Okay, the ceremony is over, the theatre formerly known as the Kodak is empty and, with the exception of The Weinstein Company who are more than likely adding about a thousand screens to The Artist’s theatre count while gleefully paying off some old debts, most have stopped caring . And honestly I can understand why, this years Oscars felt like a whole lot o’ nothin.
But…the evening wasn’t a total loss (and it certainly wasn’t the unmitigated disaster that was last year). I wouldn’t even call it bad by any stretch. It just felt… off. Perhaps a lot of the blame for this goes to the whole Brett Ratner/Eddie Murphy fiasco but I was really hoping that out of that mess might come something really special. Instead all that we got was the most paint by numbers awards show in recent memory.
Let’s break it down.
Okay, so why didn’t the ceremony work? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that there wasn’t a cohesive theme. I’ve said this a thousand times and I’ll say it again here, the best Academy Awards in recent memory was the 09 ceremony hosted by Hugh Jackman. Why? Well, partly because Hugh Jackman is an incredibly gifted performer but mostly because it was a show with a controlling idea. That idea being “let’s take the audience through the process of movie making”. The entire ceremony incorporated this with both a strategically designed awards order (awards that have the most to do with pre production started early, those more related to post production came later) and with the host guiding us through it. Hugh took his job seriously, explaining all of the hurdles a film goes through to get made and using each award as an example. That night felt like it had a clear direction.
Now think fast, what was the theme of last Sunday’s ceremony? Anyone?
Well, there was about eighteen montages about how movies are magic. So was it about the magic of the movies? Maybe. Isn’t that what every Oscar ceremony is about though? What was the controlling idea? The experience of watching a movie? That movies are good for the soul? Just pick one! Please!!!
What made this worse was that even things that were kind of cool made no sense in the context of a night that lacked, well, context. Cirque Du Soleil put on an amazing physical spectical that was supposed to recreate the experience of sitting in a theatre and watching a movie…I think. I suppose all of those people were floating around because they were carried away by the magic of the cinema but I never really felt the connection. Plus it had absolutely nothing to do with this years crop of films. For this we didn’t get to watch the Muppets singing Am I a muppet or a man.
Was there anything cool? Well, a couple of the presenters knocked it out of the park. Emma Stone and Ben Stiller’s routine (in which Emma was so amazed that she was presenting for the first time that she attempted to stretch out the banter) was probably my favourite. I also loved Chris Rock’s riff on why voice acting is so easy, a bit that proved A: Chris Rock is one of the funniest guys on the planet and B: given how harsh he is he will NEVER host the Oscars again. And speaking of hosting…
Okay, first off, I did a quick internet search before writing this up and it looks like the reaction to Billy Crystal’s hosting gig has been less than enthusiastic. People have used words like “Safe” and “forgettable” and, while I understand to a certain extent I think people aren’t giving Billy enough credit. Was the opening flat? Yes. As it turns out doing a song and dance number about nine nominees doesn’t leave as much room for gags. But he kept the impossibly slow evening moving with some decent jokes (the audience wasn’t always receptive, but bits about the new name for the Kodak theatre or how difficult it is to hug a black person in Beverly Hills had me laughing) and a good energy. Was it among his best performances? Nope. Did it make me want him to come back next year? Probably not. Was it the worst part of the evening? Not by a long shot.
Okay, next element to look at…
And absolutely nothing interesting here either. Why? Because thanks to the eight thousand other awards shows that have gone on in the past three months we all kind of knew who all the winners were going to be. Were there a couple of surprises? Yup. Midnight In Paris took the original screenplay award (my favourite award of the night) and Meryl Streep upset in the best actress category (not one I agreed with but she’s Meryl, I’ll give her a pass). But there was never that sense of a build. I enjoyed The Artist but it’s not like the realization that it was going to win best picture (which became evident about half way through the night) made me want to root for it. We all knew it was going to win best picture so it didn’t really feel like a massive accomplishment for such a small film. It just felt like the last award that Michel and crew had to pick up before they could go back to Paris and drink wine with breakfast. I wanted to root for it but I just didn’t care. I was tired and I wanted to go home.
Which brings me to the most important section of this post…
WHAT THEY CAN DO TO IMPROVE THE OSCARS
I know a lot of people are posting things like this but there’s a reason for it. Something’s wrong. This is three Oscars in a row now (including the Steve Martin Alec Baldwin yawnfest) that have felt like wastes of time. Remember when people said that Jon Stewart and Ellen Degeneres weren’t funny enough? Remember when they said that Chris Rock was too offensive? Those ceremonies seem like a golden age compared to what we’ve had to deal with in recent years. So what’s wrong and how do we fix it?
First: move the Ceremony. One of the reasons that the awards feel so tired is that it’s the last leg of a long run of awards shows. And every year it feels like another show gets added, just to dilute the majesty of winning an Oscar. There was a movement some time back to combat this by moving the Oscars back a month, from late February to late January. This idea was quickly dismissed.
bring it the fuck back.
You see, if the Oscars came before the other awards shows two things would happen. One, favourites wouldn’t be as established which would make the race for best picture that much more of a dog fight and two, other awards shows would die quick deaths as they would no longer serve a purpose. Think about it. Would you bother watching the SAG awards after the Oscars have already happened? Or the Golden Globes? There’s be no reason to tune in. I’m not saying that these ceremonies shouldn’t exist (Okay, I’m not saying that the SAG awards shouldn’t exist) I’m saying they don’t need to be televised. The Oscars is the one we should watch, all the other awards shows should be industry events and industry events alone. Moving the Oscars early could make that happen.
Second: Find a Host that can build a legacy like Billy did. Okay, this is a tough one. I say this because, while I’m not privy to a lot of inside Hollywood information I have heard that a lot more people turn down the hosting gig than you’d think. But it still feels like there’s a lot of untapped talent out there just waiting to get on stage. Tina Fey, Seth Meyers, Conan O’brien, Steven Colbert, any one of them could not only host a good show but host a string of good shows that, like with Billy Crystal, got progressively better. Have they all been offered the job and said no due to pressure? I have no clue. All I know is someone cool better say yes soon or the Oscars are in serious trouble.
I said that the lack of a theme is a big part of why the ceremony has lost its umph. There’s also a lot of people who feel that the Oscars are increasingly about films no one actually watches. So, taking both of these points in to account I think there is only one real solution…
The 85th Annual Academy Awards. A salute to Fantasy.
Think about it. A theatre done up like some sort of Hobbit space ship. A different montage for every fantasy sub genre ( Horror, Science fiction, Super Hero etc) and they give the lifetime achievement award to John Carpenter.
Yeah, I know they’ll never do it. I also know it would fucking rock.
Okay, that’s it for now. Tune in in the next couple days when I chip away at the massive back log of reviews I need to clear up which includes A Separation, This Means War, The Vow, Safe House, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Act of Valour and many more.