Fixing the Oscarcast … get your ideas in early

Posted by · 6:43 am · October 26th, 2009

Meryl Streep at the 81st annual Academy AwardsWith the 2009 Oscar telecast a little over four months away, it may seem a tad premature for the annual round of “how-to-save-the-show” suggestions, but it’s really the best time — now that Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic have been handed the reins, they’ll be drawing up plans immediately.

So the LA Times’s Mary McNamara has handily weighed in with her annual list of ideas and pointers for the show’s producers, ranging from the widely agreed-upon (drop the irrelevant musical numbers) to the slightly more idiosyncratic (“Do something with vampires,” she helpfully advises).

Given that, like McNamara, I wasn’t as big a fan of the last Oscarcast as many were, it follows that I would agree with several of her ideas. I do think film clips have a necessary place in the acting presentations — as strange as it seems to those of us more familiar with the films on an annual basis, a brief, well-chosen clip from a lesser-known title can arouse interest from less informed viewers. (More so than a smarmy verbal tribute from, say, Adrien Brody.)

As I said before in my argument for Steve Martin and Tina Fey to host, this year’s show could have used more comedy, so McNamara’s suggestion of adding comic “support teams” to shoulder the weight with a non-comic host like Hugh Jackman strikes me as interesting. (Meanwhile, even if Shankman is a song-and-dance man, I’d strongly suggest curbing or simplifying the musical component of the show — if Jackman is indeed to host again, he can be permitted some goofy hoofing in the opener, but few want a repeat of Baz Luhrmann’s musical number, or that cluttered Best Original Song mash-up.)

Of course, a lot of McNamara’s suggestions should be taken with tongue firmly in cheek — as, presumably, should her contention that “2012” is “pushing hard” for Best Picture consideration.

Meanwhile, Nathaniel Rogers has one more specific area of concern to address to the new producing team: the Best Picture presentation, or, more to the point, the person presenting it. Complaining that previous Oscarcasts have worked an overly limited range of candidates for the honor of opening the night’s final envelope (predominantly old-guard white actors, Jack Nicholson chief among them), Rogers encourages Shankman and Mechanic to think a little outside the box this year.

I have to agree, though my top choice for the position isn’t particularly left-field. But the fact that Meryl Streep, the most nominated thesp of all time, and currently a more bankable movie star than she ever was, has never presented Best Picture is more than a little bizarre.

Yes she’s perennially present as a nominee, but that shouldn’t preclude from presenting, especially in the years when her vehicle isn’t in the race for the top prize. (Hell, Nicholson is allowed to present even in those circumstances.) Has she been asked before, and turned it down? What gives? And who do you think should do the honors?

→ 28 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

28 responses so far

  • 1 10-26-2009 at 6:59 am

    John said...

    I’ve always felt … play up the strengths of the viewers.

    Get a Steve Martin/Billy Crystal/Whoopi/Ellen to host. Though, I personally thought Jackman did a very nice job last year.

    Make the opening number (by the host) insanely good; setting the pace for the evening.

    Get as many big Hollywood stars as humanly possible to show up and then be up on that stage presenting and/or doing schtick.

    Keep how they announce the acting awards (with the winners of old). Loved that. AND, provide the best clips possible as to why the nominees were nominated in the first place.

    Clump together more of the lesser awards; like they nicely did last year with CIN/AD/COST. Loved that.

    Drop whatever musical number they choose to do (last yrs. was a horror).

    Do we really have to listen to acceptance speeches from sound editors, sound mixers, and doc shorts?

    I think they can announce who won (of those categories), and in this day & age, provide a place on to watch their pre-ceremony speeches, etc.

    Those are some of my thoughts.

  • 2 10-26-2009 at 7:06 am

    Neal said...

    “Do we really have to listen to acceptance speeches from sound editors, sound mixers, and doc shorts?”

    Yes. Yes, we do.

  • 3 10-26-2009 at 7:09 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    They should get the likes of McG, Ratner, Bay, Sommers and Ritchie to present and compare two of the BP nominees to their films and explain why their films are so much better for most people. That would be fun.

  • 4 10-26-2009 at 7:18 am

    Ryan said...

    All I know is time should not be a factor in the changes. It’s about making the show as entertaining as possible. If they can do this in two hours, so be it. But if they can also do it in six hours, fine by me. Just entertain me/the audience. The Oscars are an EVENT. Treat it as such.

