Neil Patrick Harris and the sunk costs fallacy

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.

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32 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    …but it’s such pretty nonsense that I sucker myself into a frenzy of expectation season after season.

    And boy, it’s getting harder and harder to figure out why.

    So it is exactly like the Super Bowl.

    I didn’t watch it (I don’t think I’ve watched more than a couple minutes of an award show in this century), but I enjoyed the recap.Report

  2. Kazzy says:

    NPH bombed? Nah… NPH wouldn’t do that:

    I only sort of knew the Oscars were happening. I was texting with a friend and when I asked what she was doing she said, “Watching the Oscars,” and I said, “Oh.” I went to bed having not watched a minute and knowing nothing of the winners. But when she said that NPH was hosting, I thought, “Hmmm… that might have been fun.” I’m sad to hear that it was not.

    I’m curious, though… how much of the jokes come from the host him/herself and how much is written for them? And if they are using a team, is it “their” team or some default Oscars team? This may vary year-to-year and host-to-host but sometimes the front man takes the brunt — if not the entirety — of the criticism when it is often a team effort.Report

    • Patrick in reply to Kazzy says:

      I’m curious, though… how much of the jokes come from the host him/herself and how much is written for them?

      I thought I could tell the parts where he was ad-libbing by the fact that they were much more funny than the rest of the gig.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Patrick says:

        I forgot to note the ad-libbing.

        Yes, those obviously come directly from the host and are his/hers to claim or flame.

        But I mean the scripted bits… do these folks tend to write their own? Or are they handed a script? Something in between? Delivery, timing, and crowd engagement are on them. But if you are given bad jokes, even the best of the best can only do so much.Report

    • Alan Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

      Each Oscar telecast has a credited writing staff. Here is the IMDB page from this year. Those with primary writing credits include Greg Bertlandi (Arrow, Flash), Seth Grahame-Smith (Dark Shadows, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), Michael Green(Green Lantern), and Andrew Kriesberg (Arrow, Flash).

      I’m not going to say this year’s crop are bad writers, but I will say that I wouldn’t expect awards shows to be an area of writing strength for them. In contrast, the main writers last year were Kristen Gore (Futurama), Amy Ozols (Late Night w/ Jimmy Fallon), and Jon Marks (Tonight Show w/ Jay Leno). So, people who are actually paid to write jokes.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Alan Scott says:

        I feel like Schilling when I say that Superheroes are effing up absolutely everything.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Alan Scott says:

        So the people that write for Flash and Arrow went way long and missed the mark? That makes Alanis happy.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Alan Scott says:

        That’s the problem with the Oscars: not enough explosions.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to Alan Scott says:

        I’m betting the actual culprit here is the insularity of Hollywood Gays. The people I’d expect to have control of the writing staff are the producers (Zadan & Meron) and the host who they’re writing jokes for (Harris). They choose Greg Berlanti, a rising-star writer/producer who probably goes to a lot of the same parties as they do.

        Berlanti then hires a bunch of writers he’s worked with in the past–who of course write superhero stuff b/c that’s what Berlanti writes.Report

  3. LeeEsq says:

    Welcome home. The Oscars like all other award shows are very self-congratulatory.Report

    • Well, of course they are. I’ve watched them religiously since the late 1980s, so their nature as gigantic orgies of self-congratulation is not lost on me.

      Yet sometimes they manage to be fun anyway. Billy Crystal (at his best) and Steve Martin both rendered it so. I thought Whoopie was so-so, but generally funny enough. I’ve already mentioned the master class Fey and Poehler have delivered for the past three years, and NPH himself has hosted the Emmys and Tonys multiple times to much better ends.

      It’s not that it was an awards show, from which I know quite well. It was that it was a crappy one.Report

  4. Kolohe says:

    I blame mostly the writers (maybe everyone was too busy from the previous 3 weeks work on SNL 40), but Harris’s timing was a bit off from the get go – it seemed there were prompter issues from time to time, too. Even the opening zinger, while sharp and appropriate, didn’t quite land with the full force it should have. (in contrast, the post-citizen four zinger was delivered perfectly)

    The directing was also the weakest I’ve think I’ve ever seen at an awards show in the 21st century.Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    Isn’t it a tradition to have high hopes for the Masters of Ceremonies at the Oscar and then be let down?

