updated 03/08/2010 AT 9:00 AM ET
•originally published 03/08/2010 AT 10:00 AM ET
Sunday’s Oscar broadcast was the rare Academy night with some genuine suspense nudging it along and culminating in a genuine surprise, with The Hurt Locker’s win over Avatar for Best Picture. And the camera happens to love Kathryn Bigelow, Locker’s director: She looks like a strong-willed Elizabeth Hurley. That means it was a good year.
None of that can be credited to the show’s producers, though. It’s just Oscars luck. The show itself was immaculately designed and cautiously uninspired. On my TV, the HD spectacle looked like a giant, glittering seashell with beautifully dressed sea monkeys swimming along in the foreground.
Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, unfortunately, may have been the most insignificant hosts in memory. Together, they shared a very good sight gag about those enchanting little airborne mops from Avatar – Baldwin, in a plummy, precious voice, referred to them as “floating woodsprites,” then Martin sprayed them down as if they were germs.
For the most part, they were more like malfunctioning 3-D glasses: Two near-duplicate images that, combined, somehow flattened out. Baldwin probably would have done better on his own. I get tired of Martin’s dry absurdity: “Please welcome my longtime dear friend, and by that I mean I’ve never met her, Sandra Bullock!”
The show’s producers seem to have realized this wasn’t a dream package by starting the night with Neil Patrick Harris, dressed in spangled black, singing a number about why no one wants to host the show alone – except, of course, Neil Patrick Harris.