Monday, February 25, 2008

If I Ran the Oscars...

Apparently not only did people NOT see many of the films nominated for Oscars this year, they didn't bother to watch the show either. According to an Associated Press report the 80th Academy Awards presentation may end up being the least watched broadcast in history. Surprising since we were lacking in self-congratulatory lovefests this year what with the scrapping of the Golden Globes due to the WGA strike. One would have thought people would flock to fawn over celebrities and their couture. But they didn't.

Why is that? Well, the lack of mainstream nominees may be part of the problem. Critical favorites like There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men and Michael Clayton fared poorly at the box office (although everyone should really check out the last two--they were, in my opinion, two of the best movies of 2007!). But I don't think that's it. I think the problem boils down to two things:

1. The show is too freaking LONG!!! Seriously, even with acceptance speech time constraints and the revolving door of guest presenters, four hours is a long time for anyone to sit through an awards show. On the east coast, viewers don't get to bed until midnight--much too late on a "school night." While I deeply admire all the talent that goes into producing a film, the fact of the matter is that the average TV viewer really doesn't give a flying @#$% about sound mixing or art direction. Or best short or foreign film for that matter. The work should be recognized and honored, but perhaps not part of the televised show. Give the awards out the day before and then get all the winners up on stage for a televised big group round of applause.

Pare down the telecast to the more known entities: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor/Actress, Best Supporting Actor/Actress, Best Original/Adapted Screenplay, Best Score/Song. Ten awards, two hours. It could be done...and with time to spare for acceptance speeches as well!

2. Reinstate the element of surprise! The lack of audience could be attributed to award show fatigue--you've got the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, the DGA Awards, the WGA Awards, Critics Awards, etc. But it's not the excessive amount of awards, but the fact that they eliminate most of the "Who's gonna win?" excitement from the Oscars. Once SAG has given its Best Supporting Actor prize to Javier Bardem, it's pretty much a sure bet that his fellow actors in the Academy will also vote for him to take the Oscar. We all knew the Coen Brothers would win for Screenplay and Director--prior to the Oscars they won the awards with the WGA and DGA. Really, other than the below-the-line awards that most viewers snooze through, the only real mystery was which nominee would win Best Film.

Maybe the solution is for the WGA, DGA and SAG to hold their award ceremonies AFTER the Oscars. It would be anticlimatic for sure--but it's worse to have the vaunted Academy Awards be merely a footnote in my opinion.

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