And what about the 2012 Oscars?
Here are some suggestions, Mr. and Ms. AMPAS, for your planning of the 84th annual Academy Awards:
Don't hire hosting teams. The more memorable Oscar hosts are those that stepped out on their own - Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, Jon Stewart, David Letterman! - instead of stepping on each other's toes. Whether it was 1984's quartet of Liza Minnelli, Dudley Moore, Richard Pryor & Walter Matthau, or 2010's team of Steve Martin & Alec Baldwin, putting funny people together does not magically make them funnier (see "Saturday Night Live," 1980-present).
Anne Hathaway exuded plenty of sparkle and spunk on Sunday, while James Franco appeared to be taking the role of straight man a little too seriously, so they spent much of their energy trying to convince the audience why they both needed to be there. (So one could dress up as Marilyn Monroe? The wrong one?) Next year, go with one host, the spunky one.
Let the other winners talk. OK, you've worked in the industry for two, three, four decades, late into the night, setting up lights, building sets, looping dialogue, and putting up with obnoxious producers complaining that the clock is running and time is money, only to be acknowledged by your peers as having accomplished the best [fill in the blank] of the year! And because three people are sharing the award, only one gets to say "thank you" before the orchestra starts up a rendition of the theme from "Beauty and the Beast," forcing you to shout "Thanks" and "I love you, honey" while being whisked off stage - if even that.
Don't make co-winners play Rock Paper Scissors to decide who gets to show their gratitude in front of the industry. After all, some of us like sound mixing.
TV executives don't belong on the Oscar show. Academy President Tom Sherak came on stage with Anne Sweeney, president of Disney/ABC, to announce that the network had signed a deal to continue their broadcast relationship through 2020, consequently getting more face time on the Oscar broadcast than nominee Hailee Steinfeld.
Hey, we read the trades. Everybody in that room reads the trades. We already knew about the deal. Everybody watching TV who doesn't read the trades doesn't care. Instead we could have been watching extended clips of Wally Pfister's winning cinematography of "Inception" and Roger Deakins' losing cinematography of "True Grit" (which could also have increased the face time of Hailee Steinfeld).
Celine Dion or precocious singing kids, if you must, but please, not both.
What are you going to do with all these nominated shorts? Hey, how about showing them? With that new ABC deal we all now know about, there must be a couple of TV hours somewhere prior to the Big Night that could use filling. And since these filmmakers (such as Luke Matheny, whose NYU thesis film "God of Love" won Best Live Action Short) represent the future of the industry, help the audience discover them.
One minute for Francis Coppola wouldn't kill you. Two years ago the Academy cut the traditional Lifetime Achievement Award presentations from the show, presenting them at a separate dinner ceremony in the Fall, which was great - they deserve an evening all to themselves. (Though one of last year's honorees, Jean Luc Godard, decided that not being on the main Oscar broadcast wasn't good enough and he stayed home.)
On Sunday they showed abbreviated clips of the dinner and then allowed the other three honorees - director Francis Ford Coppola, actor Eli Wallach, and film historian Kevin Brownlow - to walk out on stage to the applause they wouldn't otherwise have gotten. But there was no time granted for them to at least say "Thanks, great to (still) be here!" Instead, we got to hear James Franco's off-color joke about the titles of this year's nominated films.
Don't water down your Best Picture nominees. Instead of running clips from the nominated films throughout the evening, the producers opted to show a montage at the end, in which scenes from each of the 10 Best Picture nominees were played under Colin Firth's "King's Speech" broadcast announcing England's entry into World War II. The montage was cleverly done, but the Oscars is supposed to celebrate the nominated films, not the cleverness of some editor doing a mash-up on Final Cut Pro who figures he's found just the right spot to stick in a bit from "Toy Story 3."
Director Howard Hawks once said the definition of a good movie is one that has at least three good scenes and no bad ones. Next year, run a complete scene from each of the films - no trailers, no montages set to pop songs - that shows us why the film deserves an Oscar, and why everyone in the theatre would wish they could make a movie as good.
And finally, a suggestion to the rest of the film industry and the media at large:
Let's get rid of some of these darn awards already. Every critics association, every guild, every broadcast group, every online group, everybody with an e-mail list has crammed the shelves of Colin Firth and Natalie Portman with accolades between last Fall and Sunday. I don't mean to begrudge them their due, but for those of us following movies it lessens the specialness of their Oscar achievement if we've, pardon the phrase, seen this movie before.
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