Tuesday, March 01, 2011

My final Oscar thoughts (for this year)


The Motion Picture Academy has got to figure out what it wants. Trying to straddle the line between stature and hip isn’t working. The end result is that is the show is COP ROCK. You can’t have it both ways.

You can’t have Justin Timberlake make “Banksy” jokes one minute and cart out Kirk Douglas the next. You can’t do a tribute to Lena Horne and let Gwyneth Paltrow anywhere near an orchestra.

As long as they maintain essentially the same format they will remain as uncool as Members Only jackets. That's just a fact.  It makes no difference who they get to host. And boy they’ve tried everybody. Ellen DeGeneres. Whoopi Goldberg, for godsakes! Three times! Even Wile E. Coyote stopped using the Acme rocket launcher after it blew up in his face twice.

This year the plan was to just let two hot young movie stars host. They didn’t have to be funny. They didn’t have to dance. Considering James Franco, they didn’t even have to be awake. But even if I was 20 and the world’s biggest Anne Hathaway fan, why would I think it was a big deal to see her host a stodgy awards show when I can rent a movie and see her naked for a half hour?

As last night's ratings and reviews revealed, the audience does want them to be funny and entertaining (who knew?). Eight costume changes and a couple of joints aren’t enough. Also, and this is where they both struggled, the audience wants to feel that the hosts are in command. They can move things along, they can ad lib if they have to, they can handle unforeseen situations (and those happen on live TV… or at least you hope). Anne and James were two first-time skydivers pushed out of planes. Not their fault. They’d never done it before.


So the Academy has to make a commitment. If they really want to capture the young audience then just turn the Oscars into the MTV Awards. Have Howard Stern fly in as Fartman. Cut to a shot of Helena Bonham Carter in the audience and super the words: Lady Gaga. Bag the editing, costume design, and sound awards. Do those at a dinner hosted by the guy who played McLovin’. Keep any category that NYU students can win. Show classic movie montages that only go back to 1997. Give the lifetime achievement award to Marisa Tomei. Have Justin Bieber host. No orchestra. Hire a D.J. If you want to use Anne Hathaway, fine. Just have her dry hump Amy Winehouse. Hold the ceremony at the House of Blues or the Skybar.

And if you don’t want to do that, then go the other direction. Make the show as elegant and glamorous as you can. Hire pros like Alec Baldwin or Steve Martin to host. Celebrate great stars from the past like Kirk Douglas because they are national treasures that soon will be gone. Have security stop Russell Brand at the door. Embrace your history and tradition and don’t run from it. Discontinue the silly practice of having ten Best Picture nominees. It’s schmuck bait and everyone knows it. Return dignity and class to the ceremony. And who knows? Maybe someday dignity and class will be considered cool. And when that day comes, you don't want to be stuck with Chelsea Handler hosting. 

65 comments:

Anna said...

Hear, hear! Well said!

John Leader said...

Let's try Kevin Spacey as host.

Max Clarke said...

Yes!

John Leader is right, Kevin Spacey can do it all. He's quick on his feet and light on his feet, and he can do impressions of anybody nominated for an Oscar.

Johnny Walker said...

Haha. Brilliant. I'd add that whatever route you decide to take, don't just have your presenters come on and recite history text books. (I.e. No more, "In 1938 this award was first given to blah blah blah..." I'm a huge film geek, but even I found it dry.)

Blaze said...

You missed a third option: quit putting it on TV altogether.

Years ago I realized the entertainment return was way too low to suffer thru three plus hours of Oscar Night. I tossed it out of my life.

From articles and blogs and whatnot, there seems to be an increasing number of people complaining every year.

So, I say they should go back to the grand old days when it was a private, swank banquet and the results were published the next day. A few years away might restore some interest, or at least allow some time to create a format worth having.

But, of course, all this vocal bitching and moaning could be a loud minority. I have no idea if the ratings and cash flow support abandoning the public spectacle.

If it stays on the air, I definitely vote for the "Class Act" approach. Let the punks and dweebs get an idea of how to play grown-up once in a while.

Johnny Walker said...

Also, if you're going to dig up Bob Hope and prostitute his memory, at least find an impersonator that sounds remotely like him.

