t the end of February, in an attempt to offset the saggy ratings of recent Oscars broadcasts, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that for its 94th edition, airing on March 27, eight of the “smaller” awards—the academy didn’t use that exact language, but you can see it hanging above their invisible heads like a cartoon thought bubble—would be handed out in the hour before the beginning of the live telecast, with clips of the winners appearing later in the show. Los Angeles last week. Times, the show’s producer, Will Packer, defended that and other measures being taken to pep up the event: “This show can be anything,” he said, “but it can’t be boring.” Packer, producing the show for the first time, has his work cut out for him, with the expectations of not just a network (ABC) but the world looming over him like Godzilla.
But what if a little—or even a lot of—boring is exactly what the Oscars show needs? The one thing you can’t control in advance about it, the human element, is also the unruly component that makes it great. The show’s long, boring stretches—and some years have more than others—should be treated not as liabilities but as proof of life. What’s true in action movies is also true in awards shows: there’s no discernible rhythm to nonstop excitement. A pulse is the most important thing that an Oscars broadcast could have.
A pulse isn’t synonymous with perfection; in fact, it’s the opposite. It means subjecting viewers to speeches that say virtually nothing, to monologues that aren’t as lively as their writers had hoped. This is the part of the program where you can go into the kitchen and refresh yourself, or chat with friends about the dresses. You’re not watching a TikTok video, edited down to a few compulsively watchable minutes. This is a show where people are rewarded for their work, where the serendipitous nature of who’s called up to the stage can mean anything can happen, even though, in recent years, that “anything” has been severely restricted.
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It’s true that the Oscars broadcast has become more homogenized and less thrilling in recent years, partly because the show’s producers have taken note, perhaps too well, of what elements are likely to displease viewers. It’s been nine years since Seth MacFarlane raised the ire of audiences with the “We Saw Your Boobs” production number. The routine had a purpose: it was an attempt to puncture Hollywood’s hypocrisy in striving to honor its classiest projects and stars on Oscar night, even as no one wants to talk about the RealPeople go to the movies for many reasons. And though nudity is rare in today’s Hollywood movies, for decades—the years many of our most accomplished actresses Were coming up—Hollywood executives insisted on it as a way of bringing in more moviegoing dollars. The cutting subtext of MacFarlane’s number—he was backed by the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus, who had to have been in on the joke—was that these were accomplished actresses, but they’d had to endure their share of indignities on their way to getting taken seriously. No matter how you look at the number, the Academy was afraid of it. It veered away from outrageousness, and into more tasteful, warm, tolerance.
You can also add to this the fact that presenters and winners are afraid of taking risks. Lucky older people: We were able to witness Cher in her spiderweb gown and feathered headdress as a sparkling bird of paradise. Don Ameche was presented the Best Supporting Actor Award. Cocoon.This was the perfect match made in heaven. What about Jim Carrey? He was not nominated because of his performance. The Truman Show, presented that year’s best editing award to The Private Ryan SavingsHis good-natured, sour grapes were transformed into vino. (Incidentally, the editing category is one of those that have been excised from this year’s edition of the show, along with makeup and hairstyling, original score, production design, sound, documentary short subject, animated short, and live-action short.)
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We are kidding! Even the most memorable Oscar broadcasts were always dotted with long, dull stretches that would have all of us on the East Coast watching the clock, wondering when we’d finally get to bed, and perhaps feeling jealous of our West Coast counterparts, who at least had the luxury of being able to go out afterward for a drink or slice of pie. Which is why the current efforts to make the show less boring—and thus hopefully boost ratings, even in a changed world where fewer and people watch television in the traditional way—come off as so much wasted energy. Adding a few out-there presenters, like skateboard and/or snowboard whizzes Tony Hawk and Shaun White, isn’t the worst idea—maybe they’ll be fun. But all the behind-the-scenes plans we’ve heard about so far simply give off a whiff of trying too hard. Even if we have to wade through some sluggish moments, why can’t we just revel in the human element of the Oscars? Why can’t we just let them breathe?
Our false perception that everything is possible has led to the Oscar Show falling prey of our belief that it’s impossible. In reality, Oscar shows are an uncontrollable organic entity that creators cannot control. Packer is right about one thing: you shouldn’t Objective Boring is not a good thing. But that’s different from allowing boring to happen, and for being open to the beauty that boring can bring.
Learn More You can watch or stream all the Oscar nominees for 2022 here
We can’t watch anything in real time anymore. Do you want to see, for example, the winner of best animated short to move from the theatre to the stage in 20 seconds? I don’t know anyone who has such a lot of spare time. Even though short films don’t get as much attention, they are still often expensive and rarely receive the respect they deserve. There’s also the fact that the people who win these alleged lesser awards are often more genuinely thrilled than the big-time actors, directors, or producers who trundle up to the stage with their canned speeches. They look just like us: women in their middle years, with their upper arms dangle like ours, and men whose suits tuck their heels into their boots because they were not hemmed correctly. They are reminders of how movies’ art is made up of people sharing their own work, sometimes without the help of stylists and minders. They are those who make an award ceremony feel less formal and more humane. And if you don’t take pleasure in seeing them clutch an award they’ve dreamed of, their presence presents another opportunity: your chance to get a snack.
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