Modern Oscars telecast formulas are tested on human subjects.
by Tim Williams – A&SB Contributor
The Oscars, I think, deserve a little sympathy.
It’s not that someone thought a bunch of speeches, bad jokes and a dead people montage would make compelling television; it’s just they hoped no one would notice how boring the whole thing was if they showed 20 shots of Bjork in a swan costume.
It all began innocently enough, I’m sure. I can see a Depression-era family huddled around a radio, warming themselves by the glow of the stars of Tinseltown and trying really hard to imagine what food without lard in it might look like. Without having to see high-definition close-ups of Tom Cruise pretending to laugh at Scientology jokes, it might even be pleasant to entertain the idea that, in a faraway land, people could gossip about the cost of rented jewelry instead of rent.
But now a man best known for playing Wolverine is hosting a show full of high-minded cinema no one saw (even Hugh Jackman’s own bona fide stinker Australia got a costume design nod, because it was a period stinker), and you start to wonder if they’re even trying.
It’s not that we’re totally opposed to accidentally putting the entire thing on mute until Heath Ledger appears, it’s that it’s now just so easy to watch, you know, an actual movie instead of “The Movie Event of the Year” on our televisions instead.
It’s clearly too late for 2009. But here’s a few ways to make the Oscars something to gawk at again, if not quite in the way Hollywood wants.
1. We all know, in our hearts of hearts, that most of these jobs, like sound direction and editing, are just as boring as the ones we have. Why not earn working-class respect by showing the Academy at Work, documentary-style. Instead of Meryl Streep thanking gaffers, we get to see her spit coffee in their faces.
2. Class wars! Secretly assign an assortment of people off the street whose favorite movie is “Eurotrip” to various tables, get the champagne flowing, and let the brawls begin. Bonus ratings if Kate Winslet bites someone.
3. Democracy, CNN-style. If a million viewers text “Enuf” to a hotline, all audience members must immediately assault the current speaker with silly string.
4. 3-D is saving the film industry, right? Put, uh, some of that in.
5. Nominate interesting movies