Mr. Oscar, tear down this format!: It’s time for changes to the Academy Awards show


OK, so it’s not an oil-rich Middle Eastern dictatorship, and Berlin Wall metaphors aren’t quite what we’re after here. But – cards on the table time – the Academy Awards show could do with a bit of revolution.

So let this serve as the “Mr. Oscar, tear down this format!” moment.

Hey, the Academy has already taken a few steps down that road already by expanding the Best Picture category to include 10 films instead of five. So, now that you already have the monkey wrench out, … I’m just sayin’.

First, the host. This year, the Oscars will be hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway, the former of which is actually nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. Both actors are dependent on the Academy for continuing what are already impressive young careers. Isn’t this just a bit too incestuous? Maybe the Academy wants hosts craven enough not to embarrass the industry, but we viewers need that surrogate figure on stage, someone on the outside, to provide the necessary frisson to cut through the pomposity.

For years, Oscar had its man in Johnny Carson, who was steeped in the entertainment industry, but not dependent on Oscar’s good graces for his career. But the Academy has burned through ever possible independent Carson-esque host since, deeming them all too dangerous. And now they’re just throwing ideas against the wall.

I know that the Academy would sooner burn down Beverly Hills than put up with a Ricky Gervais situation. But we viewers (and ticket buyers) should have a stake in this show too. Maybe it’s time to get all Tea Party on these folks. I say give Bill Maher or Tina Fey a 10-year contract and see what happens.

Next, Best Picture. Now that we’ve expanded Best Picture to 10 films, the wags claim that five of those nominees are losers right out of the gate, because they didn’t also receive Best Director nominations, which still number five.

Enough already with the “Best Picture ghetto” talk.

Expand Best Director to 10 films? No. Get rid of Best Director altogether, and allow the directors to receive the award for Best Picture, instead of the producers. This is an artistic award, let the artists get the statuette. Every year, at the end of the show, the big moment comes to anoint the best movie of the year, and we get to hear from six corporate guys we’ve never heard of, each thanking six more corporate people we don’t know. Best Picture and Best Director should be one.

As far as the nominations go, I think it’s high time the Academy allow for one wild card in each category, a sixth nominee determined by a write-in Internet poll. Don’t laugh. The baseball All-Star Game does it, and the world has continued in its orbit. It would be a hoot, would it not? Yes, I realize that it would give the Edward-vs.-Jacob hordes a foot in the door to the elitists’ party, and, yes, Shrek would probably get the Thalberg lifetime-achievement award. But so what? It’s called “fun,” Academy. Google it.

Next, kill Bruce Vilanch. Not literally, just his awful, painfully delivered jokes. If two multi-millionaire actors can’t banter with each other at a podium without reading canned gags from a “Hollywood Squares” hack, then they are all frauds and should be working at In ’N’ Out Burger.

My favorite part of the Oscars, weirdly enough, is the Memoriam Montage, that sentimental look back at all the film industry folks who have died over the past year. Don’t touch that. I say add another one. This one would be for all the actresses turning 40, since Hollywood law apparently decrees that they will surely be never heard from again – a career death reel, as it were. This year’s list includes Minnie Driver, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Heather Graham and Queen Latifah. You can call it the Fonda (for Jane and Bridget) Montage.

Speaking of the “death reel,” it is usually put near the end of the broadcast to include all those who may have died during the show – that’s how long this awards show goes on. Something needs to be done about the show’s running time. Last year’s show was longer than Hanukkah. Twenty bucks says host James Franco is going to make some jokey connection between the show’s length and the name of his film “127 Hours.”

I suspect the show’s length is something of a public service. Most film fans are busy people. They don’t actually remember to catch all the relevant films, until they hear the opening theme of the Oscar telecast. That way, they still have time to jump in the car, go catch “True Grit” and that one with Marky Mark as a boxer and still get back in time to catch the important awards.

My solution? Start the show Sunday morning. The obsessives can catch every minute, but normal folks can cut to the chase just as they’re settling in for TV on Sunday evening.

Problem solved. The Revolution, in this case, Will Be Televised.

You’re welcome, Oscar.


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