Apart from host Chris Rock and the message he drove home, the Oscarcast was a humdrum affair.

A rare comic respite was a Black History Moment paying tribute to a multifaceted artist who, in the words of Angela Bassett, has "shattered barriers" in filmmaking: Jack (very white) Black.

A full-throated performance by Lady Gaga of Til It Happens to You, an Oscar-nominated song addressing sexual assault (and introduced by Vice President Joe Biden) rocked the rafters.

But mostly when Rock was absent, languor prevailed.

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Host Chris Rock was arguably the best part about this year's Oscars ceremony. Photo / Getty
Host Chris Rock was arguably the best part about this year's Oscars ceremony. Photo / Getty

Of no help was a restructuring of the categories that was meant to track the actual process of filmmaking, starting with best screenplay.

But this only served to backload, even more than usual, the major awards.

With all respect to costume design, editing and visual effects, they are not why the audience watches the Oscars.

After the monologue, viewers might well have skipped the next two hours and missed little.

One other beef: The attempt to banish the names of those thanked by winners to a text crawl at the bottom of the screen. If viewers wanted to watch a channel with annoying and distracting text at the bottom of the screen, they'd just tune to a cable-news channel.

This was Rock's second turn at hosting the Oscarcast. When he was named in 2005, it was seen as a bold step by the Academy to shake off the broadcast's accumulated cobwebs.

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Suspense greeted him that night to see what this irrepressible comedian might say or do. He nailed it, presiding with saucy finesse. Strangely, he wasn't invited back for 11 years.

This go-around, Rock wasn't brought aboard to inject controversy. Instead, controversy was foisted upon him by the industry and Academy voters. He dealt with it gleefully.

How soon will he invited back for a third time? How soon will Hollywood take action on his shrewd observations? The Oscarcast left viewers with those movie cliffhangers.

- AP