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365 Days of Oscar: Don’t Blame Al Pacino!

It could have been so nice, having Al Pacino present Best Picture this year.

Rather than listing all 10 nominees while presenting the best picture Oscar, or offering a conventional “And the Oscar goes to,” Pacino simply said “Here it comes” before slowly opening the envelope.

“And my eyes see ‘Oppenheimer,’” Pacino said next, to tepid applause from an audience that seemed unsure whether that statement was the most important proclamation of the night.

“Yes, yes,” Pacino, 83, said of the movie that was considered the favorite to win best picture and finished with a night-best seven awards.

At that point, on came the music, and cheers rose from the crowd. The camera cut to Christopher Nolan, the film’s director, and Emma Thomas, one of its producers, as they stood up and made their way to the stage.

“I just want to be clear it was not my intention to omit them, rather a choice by the producers not to have them said again since they were highlighted individually throughout the ceremony,” Pacino said in the statement. “I was honored to be a part of the evening and chose to follow the way they wished for this award to be presented.”

Pacino has presented the big prize once before – 29 years ago, when he and Robert De Niro (nominated this year) presented Best Picture in advance of the 1995 release of Heat. It should be noted – because if you’re me, this type of thing should always be mentioned – that he was to be paired with Michelle Pfeiffer this year, but she backed out of the ceremony at the last minute, citing a family emergency. Had he had a co-presenter, Pacino’s eccentricities might have avoided anti-climax.

But the real problem is that the producers opted not to have presenters read the names of the nominated films and producers, since clips were shown earlier (they did the same in Best Song, meaning the nominated lyricists and musicians’ names were never mentioned during the telecast). You need the buildup: say their names, have the drumroll from the orchestra – it’s showbiz! They failed him, and the nominees.

So no, don’t blame Al Pacino.

This article is part of a special year-long series of anecdotes, reflections and thoughts about the Academy Awards.