Hollywoodaholic said...

So true.

Doesn't the Oscars show now seem like a metaphor for where the country is stuck - between longing for some dignified past and desperately grasping at straws (sucking on possible revenue streams) for the future.

Michael said...

I think Anne Hathaway has a grace and beauty that age and experience will only amplify. I'd let her do it again next year.

Her co-host, though....I'm thinking Robert Downey, Jr. Fearless, funny...but no longer likely to be under the influence. And, between his life story and Iron Man, well-known to viewers of all ages.

And, if the show starts to falter, he can always trot out the line from the first Iron Man movie:

"Let's face it. This is NOT the worst thing you've ever seen me do."

Doktor Frank Doe said...

I didn't even watch it. It's pretty much like everything else that comes from the Corporate Media Controlled FEW. Nothing but idiots running amok. In fact, I'm getting most of my TV shows from other sources rather than TV as it's now mostly nothing more than scraps of crap weaved into commercials.

Mike McCann said...

John,

You nailed it re Spacey. He came off with such smooth confidence and "presence," it reminded you of the years when Hope and Carson emceed.

While often Spacey is channeling another famous figure, channeling the MC skills of Hope and Carson is a major leap forward compared to a self-conscious and out-of-his-league James Franco.

Jay said...

If they want a boy/girl team to host how bout Sandra Bullock and Robert Downey Jr? They're both hilarious.

Mostly the Oscars need to just be who they are. It's a show that celebrates Hollywood and needs to go back to doing just that.

And bring back the Hollywood greats instead of going for people who are currently hot or popular.

Phillip B said...

1998 was the last broadcast of the Oscars I really enjoyed - Billy Crystal hosted and and they brought back as many of the former winners as they could. Shirley Temple was visibly stunned at how warmly she was welcomed. Fay Wray made a scary and unexpected speech from the audience.

Jimmy Stewart and Chris Farley wound up in the same "In Memoriam." And James Cameron confirmed his lack of charm with two Titanic acceptance speeches.

This is an industry's Hall of Fame, with a new crop of inductees every year. Sure it is no longer 1939, but without that context the current work may not seem that special....

AlaskaRay said...

Ken Levine said, "Anne and James were two first-time skydivers pushed out of planes. Not their fault. They’d never done it before."

Nice try, Ken. But no matter how many nice things you say about her, she's still not gonna come over to your house and wash your car in a bikini.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Kevin Spacey would be great. Drawback: Is he perceived as famous enough to be a draw? Solution: Attention grabbing Facebook campaign.

Or: Just get Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts to co-host. Who the hell doesn't love those two? Sandra Bullock would also be great. Robert Downey Jr. would add an element of danger.

One time saver: Stop introducing people who are going to come out just to introduce other people. Another time saver: don't let hitters step out of the batter's box. Oh, wait . . .

Anonymous said...

As long as you brought up Marisa Tomei, did anyone else notice that she's the latest actress who no longer resembles herself? The face has definitely changed!

Anonymous said...

Great ideas, and throw in nominating and awarding movies that people actually watch.
That was the whole point of the jump to 10, but really they need to do that with the 5.

Forrest Gump Four Weddings and a Funeral Pulp Fiction Quiz Show The Shawshank Redemption

Michael Zand said...

The problem of the Oscars is what plagues all award shows. The winners come up and recite a laundry list of thank yous, making sure not to forget their agents and their wives (in that order) However, unlike the Grammys, the MTV Awards and even the Tonys where the contestants are performers, the Oscar contestants are people who mostly don't , can't (or in Gwyneth Paltrow's case SHOULDN'T EVER)perform live. In the old days it was enough to see the stars all dressed up in a different setting. Today with the glut of entertainment shows, magazines and internet sites there’s nothing special about seeing movie stars live. The Oscars are a relic of bygone era that can’t overcome its own DNA of being just another boring awards show.

Anonymous said...

Craig Ferguson would be the ideal Oscar host. He can be light on his feet, and can insult people in a way that doesn't seem cruel ala Ricky Gervais.

Cap'n Bob said...

I may be a minority of one, but I thought Paltrow did a good job.

LAprGuy said...

