Well, in some ways it's both. The Oscars aren't exactly the "one billion people are watching!" extravaganza of eyeballs they used to be, at least not in this country. Ratings for the telecast have sunk to precipitous lows in recent years, and all of the glitz and tomfoolery is increasingly being dismissed as cheesy indulgence by irony-fattened 21st century mindsets. But of course there is still the rabid faction of fans who lap up everything Academy Awards, mainly gays and the ladies who love them. So why not, ABC might have figured when hiring Hugh Jackman to host and Dreamgirls director Bill Condon as the man behind the scenes, just go for the gusto and gay the thing up. Support and satisfy the base and let the rest fall away like so much else in these belt-tightening times. The Oscars will be the Tonys, only slightly relevant!
So that might be part of the reason why Queen Latifah did her best Big, Black Broadway Lady and Hugh got some help from Beyoncé and the fagtastic Zac Efron to declare the musical alive and kicking, while the Swarovski bejeweled curtain thing hovered overhead like a murder of gay angels. But also, maybe (hopefully), the show just seems gayer these days because Hollywood has actually been pretty gay all along, it's just only recently that folks can be out loud n' proud about it. Sure Milk didn't win all the awards it should have, but that pretty pretty princess who wrote the script got to have his pretty pretty day on stage and say heartfelt, pretty pretty things about Why Gays Are Good. And the Academy voters forsook the opportunity to reward Mickey Rourke with a "we're friends again, k?" comeback award, which is their favorite thing to do ever, and instead gave it to the loudly political and difficult Sean Penn for playing a big loud homo. Hollywood is maybe, finally, thawing from the long, cold anti-gay nuclear winter that it self-defeatingly put itself in all those years ago when movies started being made.
Of course Milk's victories could be chalked up to a fitful, hand-wringing apology for Prop 8 and the sour Brokeback Mountain defeat of yesteryear. But still, it's progress. It's now actually a bad thing to be mean to gay people for being gay! Now if we could only start bestowing prizes upon movies and performances that highlight gay folks who aren't dying of AIDS or gunshots or like living in a concentration camp or something, we'll really be nearing the end of the woods. But that wouldn't be very Oscars, I suppose.
And as for Hugh and the singing and the dancing, well it's fun. But it didn't feel quite right. Not yet at least. Maybe let's try it again next year, work out the kinks. Maybe then everyone will feel OK about the fact that Hollywood and the Academy Awards were never really the rough and tumble stuff of faux-masculine cinema everyone pretended they were, at least not an inch below the surface. Down there lurked the costume designers and the set decorators and the writers and the fretful, closeted actors and every other fabulous fairy who helped cobble these pictures together. That those hardworking souls are finally getting the silly glitzy show they deserve is only fair. I just wish Cary Grant were around to enjoy it.