Monday, March 8, 2010
How to Fix the Oscars
It's amazing, really. In Hollywood, you have the best and brightest in the world of entertainment, but there's apparently nobody who can figure out how to put together an awards show.
OK, I'll go beyond amazing. How about mind-boggling?
I really gave this year's edition of the Academy Awards a chance. Even though, admittedly, I had only seen one of the nominees for Best Picture -- Inglorious Basterds, which I loved -- I was still looking forward to the show, especially when it was announced that Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin -- both always hysterical -- would be co-hosting.
For the first 15 minutes, it looked like we had a winner (though I could have done without Doogie Howser's dance number). Martin and Baldwin were spot-on in their mini-roast of luminaries throughout the audience, with predictable humorless reactions from many of their targets, most notably the stone-faced George Clooney, who looked like he was fighting a bout with food poisoning.
On that note, the Oscars would be so much more entertaining if Hollywood didn't take itself so damn seriously. It seemed like Martin and Baldwin were the only ones having fun -- until they inexplicably disappeared from the set for what seemed like an hour, giving way to a parade of presenters, many of whom I've barely or never heard of (and what, exactly, was Miley Cyrus doing there?), trudging out to hand out awards for best animated short film and best documentary short.
And by the way, can anyone tell me where I can even see the best animated short film or best documentary short? I never see any of them featured at the multiplex, and you sure as hell can't get them from Netflix, Blockbuster or On Demand. Has anyone seen them? Or are they just produced to send to members of the Academy at voting time?
True, there was the tribute to John Hughes, another to horror flicks and the annual recognition of those who've passed this year -- with a poignant performance of the Beatles' "In My Life," by James Taylor -- but this show seemed to lack the personality of years past. There was little to no reference of the history of cinema, no vignettes of famous scenes or actors and almost no historical perspective. It was almost as if Hollywood's time frame began in 2009. The good news was, there were no painful performances of each entry of the "Best Songs" category, usually a "see-what's-in-the-fridge" moment.
I guess the takeaways were that I do need to see "The Hurt Locker" and "Precious," probably a good thing. But the bottom line was, the show was just too damn boring. I have to admit I didn't even make it to the Best Director, Actor or Film categories, and spent a fair portion of the evening switching between The Oscars and "Saving Private Ryan," airing at the same time on TNT, thankfully with "limited commercial interruption."
Quick digression -- for me, "SPR" is one of those movies, like "The Godfather Part II," that once you see it's on, you have to watch it (even though Godfather II is on seemingly every other week). I still think "SPR" should have won Best Picture in 1998 instead of the vastly-inferior "Shakespeare in Love," but that's another story for another tine.
The big quandary last night was -- did I want to watch Private Mellish being stabbed to death for the 30th time or see who won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay? Hmm. This year, the Oscar show was clearly FUBAR.
The Oscars are Hollywood's biggest night, but it can be a hell of a lot more entertaining for the audience. My wife came up with a proposal to make the night more Oscar-worthy, and I think it's a pretty good one -- show the Red Carpet ceremony from, say, 6 to 6:30. Then take a national break till about 8 or 8:30 for either local programming or perhaps airing the Best Picture from the previous year. During that time, behind closed doors, the Kodak Theatre can host the part of the awards that most of us don't care about, like Costume Design and Editing. Then, from 8:30 to 11, air a tight, entertaining show that focuses on the major awards (Film, Producer, Director, Actor and Actress, Supporting Actor and Actress), show more lengthy clips of the nominees and delve more into Oscars history.
I'll bet right now that more time to devote to the awards that most of the audience cares about would add up to a better, must-see show.
Now THAT would be entertainment.