The show needs a host that's "bigger" than the awards show itself -- Carson, Hope filled that role well, and Billy Crystal to a lesser extent. The show should go back to a perennial host a la these three. Having (talented) lightweights serve as hosts for a global television event just doesn't cut it.

Kevin Spacey is an inspired choice and would be very good, but the likes of Tom Hanks (see his SNL hosting duties) and Steve Martin would be preferable.

Frankly, Bob Costas would make a good host -- hours of live television experience, good off-the-cuff humor.

Jonathan said...

I thought Hathaway (stunning) and Franco (simply stunned) were horrible hosts. The show needs real entertainers.

Spacey is great song and dance man, but isn't right. As someone said, he isn't big enough.

Tom Hanks is a good idea, but at the same time from when I've seen him on talk shows in the last couple of years, he's lost his funny edge, he tries too hard. Same goes for Julia Roberts. It's like she's above being entertaining these days.

I wish that more people could embrace John Stewart or David Letterman, but they're not for everyone apparently (I love them).

What about Will Ferrell? No one has thrown his name out there? I think he could be fantastic if they would really let him be himself (or let him be a lot of characters, as the case may be).

If no one wants Will, then I say go back to Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, either together or alone. They're funny, people love them, and they actually know how to get on stage and preform.

jbryant said...

Johnny Walker, what are you drinking? :) I thought the transition from Bob Hope's real voice to the one newly-recorded line was fairly seamless. The ambiance wasn't dead on, but the impersonation (which was apparently either Paul Feig or Dave Thomas or both) was pretty solid to my ears.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to sound like a prick, disrespecting the astounding work of the craftsmen who toil behind the scenes to really make movies happen.

But I always wondered why "sound effects mixing" and "sound effects editing" were part of the main show and not the "Technical" awards (or whatever it's called.)

The fact that those two awards still get the prime time treatment while, this time around, the Thalberg Award and other lifetime achievement honors were relegated to a non-speaking walk-on seems like a bizarre choice of priorities.

-Garrett

xjill said...

AMEN! I've always wondered why they don't make the show more about celebrating movies (not celebrating the Oscars, celebrating MOVIES).

I loved the bit where they asked "people on the street" their favorite movie song. Explain the difference between sound editing and sound mixing, ask the nominees why they like their jobs, show what a set decorator does, etc. And bring back the bit where someone who knows the main acting nominees gives them the "you rock" intro.

Dave Gute said...

I agree wholeheartedly. They need to return the wonder and awe to the ceremony. Celebrate the past, present and future of Hollywood without catering to the lowest denominator.

And yes, they HAVE to get rid of the 10 best pic nominations. It was just an awful experiment. That award (and its nominations) are MEANT to be exclusive!

And can we please, for the love of God, fire Bruce Villanche as the writer? He has long since forgotten to write a eloquent and/or funny show. Just move on already, academy.

Please.

Anonymous said...

Bring back Chris ROck to host.

thevidiot said...

I hear Charlie Sheen will host it for $5 million.

D. McEwan said...

"Blaze said...
You missed a third option: quit putting it on TV altogether."


Except that's not an option. The Oscar telecast is how the Academy makes its money. And did you miss that they signed a contract to be on ABC every year for another decade, which they considered earthshaking enough to announce on the show? Because big contracts is what Hollywood is really all about: The Deal. They're now contractually obligated to keep broadcasting it. No, they need to go with the do-a-better-show option.

"Michael said...
I think Anne Hathaway has a grace and beauty that age and experience will only amplify. I'd let her do it again next year."


Then I hope you don't produce next year's fiasco, I mean Oscar show.

"Charles H. Bryan said...
Or: Just get Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts to co-host. Who the hell doesn't love those two?"


Me. Oh I like Tom just fine, but I can not bear Julia Roberts. I avoid her films like they were plague rats.

But your advice not to bring people just to introduce other people is well-taken. What a time waster that is.

"Anonymous said...
Great ideas, and throw in nominating and awarding movies that people actually watch."


It's supposed to honor quality, not box office. The box office is its own reward. It's not supposed to be a popularlity contest. By your logic, Transformers would be a Best Picture winner.

"Anonymous said...
Craig Ferguson would be the ideal Oscar host."


