Five ways to fix the Oscars
The Academy Awards are considered the gold standard of award shows. Yet as Sunday night approaches, I'm finding more and more people hate-watch the Oscars. Critics, cinephiles and even just casual fans looking for something to talk about the next day are increasingly tuning in to the Oscars, waiting to be disappointed, bored or enraged.
Now, some of this can't be solved. The movie you want to win Best Picture won't always be the winner, and there will always be snubs. But there are a few ways in which the Academy could revamp the show, and the voting process, in order to make the Oscars the must-see cultural event it wishes it still was.
More clips, less montages
If you watched the Grammys a few weekends back, you'll notice that the awards themselves were almost secondary to the dozens of star-studded performances. The Tonys do the same thing, giving a taste of the outstanding Broadway shows to audiences who perhaps don't live in New York City or may not have the time or the money to invest in a Broadway-quality production.
The Academy Awards obviously don't have this reservoir of live talent and content to throw on stage. To make up for this fact, the Oscars incorporate a yawn-inducing amount of strange, self-promoting montages. I understand that's a part of the show's goal, and sometimes they are somewhat effective, but it's impossible to watch them without feeling like the show is stalling. Remember last year when they had those montages about the importance of going to the movies, an attempt to get people back to theatre only slightly less desperate than 3-D?
While these montages have stayed a dull constant, the clips introducing the nominees have been ruthlessly trimmed for the sake of the running time. That's a shame because they give audiences who have, or haven't, seen the films a chance to see the nominated works.
I remember watching the 2001 awards and seeing a clip of Ellen Burstyn from "Requiem for a Dream" that seemed so powerful that I had to eventually seek the film out – a fairly small film at the time.
Showing audiences the power of film is significantly more effective than telling. You'd think an awards show for film would've gotten that note.
Bring back Hugh Jackman
Every year, there's one complaint that comes out immediately after the show ends: The host sucked.
They've tried everything. They've tried comedians, but they always seem too toned down or just generally out of place with the usually humorless live Oscar audience (and no, I'm not optimistic about Seth MacFarlane). They tried hip, young actors, but that flopped – especially most recently when they tried it out with a seemingly stoned James Franco and the walking eye-roll inducer Anne Hathaway. The only thing they haven't tried is cloning Bob Hope, but you know they would if they could – heck, they brought out a hologram Bob Hope in 2011.
You know who was a really fun host, though? Hugh Jackman. The guy is absurdly charming, able to catch almost every demographic and he's a natural performer for a show that needs good performances. When he hosted in 2009, his stage charisma made the usually painful musical vignettes quite amusing.
I say give him a call next year, and if he turns it down or his schedule doesn't work, call Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
Expand the Academy
There are 5,765 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so the idea of expanding that number sure seems a little absurd. The problem right now isn't who is voting for the Oscars; it's who isn't. Last year, the Los Angeles Times uncovered that almost 94 percent of the Academy is white, over 75 percent is male and its median age is 62.
So when you find yourself asking how "The King's Speech" beat "The Social Network" (which I do almost every night), that's a pretty big reason.
I'm not arguing that everybody should get a vote – otherwise, it would become a People's Choice Awards-esque folly – but there should be a greater diversity of people in the Academy, who are of equal merit but may have different mindsets, life experiences and outlooks on cinema. It should certainly reflect the changing landscape of film – which would then, in part, reflect the changing landscape of the entire nation.
Also, it seems rather silly that not a single critic – nationally recognized barometers of taste and quality – has a vote in the Academy (yes, I am massively biased). I know it's the industry's award, and their relationship with critics is often … testy, but Roger Ebert has more film knowledge in his ear hairs than most human beings will ever have. To leave Ebert and others out of the discussion about the best films of the year seems to be a large oversight.
Add genre categories
It's no secret that the Academy is no friend to comedies, horror, science fiction or action movies. They are seen as lesser genres nowadays. It wasn't always that way. "The Exorcist," "Star Wars" and "Jaws" all were nominated for Best Picture. Yes, you can say "District 9" got nominated back in 2009, but there's no chance its producers felt they had a chance winning that year. There were also 10 nominations that year; if it was at the typical five, it would have been left out without a doubt.
If the Academy continues to think of these "slight" genre films as unworthy, then I say add some genre categories. To ignore the hard work that goes into making a great punch line work or a perfectly choreographed action scene seems like a major injustice.
Move the other awards to after the Oscars
When was the last time there was actually drama going into Oscar night about who was going to win? The last time I remember an Oscar night when the winner of the big prize was up in the air was 2005 with "Crash" surprisingly winning over "Brokeback Mountain."
This year seemed to be gearing up for a fairly tense night, but now it seems very obvious that "Argo" is winning Best Picture. And since I already seem to know how this three-hour parade of glamour is going to end, what is the point of watching?
With the advent of social media and the Internet, it certainly is much easier to foresee the winner considering the amount of information now about the nominees and predictions floating around. The big problem, though, is the awards that come beforehand – the DGAs, the WGAs, and the SAG awards. Based on those winners, the Oscars become ridiculously easy to predict, with maybe a surprise here or there to almost raise your pulse. Almost.
I say move these awards to the following weekend. That way the Academy Awards, seemingly the apex of the award season, wouldn't always feel like a predictable anti-climax.
Then again, I watch the Oscars every year so maybe they're doing everything right.
Nice article! Love when comedians host: Johnny Carson was hilarious, Whoopi always did a great job, and I like Billy Crystal too. I agree that the clips they show should be longer. There was a time when I would make a list of all the movies I wanted to see; if a short clip intrigued me enough to want to see the whole movie then it had to be good. I like the build-up and hype of the awards season - all leading up to Oscar night. If they did the Oscars first, no one would watch the other awards shows because what would be the point?
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