Oscars, I Can’t Quit You

Oscar-2013Another year, another Oscars show. (Did you notice we’re not calling it “The Academy Awards” anymore?  I think probably because some focus group told them it made the show sound like it’s for old people.)

Yay for Argo—I watched the movie for the first time just before the Oscars aired and LOVED it. Of course, this made me even madder that Ben Affleck was snubbed in the directing category. I was also thrilled to see Jennifer Lawrence win, even though I am no fan of The Silver Linings Playbook.

But, boy, did we all have to slog through a lot of tedious crap to get to most of the good stuff.

Clearly, the choice of Seth MacFarlane as host was yet another attempt to capture a younger demographic. But as with other hosts culled from the supposedly cooler strata of pop culture—i.e, Dave Letterman, Jon Stewart, Anne Hathaway and James Franco (?), the show has a way of sucking the coolness right out of them.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon, really.

I enjoy MacFarlane a great deal in other contexts. But in the context of the Oscars, he deflated. I’m not even going to get into the supposed offensiveness of the jokes he told, because, come on, you had to know going in that those were the kind of jokes he was going to tell. But funny or not, offensive or not, many of them just kind of . . . died. The opening did have its moments—I loved the sock puppets—but mostly the jokes were sort of meh.

I think context is the key. When you stick a youngish, edgy host in the middle of an old, stodgy format that had hair growing on it back in the 1960s, it’s not going to do much besides emphasize the weaknesses of both the host and the format.

I stayed and watched to the bitter end, as hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide did.

That’s the real problem with the Oscars. Though they lust after younger demos, they know they have a ginormous audience that will sit through every tedious monologue, every absurd dance number, every lame bantering joke by presenters, every boring speech by technicians nobody ever heard of. (They did try to curtail this by playing the theme from Jaws whenever anyone went over time—which seemed a tad boorish, putting the audience on the side of the boring speechmakers for a change.)

We keep watching because we want to know who won. (Admit it, we also want to be there in case someone falls down on the way to the podium. This happened this year to Jennifer Lawrence, who recovered from her stumble with remarkable grace and humor.) So they know we just can’t quit the Oscars. This gives them absolutely no incentive to fundamentally change.

Let’s say they were open to change. Let’s say they might ask me for advice. (Stop laughing.) Here are a few thoughts on how they could vastly improve the Oscars telecast:

1.  Broadcast it from New York City. I know what you’re thinking: how could Hollywood have their biggest night of the year anywhere but Hollywood? But there’s a method to my madness. I guarantee you a big reason why the show rambles on for close to four hours every year is because they’re on West Coast time. This means they get out of there at 9:30 PM, which is still kind of early to start the partying. While those of us on the East Coast have to limp into bed at 12:30 AM or later with our alarm clocks set for 5:30 AM to get to work the next day.

It doesn’t have to be from New York. Anywhere on the East Coast would work. I’ll bet anything they would find a way to get out of there in less than three hours so they would have enough time to hit all the after-parties.

2. GET RID OF THE FRICKIN’ SONG AND DANCE NUMBERS! Yes, I AGREE—the performances this year by Shirley Bassey, Jennifer Hudson, the casts of Chicago and Les Miserables, Barbra Streisand and Adele were all phenomenal. But they were a big reason the show went on and on and on . . . this isn’t the Grammys or the Tonys. (Both of those shows still manage to move faster than the Oscars.)  Worse, because they spent so much time with OTHER musical numbers, two of the nominated songs didn’t get a live performance.

Did you notice they cut the Honorary Oscars segment? And yet the show still ran way too long. It’s the song and dance numbers that are to blame. And also . . .

3. GET RID OF THE FRICKIN’ TRIBUTE VIDEOS . . . except for the in memoriam tribute.  Besides the memorial for those who died over the past year the tributes generally stink. The tribute to James Bond movies was a case in point, except for the aforementioned performance by Bassey. Not ONE line of dialogue? Really?

I love classic movies and can understand wanting to give a young audience some exposure to them. But the tributes take up a lot of time and they are almost always poorly done. Get rid of them.

4. Move some of the smaller awards to a different ceremony. I know the sound technicians and filmmakers of short films will hate me for saying this, but besides their family members and those who have entered an Oscar pool, no one cares. These are the people who are also most likely to go over time giving thank you speeches to everyone they ever met, starting with the doctor who delivered them.

5. The fewer presenters per award, the better. Having more presenters means more asinine banter. The Avengers and the Chicago cast were a bit painful to watch. I get that they have to cram in as many stars as they can over the evening, but keep it down to two per award. One is even better.

(BTW, isn’t Scarlett Johansson one of the Avengers? Please tell me she was left out because she was engaged elsewhere, and not because she’s, um, a girl.)

6. Hollywood, make more great movies that appeal to wider audiences. You can do it, Hollywood. You used to on a regular basis. Remember, Star Wars, Jaws, and Raiders of the Lost Ark all were nominated for Best Picture. Even with nine Best Picture nominations, many people under the age of 50 hadn’t seen most of them—some hadn’t even see any of them. Popular movies with major nominations mean a bigger and younger viewing audience.

7. Seriously, make better movies.

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