Now that is an excellent suggestion!

"Cap'n Bob said...
I may be a minority of one, but I thought Paltrow did a good job."


You're not alone. Gwenyth agrees with you. No one else, but she and her family agree.

" xjill said...
show what a set decorator does,"


Does anyone really need that? Doesn't the title tell you? He decorates the set. One of the things I hate is their taking time to tell me what these jobs are. "Costume desgners create the clothes we wear in our films. The writer writes the movie." Puh-leaze, I'm not two. I know what they do.

But to all who suggested reducng the number of Best Picture nominees back to five, amen.

Rod said...

The opening this year struck me as a wannabe MTV Movie Awards show. Inserting the host(s) into the nominated movies use to be gold for the MTV Movie Awards (back in the 90s). But last night during the opening segment I got the distinctive feeling I was being given the setup to a joke that didn't have a punchline. The whole start felt like it was put together by a fifteen year old who just discovered all the editing tools in iMovie and was going through them one by one; "Now I'll cut and paste James and Anne into Inception. That's funny, right?"

I was pleasantly surprised a few years ago when Huge Jackman hosted, and I actually enjoyed the show. He's not a comedian, but he told a few jokes and they didn't seem outta place. He did a lot of singing an dancing and it was a good show. Make it a show, which is just another way of saying make it interesting to watch. As long as the host is a confident entertainer, it can be a great show and anyone can do it.

It just throws the whole show off when your host steps on stage, looks at the audience and says, "Oh boy, this is really happening." Because you made me say the same thing right back at you.

Johnny Walker said...

Jbryant... are you being serious? Wow, I thought the added moments sounded NOTHING like Hope. I would happily take a blind test :)

Emily Blake said...

I think we can all agree that Cat Deeley should host.

Johnny Walker said...

@Emily, I think not.

KJ said...

100% Agreed. Hathaway + Franco = Most awkward 4 hours of my life.

My vote for next host: Steve Carell.

Anonymous said...

119 comments over two days and not one mention of the highlight of the whole show: AMPAS President Tom Sherak and some woman from ABC taking the stage to announce a new longterm contract for the show to continue on ABC. It made the whole 3 hours worthwile.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Johnny Walker - the Hope segment was hurt by the awful dubbing. But to be fair, Hope's voice was notoriously difficult to imitate; that's why so few impressionists tried it.

Anthony Hoffman said...

Please Ken. Explain in a future post why Chelsea Handler is in our lives. Just...fucking...stunningly unfunny.

Johnny Walker said...

Anonymous is right, what was that pointless announcement from AMPAS President Tom Sherak and some ABC woman? Who cares??

Also, what was with Anne Hathaway's song? Another completely pointless moment. It seems like it was just a set-up in order to get James Franco out in a dress... Which opened the door to the one good joke on the whole night: "I just got a text message from Charlie Sheen".

cadavra said...

Option #4: Stop doing it as a TV show, and just make it an awards ceremony with TV cameras recording it. This is how it was done in the old days; I recently watched a kinescope of the 1955 ceremony and it was almost nothing like today's shows: it wasn't scripted (Hope came out with his monologue on paper, which he read, and then ad-libbed the rest of the show), half the winners said absolutely nothing (the remainder simply said, "Thank you all" or "Thank you very much" or "Thanks to my crew," etc.), the song nominees were simply sung by one person, and even with a hook-up to New York--where Thelma Ritter co-hosted--the whole shebang was over in barely 90 minutes (plus commercials, of course). Almost everyone acted like they weren't on TV, and they all behaved like adults. It was wonderful.

Matt Patton said...

A few random thoughts:

If there is going to be drag in the show, make sure the guy in the dress is an English comedian. For some reason, most of them have nice legs.

I didn't mind that James Franco was unimpressed by the Oscars (this was the first year I've watched them since 1992), but if you're going to, erm, relieve yourself all over the ceremony, at least be funny while you're doing it. Ricky Gervais would probably make room in his schedule.

Pia Zadora falling into a tuba. Please.

Ref said...

