Thursday, 27 February 2014

Perfect Oscar night possible

The Oscars is happening on Sunday night in Los Angeles, California. Will it be a good show? Or one that's boring and full of long-winded speeches? – EPA

The Oscars is happening on Sunday night in Los Angeles, California. Will it be a good show? Or one that's boring and full of long-winded speeches? – EPA

Oscar-winning ideas on how the Academy Awards show can improve.

WE'RE three days away from the Oscars, which means we’re about three days and 10 seconds away from the first tweet complaining about the show.

But why wait?

Let’s be clear: we’re not wishing failure on this year’s Oscar telecast or predicting that host Ellen DeGeneres will bomb. When it comes to the Oscars, we’re always hopeful, like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin or a Los Angeles resident dreaming of decent public transportation. And then the show starts and Seth MacFarlane spends 16 minutes making a joke about how he’s going to fail at the job and then goes on to do just that for the next three hours and ... mmmph ... it’s wait until next year.

But it’s going to be different on March 2, right? Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are back on the job, as is DeGeneres, returning as host seven years after her first turn. We’re sure they’re going to put all that experience to good use. But, you know, just in case, here are a few ideas for a more perfect night, both for this year and the future.

Ramp up the energy, Ellen

We enjoyed your low-key charm back in 2007. Asking Steven Spielberg to snap your picture with Clint Eastwood? Adorbs. But there’s a fine line between unpretentious and just a little dull. Don’t let MacFarlane’s failure last year keep you from stirring the pot. As long as you’re funny, no one will mind the barbs. (Publicly, at least.)

Pick a host. Then stay the course

We’ve gone from the “OMG! Oscars heart young people” Anne Hathaway / James Franco debacle to nostalgic, Old Hollywood Billy Crystal (“We’ve cornered the 70- to 85-year-old market!”) then, last year, to naughty (MacFarlane) to this year’s return to nice. The Golden Globes, meanwhile, are enjoying record ratings, having established a consistent tone by employing the same great hosts year after year. (Ricky Gervais ran things from 2009 to 2011; Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are signed next year for a third straight go-around.) The audience knows what to expect and actually looks forward to what’s coming. Crazy, huh?

Hosting duty: Viewers enjoyed Ellen DeGeneres’ low-key charm back when she hosted the Oscars in 2007. Will she win us over this year?

So, if DeGeneres kills it this year, bring her back. If not, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences needs to find the 21st century equivalent of Crystal, Johnny Carson and Bob Hope – hosts who skillfully presided over the Oscars for years. Since ABC has the telecast through 2020, it’s not going to be Jimmy Fallon, who amped up the fun as Emmy host in 2010. So why not Jimmy Kimmel, who, at the 2012 Emmys, displayed a winning goofiness that played both at home and the room itself?

Change the venue

“The Oscars used to be a good time,” says Robert Osborne, author of 85 Years Of The Oscar: The Official History Of The Academy Awards. “But that was back in the early years when it was a banquet and people used to be able to eat and drink and relax. It was a party everyone wanted to attend. Now no one wants to go unless they have to.”

So why not move it back to a ballroom? Scaling back on the starchiness of a theatre setting would do wonders for the vibe in the room and, by extension, the show itself. If, as Tina Fey tells the Los Angeles Times, “high levels of stress are shooting out of just about everyone” at the Oscars, a cocktail – or a plate of Wolfgang Puck appetisers – might help.

Keep it at three hours

The Oscars used to clock in under three hours regularly. Then, beginning in 1974, the show began to stretch. Osborne attributes the bloat to added performance numbers and actors who believe that time limits for speeches “apply to everyone else but them.”

So how do you trim the fat?

Move the shorts categories

They exist to honour up-and-comers – and to screw up everyone’s Oscar pools. But how about a separate ceremony where the work can be celebrated at greater length and mentorships can be established?

Not all songs are created equal

And songwriters would be the first to tell you this. Some songs fit nicely within the context of a film but aren’t exactly performance show-stoppers. Others, like Adele’s Skyfall, rank as moments that will draw viewers. This year’s plan to have all four of the nominees perform might seem like overkill, but it’s a good call. U2 – can’t go wrong. Karen O’s tender, bittersweet The Moon Song will get the home viewers to stop chatting and pay attention. Frozen’s Let It Go? That’ll get the kids to watch. Pharrell Williams? Great, his hat could bring in an audience all on its own.

Streamline the Best Picture introductions

Or eliminate them altogether. How about just a clip reel ping-ponging between great moments from all the nominated movies?

Do keep the “In memoriam” tribute, though it can celebrate without being so sombre. May we suggest that someone (Karen O?) sing We’ll Meet Again? It’s sentimental without being maudlin, and Stanley Kubrick liked it enough to put it in the last scene of Dr. Strangelove. Now that is movie magic. – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment , Oscars 2014 , Academy Awards , Ellen DeGeneres , ratings , TV , host


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