Grading Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscars Hosting Performance

The OscarsABC/Adam Taylor

Phew! They’re finally over. The Academy Awards sure felt like a marathon this year. With about three too many montages honoring any and everything in movies (I think there was even an ode to sticky movie theater floors), a band that seemed really trigger shy about playing off some of the longer speeches (which is a good thing and a bad thing), and the many musical performances, the Oscars stretched all the way into early Monday for those of us on the east coast. The one saving grace was Ellen DeGeneres who more than capably handled the proceedings. Here’s what we thought of her various gags during the show.

The Monologue
While Seth McFarlane layed on the theatrics in such thick globs for his monologue last year, Ellen DeGeneres took more of a classic route. The Oscar hosting veteran was sitting right in her comfort zone, flicking off nuggets of wit with ease and showing the world that she’s definitely an old pro at this. Some of the best jokes included YELLING AT JUNE SQUIBB, insisting that she wouldn’t bring up Jennifer Lawrence’s mishap with a traffic cone before the show, and a 12 Years a Slave gag that really woke up anyone whose attention started to drift towards the end of the opening. Ellen delivered an self-assured and funny monologue that walked a fine line between gentle ribbing and hard hitting jokes. She wasn’t wearing the kid gloves, but she wasn’t pulling her punches either. 
Grade: A- (Sub-Tina/Amy, but good)

The Pizza Gag
In what was the longest gag of the night, Ellen delivered a delightfully absurd routine about ordering pizza that ran through the entire show. Towards the beginning of the broadcast, DeGeneres asked the audience if they wanted to split a pie in what we thought was just a one-off joke. But later on in the show, the pizza actually arrived with Ellen and a delivery boy handing out slices to the denizens of Hollywood. It turns out that stuffy award shows really makes you hungry, and the audience seemed pretty ravenous, grabbing at the slices like pizza was some kind of foreign and novel concept to them all, designer dresses and tuxes be damned. (If you listened closely, you could hear Vera Wang screaming in the distance.) The bit returned for one last time when Ellen grabbed Pharell’s mountie hat and askd for everyone to chip in. Harvey Weinstien forked over 200 bucks, but Brad Pitt could only manage a measly 20 dollars (get it together, Brad, you’re on TV) and Lupita Nyong’o shared some lip gloss (that’s Academy Award-winning lip gloss now). The joke might have overstayed it’s welcome, but who knew celebrities would get so excited over pizza? They really are just like us!
Grade: B+

Lottery Tickets for Losers
After the Best Supporting Oscar was awarded to Jared Leto, Ellen wandered over to Bradley Cooper and gave him two whole lottery tickets as a consolation prize for losing the award, and a quarter (which she needs back) to use on the scratchers. The lottery ticket joke was a quick little diddy of a gag that fit snugly in with the theme of the rest of her show. We have exclusive info through some inside channels that Cooper reportedly won a “try again next time” from the tickets. 
Grade: B

The Selfie Tweeted ‘Round the World
When Ellen says she’s going to take the most retweeted selfie ever, she’s not joking around. The host enlisted Merryl Streep to take a selfie with her, which led to pretty much every actor in Hollywood crowding around a single phone to get into the shot. After some awkward jostling, and negotiating on who should actually take the picture (Bradley Cooper had the longest arms) the pic was finally taken and shared with the Internet, where it quickly broke Twitter. It was Streep’s first tweet, and it dismantled an entire social network. The woman does have 18 Academy Award nominations, so I guess we should have expected her to be the best tweeter ever. #Streeptweet
Grade: A-

Everything Else
Ellen was never away from the screen for too long during the show, constantly popping up for a quick joke or two in between the awards and the near infinite amount of montages. She offered some quick riffs about her slew of outfits, bantered with bemused celebrities, and filled her time on screen with various non sequiturs that received good chuckles over just how cute yet slightly bizarre they all were. Some of them had us scratching our heads (exactly why was she holding a guitar while introducing Kate Hudson and Jason Sudeikis?) but on the whole, most of them worked wonders.

Ellen hosted a fun and slightly off-kilter yet stripped down Oscars telecast that lacked the theatrics. She was consistent bright spot in an awards ceremony that went on a bit too long for comfort. Ellen had an easy confidence about the whole ordeal, and the bits didn’t feel too forced or too self involved. Best of all, she made the awards fun for the celebrities in the audience, and actually made them relatable to those of us watching at home. Who can resist the allure of a selfie or a greasy slice of pizza? Not you or me, and certainly not Brad Pitt or Kevin Spacey. It wasn’t outrageous like say, Seth McFarlane’s gig last year, but it was certainly classic Ellen.
Grade: B+