All right, I'm taking up the bat for expanding categories. It is not necessary to nominate ten "Best Pictures" nor is it necessary to limit it to five. If it's only five, does "Winter's Bone" get a nod? For indy films like that, the nomination is the award. Don't rule it out.

benson said...

It may be a dated concept, but why not have all the nominees come up on stage, and have them voted off one by one. Works for a few other shows.

I agree with those who say someone with presence is necessary. Craig Ferguson would be a fine choice. And as Ken said, actors should act, hosts should host. But please God, not Ryan Seacrest. But Brian Dunkelman....hmmmmm?

Don Rudolph said...

Hey Johnny Walker...get back in your bottle and shut up!!

te said...

Just a second...what movie do I have to rent so see Anne Hathaway naked for half an hour?

And,no, Catherine of Aragon or Anne of Cleaves won't do. Unless they're played by Helena Bonham-Carter.

wv: "braphyle": a Playtex aficionado.

Jake said...

DANA CARVEY would be the ideal host of the Oscars. First and foremost, if you're going to host the Oscars you need to be able to: sell any joke, sing a song, effortlessly ad-lib (when the situation calls for it) and possess enough "confidence" so that everyone knows you're hosting the show, and not just a part of it. Billy Crystal was the best Oscar host in the last 20 years because he could do all those things, and also because the Oscars was, to be honest, the only night of the year for Crystal to shine, and he made sure he gave the best performance he could every time (it's not the same if the host has a talk show or movies or other projects to express themselves with; it's not enough just to stop by and rehearse every other weekend).

Now, Carvey hasn't been doing much over the last decade or so due to heart problems; assuming he has medical clearance to give it his all one night a year, he's the perfect choice to make the show his own (hopefully more than just once or twice). If not him, STEPHEN COLBERT has the comedic and performing chops to host; he more or less is playing a character every night on his own show, and I believe he's talent enough to play the Oscars straight, without losing any quality in his performance. Whoever hosts, however, should sign a 4-year deal upfront; I believe the curiosity of how the host(s) will perform is more of a liability to ratings than a boon. If it's Carvey or Colbert or Ferrell or Hanks or Ferguson or Spacey (all good choices), the best thing for the Academy to do is pick ONE of them, and stick with him for at least a little while.

Anonymous said...

Once a year Hollywood gathers for group masturbation and we televise it! Unfortunately, this year, James Franco was a boner-killer.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

Love the Oscar reviews (as always), but I just checked in, kind of hoping to find you live-blogging the 20/20 Charlie Sheen interview.

Infauxtainer said...

Anyone remember when Dudley Moore was presenting and he was told by someone off camera and barely within earshot to "stretch" and Moore looked at us all and said "Stretch this!" Damn I miss him.

Mike Barer said...

My feelings exactly!

Cap'n Bob said...

Will Ferrell for host? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!

cshel said...

My vote for hosts would be:

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert
OR
Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock

I also think they should go back to only 5 Best Picture nominees, but with a special dispensation to add one or two more, for years when the choices truly warrant it.

Lairbo said...

Which movie is it where Ann Hathaway's naked for a half hour? I missed the oscars and I'm updating my Netflix queue...

Lou H. said...

Who does the writing? Sounds like the same group year after year, unless the host is a comedian, in which case maybe they're allowed to bring in their own team?

Charles H. Bryan said...

@Fans of Naked Anne Hathaway

LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS. I don't know if it's available for rental yet.

Anonymous said...

YES!!!

I always loved the honorary Oscars because you got to see the older stars or hear what the 'good' ones do outside of their jobs. I would have killed to see Eli Wallach get his.

I was appalled at how short the In Memoriam segment was. Where was Meinhart Raabe (the Munchkin Coroner) Tom Bosley, Barbara Billingsly, Kenneth Mars, JEAN SIMMONS, for God's sake? Just shameful.

Ditch sound, costume (although if done correctly it can be fun), and editing. Even ditch the documentaries. No one sees those things or, for the most part, cares anything about them.

Surely there is a comedian of that generation that isn't all fart/poop/fuck jokes. And as redundant as it may sound...its all about the writing, people. The jokes were lame and the transitions were awful most of the time.

Pam aka SisterZip

Anonymous said...