    I know a lot of people didn’t like the “Ode to Musicals” performance last year, but I don’t think we have to worry about that this year unless Shankman suddenly comes up with an “Ode to Dance Movies.” And oh crap just as soon as I typed that I just realized with”Fame” and the death of Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing) and Michael Jackson… what’s to stop him? Hm.

    Anyways, got sidetracked… keep the musical performances to the opening and the Best Original Song.

    I think bringing in five previous winners to announce the acting awards was really nice, but they shouldn’t do it every year. Bring it back every 5 or so years. I still very much like the tradition of the opposite sex-winner from last year presenting the award. And yes to the clips! The sad part is usually when we get to the tail-end of the awards, they usually cancel the clips to save time. Like I said, time shouldn’t be a factor! Give us the best show possible and if that means going over 15 minutes so we can have nice clips from the Best Actor/Actress/Picture, so be it.

    I’m sure I have more to say, but that’s all for now this Monday morning…

  • 5 10-26-2009 at 7:47 am

    The Other James D. said...

    I miss the film clips; they’re one of my favorite components of awards ceremonies. Like you said, it can be extremely beneficial, in particular to “Frozen River”, “The Visitor”, “Lars and the Real Girl”, “Half Nelson”, “Junebug”, “Hustle & Flow”, and so forth. As a matter of fact, seeing Melissa Leo’s wonderful clip at whatever pre-Oscar ceremony inspired my friend to see it the very next day, and he loved it so much, it became his #1 of 2008.

  • 6 10-26-2009 at 7:50 am

    Matthew said...

    Yes to the clips. Definitely need the clips. Last years, “we honour you” was nice but also extremely flaky and lame. I want to see a clip.

    Also, the musical numbers should probably be curbed slightly.

  • 7 10-26-2009 at 8:01 am

    Jim T said...

    Meryl Streep is probably the most logical choice for bet picture presentation. I don’t recall Scorsese having done it so I like that idea too.

    What I would like to see is a tribute (I don’t know in what way) to good films and performances that didn’t manage to get nominated. Perhaps some clips and some people talking about them, though I am afraid it would end up boring for most of the viewers.

  • 8 10-26-2009 at 8:21 am

    The Other James D. said...

    OOh, that’s a great idea, Jim. I wouldn’t have people talking about them–too much excess; limit it to an inclusive montage about critically acclaimed and notable performances/films that didn’t get recognition from the Academy, but deserve attention anyhow.

  • 9 10-26-2009 at 8:27 am

    Loyal said...

    Chevy Chase hosting and Eddie Murphy presenting Best Picture. WTG 60th Academy Awards.

  • 10 10-26-2009 at 8:35 am

    sosgemini said...

    My lord, you people really enjoy the clips? Why? How about one big montage of acting clips at the beginning of the show? That way I can take a restroom break and not be bored by it.

  • 11 10-26-2009 at 9:05 am

    M.Harris said...

    I actually didn’t mind having five previous Oscar winners announce the nominees.I didn’t think that it was corny at all.To receive praise from your peers,and in some cases from your idols,is a great thing.You could see the emotion on Viola Davis’s face when Eve Marie Saint was singing her praises.You also could see it in Anne Hathaway’s face also,when a previous winner was singing hers.

    It might not mean that much to me as a person who is watching,but I could see that it meant a hell of a lot to them.It also gives a personal touch,as opposed to just showing a clip.

    Now should they do this every year? No.I think that they should alternate between the concept that they had at the last show,and showing clips.Because I enjoyed seeing the clips also.

    I also like seeing the previous winner of the opposite sex,present the current winner.

  • 12 10-26-2009 at 9:12 am

    Sound Designer Dan said...

    “Do we really have to listen to acceptance speeches from sound editors, sound mixers, and doc shorts?” – John

    Hmmm….being that sound is a huge part of film maybe you’d like to give guys like us a little more credit.

  • 13 10-26-2009 at 9:30 am

    Neel Mehta said...

    I think a lame and too-long dance interlude is unavoidable.

    Few people talk about the Oscar Yearbook approach they tried last time, a genre breakdown of the year’s standouts. I thought it was a terrific idea. Celebrating the year in cinema should include not just the films nominated, but all the ones that made an impact.