    I’m a guy who doesn’t really care about the Superbowl or the Oscars. Sometimes the Oscars award really interesting films but often time they don’t and it is very insidery. I liked Birdman a lot and it is certainly a more interesting sweep winner than the usual fair but I have a suspicion it was picked because it allowed the Academy to pat itself on the pack and take a swipe against superhero movies (not that this is bad).

    People seem angry that Boyhood did not win.

    Eddie Redmayne is a very typical and very forgettable pick for Best Actor based on playing Stephen Hawking.Report

  6. Michael Drew says:

    In general I didn’t think NPH was any kind of disaster. He was pretty funny at times. But yeah, that last bit. Ya gotta cut that. Kolohe’s right – probably not his call. But if he wasn’t asking for it to be cut and got overruled, that is an epic case of misreading the room.

    My big question was what the heck was Terrence Howard’s deal? It seemed like there must have been prompter issues.Report

  7. Mike Dwyer says:

    Growing up with an movie-loving mother, the Oscars represented a High Holy Day in our house. We were allowed to stay up late to watxh them and so I developed a love of the pagentry of it. I still watch them every year and genuinely was rooting for NPH last night because I’ve always thought he was a class act.

    The show was…painful. His jokes really fell flat but it wasn’t just that. Most of the presenters were terrible and looked uncomfortable. The songs, always a risk, were mostly forgettable with the exception of Glory (I think all the tears in the audience were genuine). The Lady Gaga thing was actually pretty awesome but way too late in the show.

    I did think NPH’s speech after his musical number was very good. He talked about the power of movies and reminded everyone that it was also about us movie lovers at home. I feel bad for him but I think, as others have pointed out, he was a victim of the format. If he can rock the Tonys and other shows, why is this a bridge too far? People will call for a revamp and maybe someone will finally listen.

    Interestingly, my wife actually said they should bring back Ricky Gervais. I’m inclined to agree. The folks with thin skin can stay home.

    Also, a couple more notes: The In Memoriam was visually beautiful. I really liked it. Leaving out Joan Rivers? That seemed kind of thoughtless.Report

    • Ms. Rivers was apparently not a dues-paying AMPAS member at the time of her death, which is a requirement for inclusion in the In Memorium segment.Report

      • Not dues-paying, but voting membership is required. AMPAS is a by-invitation-only thing, with a total membership of around 6,000. The full membership list has never been published, although in more recent years they do announce who they are inviting to join. The LA Times once managed to put together a list of about 5,000 known members — on average, it’s heavily old, white, and male. Her work in the allowed media is pretty thin and (with no disrespect) of little note. It seems entirely possible that she was simply never invited to join.

        Now, if the Emmy Awards snub her, that’s a real slap.Report

    • Somehow I missed the fact that they missed Joan Rivers, even though the in memoriam segment was one of only a couple segments I was able to catch (was putting the kid to bed for the first half of the show, and fell asleep with disturbing ease upon my return). But now that you mention it…’re totally right.

      That failure is utterly inexcusable, and it’s hard to think it was something other than an intentional slight. Its not as if you just “forget” the woman who was essentially the face of the Oscars for the overwhelming majority of the country, especially given that she had no shortage of film credits in her own right.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      @mike-dwyer you might have hit the head on why the Oscars are struggling to remain relevant. The Oscars are a very formal event that was glamorous at the time but seems stodgy and old-fashioned these days. Its probably one of the few places in modern American were black tie for men and evening gowns for women are required. The only other places were I see so much formal wear are really fancy weddings, ballroom dance competitions, and high school proms. The dress codes of the Oscars are so formal that they seem out of place in modern America.

