Ellen Degeneres delivered a refreshingly tame opening monologue at the 84th annual Academy Awards that was well written and fit wonderfully with her unique delivery and comedic style. It was a departure from last years raucous opening monologue from host, Seth Macfarlane, which clocked in at 14 minutes and featured live commentary from William Shatner as Captain Kirk, a lively dance number and sock puppets… yes, sock puppets.
Ellen always takes command of the stage with a subtle, delicate manner that is welcoming, like one is about to sit down and chat with an old, dear friend. She capitalized on that persona, that has only multiplied over the years as everyone’s favorite day-time talk show host, and began by addressing the nominees, many of whom were familiar faces from seven years ago when she last hosted the Academy Awards, such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, and Meryl Streep.
Ellen didn’t waste time referencing Streep, as seems to be the routine in Academy Awards opening monologues. “One of the nominees is ‘her’,” she said, referencing Spike Jonze’s haunting love story about a man who falls in love with his computer, but continued, “and by ‘her’ I mean Meryl Streep.” Streep has been nominated an unprecedented 18 times and seeks to add another statuette to her trophy case for her turn in August: Osage County.
“Movies offer us an escape, movies inspire us,” Ellen said plainly while wearing a black, sparkling tuxedo that only she could pull off. She added that the most important things in the world were, “love, friendship, and family” and then gave her trademark deadpan delivery when she followed that up with, “And if people don’t have those things, they usually get into show business.”
Ellen’s opening at the Academy Awards, as tame as it was, felt more like ten minutes of standup comedy at a small club rather than a monologue in a giant amphitheater. As such, it was welcome to see her do a little snappy crowd work. Her main target was America’s sweetheart, Jennifer Lawrence, and her fall last year when she was climbing the stairs to receive her Oscar for best actress for Silver Linings Playbook. Lawrence went two for two this year, and I don’t mean Academy Award wins, but rather falls, this one suffered by Jennifer on the red carpet. Ellen was more than happy to let everyone know that she would not be pointing out either of those embarrassing moments to the viewing world.
Ellen moved from tame briefly to venture into edgy waters while addressing more of this year’s Academy Award nominees at the tail-end of her opening monologue. She described Dallas Buyers Club hilariously as a movie that “deals with the serious issue of people who have sex at rodeos.” She then described to everyone the possibilities of how 12 Years a Slave would fare in the best picture Academy Award race, and they were two-fold, “Possibility No. 1: 12 Years a Slave wins. Possibility No. 2: you’re all racists.” Lastly, she thanked Jonah Hill for whipping out his manhood in The Wolf of Wallstreet by saying, “You showed us something in that film that I have not seen in a long time.” After building laughs, Ellen quipped, “You get it.” Yes, Ellen, the audience does.
Opinion By Matt Stinson