AMPAS chief Sherak promises “more fun” Oscars

Posted by · 6:00 am · November 15th, 2009

Tom SherakAs a former Fox chairman with a background in marketing, it’s unsurprising that Tom Sherak, who recently replaced Sid Ganis as president of the Academy, wants to bring a more populist approach to the Oscars.

In this LA Times interview, he makes it clear that the primary objective of the move to 10 Best Picture nominees is to get more blockbusters into the race — having himself voted for “The Dark Knight” last year — but admits that they may not succeed:

The point of it was to do something … We need to not be afraid to try things. We need to be positive. The people who are against the idea say, ‘What if it doesn’t work?’ Then we won’t do it again.

I find myself increasingly annoyed at the now-common implication that The Ten won’t have “worked” if a “Star Trek” or an “Avatar” doesn’t make the cut, a line of thinking that seems to cynically undermine the artistry the Oscars claim to stand for. If ten film smaller or more prestige-focusedĀ  films make up the nominees (as I think is more likely to be the case), it’s insulting to imply that would constitute a failure.

When the announcement was made in June, Academy spokespeople expressed the hope that this would open the door for more commercial and animated titles, as well as more independent, foreign-language and documentary cinema, but it seems only the first two labels are really on their minds. (It’s also suggests a short memory on their part, taking into account only really the last two years of Oscar voting: “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Departed” weren’t that long ago. Don’t panic.)

I digress. Anyway, even if Sherak has no control over what films will compete on Oscar night, he’s determined to make the show itself more accessible to the general public. Though this year’s ceremony was adored by many, it seems Sherak agrees with me that it was a little too smug and insular:

We’re putting on a show, and that has to translate to millions and millions of people. I think what happened last year is that the show inside the Oscars, inside the Kodak, was incredible, but at home it played differently. We have to make it more fun.

The return to a comedic emphasis, as indicated by the selection of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin to host, is presumably part of his plan, which is more than fine by me. (The interview reveals that the decision to have two hosts was largely Sherak’s idea.) Beyond that, he doesn’t offer many clues as to what his “more fun” Oscar model might entail, though he tosses in a token reference to the texting, Twittering youth audience.

My guess is that this is a lot of talk, and the show won’t be noticeably different from the way it’s always been. But then, for those of us who care about them, when have the Oscars not been fun?

→ 11 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

11 responses so far

  • 1 11-15-2009 at 8:50 am

    Bill Melidoneas said...

    Why can’t Avatar and Star Trek and District 9 all get in? (Or at least 2 of 3)

    Who I / we think should or would be in?

    Up in the Air, Nine, Invictus, The Lovely Bones, Precious, Hurt Locker, Up (That’s 7) maybe Crazy heart slips in here.

    I don’t see A serious Man, An Education, or A Single Man have a big enough support for a Picture nom.

  • 2 11-15-2009 at 9:31 am

    Chris138 said...

    I agree with Bill. I also don’t see A Serious Man, An Education or A Single Man getting enough support for a Best Picture nomination.

    But who knows. I didn’t think The Reader was going to get enough support next to The Dark Knight last year, and look how that turned out.

  • 3 11-15-2009 at 9:42 am

    Pablo (Col) said...

    I agree too. Its important to make a mix of all the kinds of cinema. The Academy Awards cant be all north american, or blockbuster or drama or all about only one thing. It would be amazing to see one film for every genre.

    Mistery, sci-fi, animated, foreign, drama, independent, documentary, comedy, musical and biopic.

    I would call that a good mix

  • 4 11-15-2009 at 10:50 am

    Ross said...

    All I want is Oscar voters nominating the usual stuff (like CRAZY HEARTS and THE LAST STATION and BRIGHT STAR and A SINGLE MAN) instead of big movies like AVATAR. This way the Academy will finally understand that the 10 nominees idea was really terrible. Because who knows? They did it to have The Dark Knight among the nominees. But are they so sure it was among the top 10? I think DOUBT, FROZEN RIVER, GRAN TORINO (yes!) and CHANGELING got more votes than it did last year, simply because voters love films like these and they don’t like the idea of a film like THE DARK KNIGHT getting nominated…

  • 5 11-15-2009 at 11:56 am

    Peter said...

    Ultimately the Academy is going to have their way and end up with the Golden Globes.
    What has always appealed to me about the Oscars was the insider and industry slant. I like the honorary awards, the speeches, and the camraderie amongst collaborators. I dislike the spectacle, the pointless schtick, and the belittlement of non-‘top five’ nominees. These things are what’s destroying the elegant tradition of the Awards. And I think that tradition is what made it watchable and fascinating in the first place.

  • 6 11-15-2009 at 12:24 pm

    Jason said...

    Note to Academy: Be Elitist!

  • 7 11-15-2009 at 12:37 pm

    tony rock said...

    Jason, you must be joking…

  • 8 11-15-2009 at 1:29 pm

    coffeefortwo said...

    Maybe they can add a panel of three sassy judges who give their observations about the quality of the acceptance speeches before spinning around to blast a t-shirt cannon towards a frenzied crowd of bikini-clad teens enlivened by a potent mix of Red Bull and meth. That would be super-fun for sure.

    Last year’s Oscar ceremony was roundly celebrated by critics and movie fans, and it ticked UP in the ratings from the previous year, and Tom Sherak thinks that’s a problem that needs solving. We may be careening towards a painful Oscar ceremony.

    “But then, for those of us who care about them, when have the Oscars not been fun?”

    1989, the year Rob Lowe sang with Snow White.

    Aw, who am I kidding. That was spectacularly fun, so disastrous that Roland Emmerich should find a way to adapt it for his next movie.

    In actuality, your closing line is the perfect rebuttal to Sherak’s nonsense. Bravo.

  • 9 11-15-2009 at 2:55 pm

    Fitz said...

    The Dark Knight was supposed to get in because of its high-minded take on a crime film. Not because it was commerical.

    Jesus Christ they’re going to fuck this up huge.

  • 10 11-15-2009 at 5:43 pm

    Patryk said...

    Maybe this 10 nominee thinking can help us understand why “How Green Was My Valley” won over “Citizen Kane” in 1941.

  • 11 11-15-2009 at 8:01 pm

    head_wizard said...

    This just proves(further) how stupid an idea this is it just proves that they are after ratings and they care little about the quality of the movie getting nominated as they “claim” What if there is no Dark Knight what if the Hollywood movies suck that year(its happened numerous times) nominate them anyways we need the ratings?

    I agree with Jason be elitist Academy if you simply want the popcorn films watch the Mtv Movie awards.