    Also, I’d like the ceremony to be a little less stuffy and a little more irreverent. Like, have a clip of Michael Bay explaining how he would’ve added explosions to “An Education,” or something.

  • 14 10-26-2009 at 9:31 am

    Sawyer said...

    Wouldn’t Streep have a problem presenting the BP Oscar if she wins Best Actress, given the interviews and press conferences and such?

    They would have to push the Actress award to earlier in the show.

  • 15 10-26-2009 at 10:03 am

    Patrick said...

    I get the feeling Streep doesn’t want to present anything. All these years at the Oscars, she’s only presented twice, and both were honorary awards (O’Toole and Altman). She’s known for having a bit of stage fright, so maybe the whole “And the Oscar goes to…” thing is too much for her. Even in the years when it would have been logical for her to present (as the previous year’s winner), she didn’t.

    I agree she’s long past deserving it, and I’m sure they’ve asked. Maybe some year Meryl will say yes.

  • 16 10-26-2009 at 10:29 am

    head_wizard said...

    I also wasn’t a fan of last years show at all the musical numbers the obver praising of the nominees, I don’t care if it was a shorter show it felt much longer. Basically I would go back to the 2006 when The Departed won. Bring Ellen back (Funniest host so far) and the producers ideas, less music numbers and not so much random interludes. Plus any host that makses fun of the ten best picture nominee idea will make the show that much better.

  • 17 10-26-2009 at 11:51 am

    al b. said...

    I LOVED THE BAZ LUHRMAN NUMBER! I thought it was brilliant and very funny, me being a musical theatre fanatic! I agree with Kris that the Original Song presentation last year was strange, but I think actually some MORE very smart song-and-dance moments could possibly draw a large young audience (have you seen the numbers for Glee, I would be thrilled if I was FOX!) I don’t know about a repeat of Jackman, but another showman is just what the broadcast needs!

  • 18 10-26-2009 at 1:24 pm

    Lance said...

    There may be a director for the Oscars but for those with DVR’s, the editing will be in the individual hands of the viewer. Tech awards and cheesy show numbers will end up on the cutting room floor.

  • 19 10-26-2009 at 1:34 pm

    Lance said...

    If Madonna, Carrie Underwood, Sting and many other can receive their grammys prior to the televised awards show (and they often do as less than 5% of the awards are given out on camera) then tech people shouldn’t be that upset if the same happens to them at the Oscars.

  • 20 10-26-2009 at 5:15 pm

    par3182 said...

    Let the previous year’s acting winners present the category they won; I want to see some same sex action.

  • 21 10-26-2009 at 5:39 pm

    Alex said...

    John C Reilly should host. Maybe with Tina Fey.

  • 22 10-26-2009 at 6:07 pm

    Mr. F said...

    Lance, the grammys have a lot of categories that will not fit in a three-hour slot. Plus, lately the grammys are more about bringing together performers that one would never think would perform together. In the end, they only present about 10 awards during the actual show.

  • 23 10-27-2009 at 12:09 am

    Jess said...

    If the Oscars keep insisting on pigeonholing films, then they should be fair and call things as it is. Change the “Best Picture” award into the “Best live action Picture” award.

  • 24 10-27-2009 at 3:32 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Make that Best English-Language Live-Action Fiction Feature while you’re about it ;)

  • 25 10-27-2009 at 8:01 am

    Colin said...

    @ par3182: That might be a good change, but it might be a problem if the last year’s winner is a nominee (as Penelope Cruz may be).

  • 26 10-27-2009 at 2:18 pm

    KarlaT. said...

    Meryl Streep is great with speaches and alot of fun so therefore I say she should win for best actress and present the final award, and bring Ellen back to host!

  • 27 10-27-2009 at 3:06 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Nothing wrong with the telecast. It should just be in January.

  • 28 10-28-2009 at 3:58 am

    Uncle Vanya said...

    Sorry, but as a non-industry person who watches the Oscars as a fan, I thought last year’s acting award presntation format was novel and entertaining. Yeah, at first it seemed a little odd that the clips were gone. But there are plenty of ways to get clips into the show. The acting awards are why regular folk watch the show. Adding more star power to the equation only makes it a better show, especially since half the nominees will be unfamiliar names from movies that may not even make it to some viewers’ towns.