful than usual.
Working the cavernous Dolby Theatre auditorium with kooky panache and sly sarcasm — her best joke may have been calling out The Wolf of Wall Street's Jonah Hill, who "showed us something in that film that I have not seen for a very, very long time" (hee) — DeGeneres was a friendly, funny and refreshingly grounded host in a classy, though typically overstuffed and overlong, ceremony distinguished by some memorably moving speeches: Dallas Buyers Club's Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey and 12 Years a Slave surprise winner Lupita Nyong'o, to name a few.
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The Oscars are often rightly mocked for their overproduced production numbers, but this year, producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron dialed back the excess to great effect. The one big dance number, Pharrell Williams' "Happy," was an exuberant highlight, with Nyong'o and Streep among those shimmying to the beat. Other nominated songs were more simply produced — although John Travolta mangling Idina Menzel's name was the stuff of instant GIFs — and the special material felt more timeless than tired, including Pink's belting delivery of "Over the Rainbow" during the Wizard of Oz tribute and Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" following the In Memoriam honor roll.
The most genuinely unexpected highlight: Darlene Love spontaneously belting a chorus of "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" after 20 Feet From Stardom won the documentary prize. Now that's how you don't get played off during an acceptance speech.
One malady the Oscars show can't seem to shake is an addiction to movie montages, this year featuring several uninspired mash-ups on the theme of "heroes." One would have been plenty on a night that had no business stretching to three and a half hours. Talk about succumbing to Gravity.
The real champion of Oscar night was DeGeneres. Even she isn't superhero enough to keep this lumbering institution afloat for the full duration, but as she was passing Pharrell Williams' now-trademark hat to get the rich and famous to pony up for the pizza, I kept hoping someone would just hand her an invite to tackle the Oscars as often as she's willing and able.
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