      Another problem is that the acceptable topics of conversation are much more broader now than they were when the Oscars first appeared. The sort of witty innuendo required of the MC is no longer needed. People can be more direct with risque humor.

      Finally, the poly-centric nature of modern entertainment means that the types of movies that win mean less and less for most people.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I disagree on several points. While the overnight ratings for last nights airing indicate its down from last year (and among the lowest of the last decade) it’s still pulling in 30+ million people and a 25% + share. There’s nothing anywhere on TV anymore that pulls in close to those kind of numbers except the NFL, and then, only in the playoffs. So it’s still relevant. Or at least, still significantly profitable. (160K for 4 hours of work is a lot less than anyone who works on the Big Bang theory makes per hour of television produced).

        Plus if anything, the middlebrow love of Downton Abby shows a fascination with playing dress up among many segments of the TV viewing public (a demo I would bet the Levison family fortune significantly overlaps the Oscar viewers to the point of near congruence)

        Oscars are still shown on network TV in early primetime. They can’t go full Girls, or even the Americans. Witty innuendo is needed more than ever for the modern, more jaded audience, inured to hearing a bleep bleep nearly every night not just on Stewart’s show but also on the Fallon/Kimmel/Letterman ones.

        There has also been a significant disconnect between box office blockbuster and critical darling, at least since the era of the ‘modern’ blockbuster circa Jaws. (though there was that weird stretch in the 90s where ticket sales and oscar recognition did go together – e.g. Dances w/ Wolves, Braveheart, Gump, Titanic, but on the other hand, most of those movies have undergone serious critical assessment revision in recent years)Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I think if there was that much demographic overlap, PBS probably wouldn’t have run the penultimate episode opposite the Oscars Telecast.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Someone pointed out that the block from 9-10 eastern time was full of the tech awards to possibly give a window for people to bail to Downton or Walking Dead. Also, Downton didn’t pass on the Superbowl nor last week’s SNL special (which was the highest rated show that week)Report

  8. Pinky says:

    I’d watch if DeNiro, Streep, and Walken hosted. That’d be great.Report

  9. Rose Woodhouse says:

    Do they even need a host? Why not just cut down on time by cutting those bits out? Have a few different people doing shticks? That way no one is carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.Report

    • zic in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

      I think they actually do need someone to fill the time between as things get set up, etc., to go from one awarding/entertaining to the next. The MC exists to help glide from distinct event to distinct event in what amounts to a variety show.Report

  10. Burt Likko says:

    Neil Patrick Harris
    Had poor material last night.
    Did the best he could.

  11. Mike Schilling says:

    I’ll forgive his joke about a woman’s dress moments after her acceptance speech in which she talked about her son’s suicide

    I’m sure it was unintentional, but stage that right and it could be one of the great tasteless jokes ever.Report

  12. Nice to see you around these parts, Russell!Report

  13. KatherineMW says:

    First time since around 2003 that I haven’t watched it. Zero interest in it this year after they snubbed Selma in the Acting and Directing categories. It was the best movie I saw in the last year, no contest, and I’ve seen several of the other nominees (The Imitation Game, The Grand Budapest Hotel).

    Plus there’s other, less glaring, snubs to films that were popular, creative, innovative, and well-made: in particular to Andy Serkis’ performace in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I don’t care if the title makes you snicker: he has done fantastic things with motion capture, and created a character that’s as emotionally nunanced and appealing as many of the human ones onscreen in the nominated movies. Snowpiercer deserved some recognition, as well, but 90% of the Academy probably hasn’t even heard of it.

    And looking at the choices, Hollywood has chosen (once again, as with “The Artist” and “Hugo” in 2011 – although, granted, I did like “Hugo”) to reward a movie that’s about the act of filmmaking and drama. It’s a trend that feels all too self-congratulatory and self-involved, to me.

    I’m quite happy not to have watched, and it’s good to know I didn’t miss anything.Report

  14. KatherineMW says:

    Regarding Academy Awards hosts: my favourite was Jon Stewart, because he played to the people at home rather than to the people in the room. The people in the room didn’t much like it, though.Report