I watched the Oscars on Sunday night along with several million other viewers, but I did it with a little bit of a twist.
I sat down with a glass of Crown Royal and Pepsi and logged in to Twitter. Twitter is a social networking website that does one thing: it asks you the question "What are you doing?" and gives you 140 characters to answer. Nothing more. Of course, I and my fellow twits often dispense with the question and spout whatever thing comes to mind, which is exactly what many of us did during the Oscars. We bantered back and forth about the Oscar countdown icon, the dresses, obvious hair replacement procedures, and the overuse of Botox on what used to be some fine faces.
Most years, I do not bother to watch the Oscars in their entirety. I usually flip back and forth between television stations to check in on who is winning what with the interest of someone who knows they will hear any pertinent information from friends and internet buzz for days following but whose real interest is to see the flustered tech award winners flush and stumble through gratitude they practiced while figuring out how to attach a cumberbund from a rental tuxedo. This year, I managed to stick it out through the entire Oscars awards show between hard liquor and live-twittering the highs and lows of the evening, because it made it feel like an event I was actively involved in rather than a slow road to zzzzzzzzzzzz.
Let's face it: the behind-the-scenes sound mixers and film editors are far more fun to watch receive their awards than the plastinated face of Nicole Kidmann delivering unnatural-sounding, scripted remarks with the aid of her bottom lip or than Owen Wilson's squinty read from a tele-prompter as he leaned in to get a closer look from the podium. We like the people who make film do the magic that it does. An actor can perform the hell out of a character, but without the wondrous actions of the tech gurus, it often would come off as a community theatre performance of "Our Town".
And that brings me to exactly what made the Oscars fall flat and what has been making the Oscars fall flat for years. We are shown multiple montages throughout the awards show of actors, actresses, space-filling bee themed movie clips, etcetera, but there is very little meat, and we want meat after having sat through the low-key, thoughtful Barbara Walters special that precedes it. The advertising between Oscars segments is too short for a decent bathroom break or snack fix, and after racing through toilet paper and zippers and tripping over the cat, what do we get? Another montage that feels just like the ads we had hoped we'd missed.
Here is what I would like to see in future televised Oscars presentations. Junk the pre-Oscars Barbara Walters interviews as they now stand. Keep her, because we like her, and she does not giggle to ingratiate herself to her guests, but make it more documentary-style. Tell us about some of the smaller films, behind-the-scenes work, and some historical context that we, the average movie-goers, rarely, if ever, get to see. Make it be at turns fun and spontaneous and serious and thoughtful. If they must have so many montages, intersperse them here. This kind of exposé would help to make the public feel a part of the awards, because we could see people doing work we understand to affect a greater cause. It would lead us up to a better view of an industry whose PR has been taken over by paparazzi snapping shots of starlets at their worst.
During the Oscars presentation show itself, I want to see fewer of these montages, as they convey little more than look-at-that-actor-what's-his-name? and she-was-in-that-film-I-should-see-but-don't-know-the-name-of. Instead, give me speeches! This may sound strange, but the three seconds that each winner is allotted is far too short. If the show is about them, I want to hear them. I want to feel that I know them. We do not want to hear stilted pap read aloud. We want to hear spontaneity, joy, and the passion that brings this entertainment about. On Sunday, there was a little spontaneity, but only from a few of the presenters, which was disappointing. Without enough material to cement our memories of these highly acclaimed individuals, we, as an audience, are left with nothing to care about. The Oscars? Pffft.
If you took away the montages and the less-than-inspired award introductions from Sunday's Oscars, we would be left with only the briefest of brief acceptance speeches and a few musical numbers. It is the live performance and acceptance speeches that are the highlight of the show! And yet they are the least of the broadcast. I know that there was very little preparation time this year due to the writers' strike, but I honestly did not see much of a difference over recent years. Next year, if I bother to sit through another round of the Oscars, it will not be because I care so much about the industry greats or expect an entertaining show. It will be because three glasses of mixed liquor and a good dose of Twitter attitude is an event unto itself.
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