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But what the Academy considered to be a broadcast milestone – the first first lady to ever participate in the Academy Awards so directly – Gwendolyn Foster, editor of the Quarterly Review of film and Video at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, saw as an indictment of artistic integrity in Hollywood.
The Oscar telecast, she said via e-mail, is “a giant commercial posing as an artistic awards event.” The capper was Obama’s surprise appearance, she adds.
“The rather bizarre nature of the awards this year reflects the political and economic times we are living through,” Ms. Foster says. "The idea of Hollywood being better at saving Americans from terrorists, as in 'Argo,' was unsurprisingly what thrilled Hollywood insiders and got their vote. Hollywood to the rescue.”
For event attendees, the evening “had a very happy vibe,” says composer Charles Bernstein, as he exited the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood after the awards were handed out. He suggests that the absence of a single big winner sweeping all the categories is a sign of the health and diversity of the movie industry. A former governor of the Academy, Mr. Bernstein points out that it is important to remember that the film industry responds to what moviegoers will pay to see at the box office. “If people don’t want to see the films we make, then there is no industry,” he adds.
The show’s effort to attract a younger audience by having comedian Seth MacFarlane serve as host was generally well received.
But even that had its strange moments, says Brian Volk-Weiss, head of production and senior vice president of talent management at New Wave Entertainment. “I was pretty shocked with his opening monologue,” he says via e-mail, “and not in a good way.... It was way too long, and even though I am a 'Star Trek' fan, the Shatner bit was weird.” MacFarlane chatted with William Shatner in a comic bit showing the former "Star Trek" captain returning from the future to critique the host’s performance.