It’s now official that the 2009 Academy Awards will be much different from what we’re accustomed to seeing. That might bring both positive and eyeball-rolling situations, particularly if they decide to bring back the musical numbers. Well, chances are nil they’ll do that, even though revamping the Oscar broadcast formula could cause some protests. Not that past Academy Award telecasts haven’t already tried to provide something fresh to the proceedings now unofficially designated as a telethon without the plea to call in with pledges. Even though we’re being told the new producers (longtime film producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon) are coming up with new ideas to make the show work better, there’s no telling whether a few things that should happen will happen…
Out of all the annoyances of the telecast, there’s one that almost every critic in past decades has complained about: The music cutting off impassioned acceptance speeches. We all know that producers have tried valiantly to make the show as short as possible, but always fail. In fact, by my count, the show has been attaching fifteen minutes onto its running length through each ensuing year. Clocking in at four hours once in the last few years is proof that some extraneous things are taking place. Unfortunately, the acceptance speeches are almost always the first to be cut rather than anything else.
No word on what Mark and Condon are going to do about shortening speeches this year. From all indications, they’ll be presenting them in different places around the venue–hence perhaps a chance to allow time for deserving winners to thank everybody on their giant scrolls. If we had a poll, I’d bet money that most people find the most pleasure in watching those emotional speeches than anything else on the Oscars. Should the show become all about that, there wouldn’t be as many complaints, plus an overall condensed program.
Ah yes, a condensed show. You could also equate that to the bombastic qualities of Oscar telecasts by tradition. We’re all used to the event being presented with enough pomp and circumstance where you’d expect presenters to be brought out on giant elephants. (Let me know if that actually did happen on an Oscar telecast once.) This year, however, we’re being told it’ll be a much more intimate affair, much like the Golden Globes. That gives hints that the Oscars are waging a growing battle with the Hollywood Foreign Press who are starting to take away the thunder of the Academy Awards in recent years.
With more intimacy, people watching at home will be drawn into the speeches while feeling as if they’re part of the show rather than experiencing the remoteness from the grandeur. It’s a big change after decades of that grandeur, and likely one that’ll be changed back if it doesn’t come off well in the Kodak Theater. To be smart, though, it should always have an intimate feel to let viewers be a part of it rather than the feeling of watching from afar a pompous ceremony in Ancient Egypt.
Then you have the extraneous things that should be cut in favor of those above-mentioned impassioned acceptance speeches. When it comes to those compelling compendiums of film clips, the host’s monologues and other procedurals we’re used to at the Oscar marathons, how do you decide what to take out?
Well, when it comes to the host, the jury is out on whether a comedian or a more serious host is the answer. If you go by Billy Crystal, it’d be obviously the former. If you go by Whoopi Goldberg or Chris Rock, it’s no wonder there was a search for the latter. Hugh Jackman seems more appropriate for the Tony Awards (and was born to host it), though we’ll assume he had enough skills to create a new hosting trend if you’re reading this after the show aired. At least the Oscars aren’t trying the serious multi-host procedure they utilized several times in the 70’s and 80’s. Three legendary movie stars hosting sounds classy and workable–yet didn’t provide a lot of excitement the times they hosted other than the curiosity/matchup factor.
The show really needs an all-around comedian who’s also a serious host with the way everybody’s temperaments work today. Having the one-liners from a comedian after every presentation just becomes too expected, even if it does lighten things up. In more recent years with less-inspired hosts, it just falls flat. The only exception would arguably be John Stewart who seemed the best at becoming a new Oscar hosting champ in the guise of Bob Hope.
And when it comes to everything else, meaning those above-mentioned film clip compendiums and ritualistic speeches from the Academy President, etc., the chances of them being cut are probably nil. Yet you won’t find many who say they’d miss them if they did cut them out to shorten the show. I, for one, always enjoy the creative ways old clips of Hollywood yore are tied in with Hollywood of today. That gives me the guts to say it doesn’t have to be cut if it’s done to a minimum. Only the Academy President’s speech, production numbers, protracted presentations and even elaborate productions for Best Song could be cut.
Despite protest from Peter Gabriel, at least Best Song will be a medley of all the nominees rather than complete numbers interspersed throughout the broadcast.
What you have after all the above is possibly a two and a half hour show, which is supposedly what Mark and Condon are shooting for this year. One thing we’ve learned about Oscar telecasts, though, is that things never go as planned. The chances are good the lifetime achievement Oscar winner will ramble on for much longer than the producers hoped–or maybe the acceptance speeches will go on longer anyway when the frustrated winners tell the orchestra to can it as they’ve been doing lately. Then there’s the possibility of streakers coming back into vogue and adding extra running time to the show with their shortcomings…
No matter what the Oscars do to make things different or cut out (no streaker pun suggested), we should always expect to spend a Super Bowl length of time watching the ceremony. If Oscars are full of tradition, hunkering down and watching it for an entire evening with friends, family and a pizza is one tradition of television that’s always pure Americana…