For the most part, I like the Oscars. Yes, the awards season campaign is way too long and, yes, campaigning in general takes what’s supposed to be a celebration of films and turns it into something a lot more unsavory. But, if there were no campaigning, then we wouldn’t get gems like that essay from Sean Penn where he thought, at least at that one moment when he was writing it, the greatest travesty to befall human civilization would be Bradley Cooper not winning a trophy because the fourth version A Star is Born is just that good. What a world. (For the record, I still really like A Star is Born.)
There’s a good chance this year’s Oscar ceremony will wind up being “fine” despite itself. Without a host and with a few of the awards supposedly being handed out during commercial breaks, everyone already has low enough expectations, it probably won’t be too difficult to surpass those. All the show will need is one surprise moment and everyone will remember it for being exciting. I mean, quick, what was the best Oscar moment of the last five years?
It’s impossible to plan someone reading off the wrong winner, but, goodness, that was fun to watch. I loved how the Academy has assured us steps were being taken to make sure this never happens again. On the contrary, this should happen a lot! Not on purpose, but maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing to hire an accounting firm sloppy enough that they make a mistake here and there. Mistakes make for good live television. Everything is so prepackaged now. Prepackaged fun! Even the unscripted moments are scripted. In 1973 a streaker ran out on stage as David Niven was speaking. We need more of this! (Fun fact: the streaker, Robert Opel, was murdered in 1979 at age 39.)
(And Niven’s reaction, then punchline, get a lot of credit, but he somehow deserves more credit. If this happened today, I’d never believe he came up with that line on the spot. Also, with social media, could you imagine if this happened today? I honestly can’t, but I also want to see what would happen.)
For the life of me, I can’t even figure out what the Academy is trying to accomplish with all of these changes. I guess the easy answer is “better ratings” and “make the show shorter.” And a lot has already been written about making the show shorter and how that’s a bad idea, but I think the ratings aspect and the length aspect are two different things. No one really cares how long the Oscars are except the people who are in attendance. That’s why all those, “Can you believe this is still going?,” Billy Crystal jokes never make a lot of sense on television. I always remember thinking, “What’s he talking about? This is much better than watching an episode of Wings, or Hope and Gloria, or whatever.” But what I didn’t realize was he wasn’t talking to me. He was talking to the people in the audience who just wanted to get to their afterparty.
Unfortunately, these tend to be influential people in that industry. People at home don’t care! No one is upset if the Super Bowl goes into overtime. (Well, I guess except the people who bet on the game and risk losing money due to it continuing.) But the people in the audience get restless. After the opening number, at any given moment, you’re seeing a lot of seat fillers in that audience. Honestly, I think that’s what’s going on more than whatever us schmucks at home might think.