Tom Bosley and Barbara Billingsley were primarily television stars.

wv: earderve: a yummy wax flavored party treat.

thomas tucker said...

Wrong. Members Only jackets ARE cool. OR rather, anti-cool, which is the same thing.
Otherwise, agree with cadavra- great idea.

jbryant said...

Pam: Jean Simmons died last February, I believe, in time to make last year's In Memoriam cut.

Johnny: What can I tell ya? I just listened to the Bob Hope thing again online, and it still sounded like a respectable job to me.

Anonymous said...

With the advent of tape delay for f-bombs...why not Robin Williams? Humor and Academy Award winner in a complete package. Ratings would skyrocket, along with the censors blood pressure. Win-win I say.

sophomorecritic said...

Actually, I think the Oscars are a great night and even if the hosts bomb, it's still a very entertaining tv show.

Truth of the matter is the oscars aren't really broken.

rhys said...

I agree, they need to ditch all the asinine "skits" and other over the top "comedy" routines and just focus on presenting awards and honoring the starts. Have a different distinguished actor/actress host every year - but keep the hosting gig relatively dry and straightforward. They could turn the hosting gig into an honor instead of a stunt - like it is now.

Personally, I think the ten nominees for best picture is a good thing. I understand that it was put in place because of Hollywood politics and the big studios wanting a better shot to get nominated. But I think it also allows lower profile movies (including indie ones) to get recognized when normally they might just miss the list - Winter's Bone, for example. This year I think almost every movie nominated deserved to be recognized and that cutting it down to five would have been unfortunate.

Karen Scott said...

I'm reading these comments and assuming that all of you guys are over 50. That's how it comes across at least. I agree that Hathaway and the strung out guy didn't do a great job, but honestly, suggesting that Steve Martin be a future host is just madness, and makes me suspect that some of you are smoking some good shit.

I get it, you all long for the days when the hosts tap-danced across the stage, and everything was all grace and elegance. The problem is, grace and elegance is as dull as high-pitched over-excitement, and quite frankly, far less enticing.

Change is as inevitable as divorce, the Oscars can't stay the way you guys fondly remember them forever, I know it's hard, but you'll cope. Really.

Karen Scott said...

I forgot to say, Kevin Spacey would definitely get my vote. At least he can still breathe on his own.

D. McEwan said...

"Karen Scott said...
I'm reading these comments and assuming that all of you guys are over 50. That's how it comes across at least. I agree that Hathaway and the strung out guy didn't do a great job, but honestly, suggesting that Steve Martin be a future host is just madness,"


You got a problem with we over-50s, Infant? In any event, suggesting Steve Martin isn't madness, it's remembering what a GREAT job he did a mere 12 months ago. You may have missed it, not having been born yet then.

"Change is as inevitable as divorce"

Change is inevitable; divorce is not. Well, maybe for you. My parents stayed married till death did them part. So did my sister (she's a widow), my late brother, and both sets of my grandparents, and three of my four sets of great-grandparents. Sorry about your bad marraige. Maybe if you weren't so ageist, your husband wouldn't have dumped you.

Karen Scott said...

@D.McEwan said:
You got a problem with we over-50s, Infant?

I don't know Old Man, do I?

suggesting Steve Martin isn't madness, it's remembering what a GREAT job he did a mere 12 months ago.

Great job? Great job? You're kidding right?

No, apparently you really aren't kidding. You obviously have an appreciation for fossils that I've yet to grasp, being a foetus and all.

Listen, Steve Martin may be a Hollywood legend, etc, etc, but that doesn't automatically make him the perfect host for The Oscars. It really doesn't.

Sorry about your bad marraige. Maybe if you weren't so ageist, your husband wouldn't have dumped you.

Even a foetus like me knows how to spell marriage correctly. At your age, you really should know better.

Also, seriously honey, is this the face of somebody who gets dumped? I'll answer that for you. No, it's not.

As it happens, I'm married, and I intend to stay married for as long as possible. My comment about change and divorce was obviously a bit too cutting edge for your fifty year old sense of humour. I'm sorry about that.

I'm pleased that you shared the marriage history of your family though. I will sleep so much better tonight knowing that everybody in your circle of trust stayed matrimonially bound till the bitter end. That's just precious.

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