I have to say, it’s a stroke of luck that the most predictable Oscar race in some years at least happens to conicide with the most unpredictable Oscar ceremony. It’s as if Bill Condon and Laurence Mark knew that they had to pull out all the stops in reconfiguring the show to make up for a slate of nominees that could not have been more cautious. The few hints that have been dropped so far (including a radically altered stage design) suggest that, whether it sinks or soars, something very different is in store.
Pete Hammond has written an interesting piece in which he considers the information we have so far, and wonders what bearing this year’s ceremony might have on the Oscarcast’s long-term future. He acknowledges the canniness of Condon and Mark’s semi-veiled strategy thus far (suggesting, I suspect accurately, that the “leaked” news of Robert Pattinson and Zac Efron as presenters was in fact calculated to lure in younger viewers), and drops this tantalising bit of gossip:
Oscar director Roger Goodman has worked with the new producers the past few weeks. A friend who sat with him the other night at the Scientific and Technical Awards ceremony said Goodman was characterizing Condon as a certified genius.
OK, maybe this is a lot of hype. But … Oscar-nominated producer, Bruce Cohen said he had heard the same kind of talk. He mentioned that Condon and Mark had presented their plans for the show to the academy’s board of governors two weeks ago and the board was blown away. If you can wow this crowd, you must be on to something.
However, even if the hype is to be believed and we’re all suitably blown away come Sunday evening, it seems that insiders aren’t pinning their hopes too high on an immediate, dramatic reversal of the Oscarcast’s declining fortunes. Though they hope it might signal a more successful new direction for the enterprise, the producers realize they’re up against it, given how little the Academy gave them to work with this year:
“I think even if the Oscar telecast doesn’t do well,” Cohen said, “or perhaps even worse than before, a great, innovative show will be talked about positively and likely would lead to increased interest in future years.”
In other words, people will be sorry they missed it and will tune in next time based on word of mouth. Think of these changes as building blocks in a multi-year game plan. And it could happen — but ultimately it’s the nominated movies that draw the eyeballs. The failure of “The Dark Knight” to get a best picture nomination this year may hurt more than any brilliant “fix” of the Oscar show can help.
That, I’m afraid, is the truth. If the public doesn’t see much at stake in the competition, it’s hard to make them care about the ceremony via brilliant staging. Think back to the 1997 Oscarcast, an overlong, pedestrian affair marred by the grinding monotony (and predictability) of a “Titanic” sweep.
As a show, it was hardly one for the ages, yet viewers tuned in en masse, making for spectacular ratings that have yet to be even closely matched. Why? Because they actually cared about the film winning everything. With emotional investment like that, the show produces itself.