Liked: more time spent on all nominees, Hugh, Beyonce, shorter running time overall.
Full note: This year I taped the Oscars while I worked (in Australia they start Mondays at lunchtime), and I still haven't totally finished watching the whole show, so this is just a note to say I liked the innovations.
(1) I liked the way they tried to move thematically through the creation of a movie, from writing through art direction etc. etc.. The first time a presenter used the formula, "Writers don't ... they write movies," I thought it was bombastic and arrogant, because movies are such a collaborative effort, but then when they said it for every role ("Art directors don't ... they [something] movies!") it really started to work for me. There probably would have been an even cleaner way to express it but the fun part was that collaboration was recognised: everyone in the process makes movies. Yes that's me, staying in the theatre until the last credits roll, looking at all the names and honouring absolutely everybody. [If you don't know me, collaboration is my passion and all my peer-reviewed publications are about it; as Elin Whitney-Smith and/or Christoph Berendes taught me, content is just a crutch for people who can't handle process. Back to the Oscars...]
(2) I liked the more extended tributes to each of the acting nominees, so that each of them had some on camera time to look happy (or abashed) rather than just having to look professional while not winning, plus it was great to see the past winners. I was watching with a fifteen year old who has just discovered the hotness of the young Marlon Brando, and who was therefore very moved by seeing Eva Marie Saint in person. (Yes as a feminist I'd like her to appreciate Saint's own acting, but that day will come. Or not. But nothing I can do about it today.) Anyway, that stuff totally worked for me.
(3) And in the same vein ("tributes to ALL nominees") it was great to see the interviews with the documentary makers. I want to follow Bill Maher's advice and see ALL those movies. I actually got to see "Man on the Wire" several times on Qantas (during my back-forth holidays): good film, and Phillipe Petit is a fascinating character. The bit that stuck in my mind was that the first thing Phillipe did when the police released him (after the tower walk) was have sex with a woman who came up to him in the street, as a celebration of still being alive, even though his then partner (girlfriend) was elsewhere in the city waiting for him. I'm not placing myself in judgment about any aspect of his life, just saying that a guy who would do that would obviously come up on stage regardless of Academy procedure.
(4) In the spirit of Schadenfreude I enjoyed the blooper (before the montage of previous Actress in a Supporting Roles) where the curtain didn't open right away and we heard someone on the tech crew apostrophising "Steve" to do something about it.
(5) And now my status as an honorary Aussie may be affecting my opinion, but I was thrilled with Hugh Jackman's performance generally. He didn't try to be too much of a comedian, and in the opening number he got a bit out of breath (although a civilian like myself wouldn't have been able to do that amount of physicality without dropping from a heart attack, so likely I'm being churlish) and then had to adjust his shirt afterwards (ok now I'm admonishing him as if I was his mum), but I am thrilled that the world got to see that the man most of you know as Wolverine (or else "the guy with the limp in The Prestige" or "the guy who was in that weird movie with Meg Ryan") can also sing and dance. Not news to anyone who saw him as Peter Allen on Broadway. I guess I would have wanted Hugh to seem more relaxed, especially right after the opener to take a deeper breath and savour the moment, but that's one of the Aussie paradoxes: amazing beaches and abundant natural beauty/talent, but also a lot of "getting on with things and not hanging about". Here people who seem stuck up (no matter how famous they are) or as the Aussies say, "up themselves", are criticised for it, unless they're famous for a sporting reason. But that's another essay.
(6) Forgot to mention, re the "musical" production number: women with thighs!! Beyonce was amazing - didn't Zac's hair look STRANGE? (Yes that's the guilty pleasure of the Oscars, the gossiping.)