84th Oscarcast beginning to take shape

Posted by · 10:31 am · February 17th, 2012

Earlier this week, Michael Cieply wrote a thorough enough piece at The New York Times explaining what we know, but mostly what we don’t know, about the upcoming Oscar telecast.

Typically by this time, we have things like stage sketches and quotes from the producers expressing various intents with the annual broadcast by this time. This year? Not so much (though it was announced they’d be yanking the original song performances).

In the wake of Ratnergate, perhaps the Academy has felt it better to just keep its head down, push through and get on the other side of things without drawing a lot of attention to the process. But producers Brian Grazer and Don Mischer “have been conspicuously silent on [the show’s] themes, challenges and the presumably fresh approach they will take,” Cieply writes. Nevertheless, some things are now beginning to bubble up.

If you haven’t been put to sleep by the annual roll call of presenters yet, this morning’s announcement that Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy will be included at least brings with it the promise of some creativity at the podium. Also announced today is a planned performance by Cirque du Soleil, which is really interesting given that the dance troupe’s latest show, “Iris,” includes a send-up of the Oscars.

“The segment…features two of the show’s clowns, who act as the slap-happy hosts of an, ahem, unnamed awards show,” the LA Times reported in September. “The set features two tacky staircases, a microphone that doesn’t work properly, and a huge, gold-painted award (fashioned as a loving cup) that falls apart.”

According to the Academy’s press release announcing the performance at the show, Academy Award-nominated composer Danny Elfman, who scored “Iris,” will be contributing music to the segment. “More than 50 international artists from Cirque du Soleil productions around the world will converge in Los Angeles on Oscar Sunday to bring the dynamic showcase to life,” it reads.

Cirque du Soleil performed once before at the Oscars, in 2002. That appearance yielded discussions that led to the creation of “Iris,” which has been performed at the Kodak for the past five months.

It’s worth noting the subtitle of “Iris,” by the way: “A Journey through the World of Cinema.” The show is indeed an homage to movies, which is wonderfully befitting of this year’s unofficial theme at the multiplex (and certainly dovetails nicely with expected Best Picture winner “The Artist”).

With that in mind, Cieply also mentions one of the few comments Grazer has made about the upcoming show, noting that the Kodak Theatre “will be decorated to resemble ‘a timeless movie theater,’ like the Pantages or other picture palaces of old.”

You can kind of see things clicking into place, the Oscarcast potentially hopping on the coattails of an inherent thematic thread in many of the year’s nominated films, one they can certainly get behind: film appreciation. Maybe we can get a nice reel of clips featuring films that celebrate the same, “Cinema Paradiso,” “Adaptation,” “8 1/2,” “Sullivan’s Travels,” “Contempt,” etc.

We’ll see how the plans come into place. We’re just over a week away from the big show and I just have my fingers crossed for a proper dose of class. As Anne and I discussed in this morning’s podcast, the Academy needs to cling to its identity now more than ever, and that identity is currently in danger of being diluted and transformed into something unbecoming.

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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