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5 Ways To Make Next Year's Oscar Show Better

by The Playlist Staff
March 3, 2014 5:22 PM
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So the numbers are in, and last night’s Oscar telecast raked as the ceremony’s highest viewership stats for a decade, reaching an audience of 43 million. Of course its being hailed as a triumph for host Ellen DeGeneres, but we’re going to suggest that part of that was due to a more open, or rather less decided, race for Best Picture between “Gravity” and eventual winner “12 Years A Slave." Not to mention all the people who tuned in with their kids to hear the one and only Adele Dazim sing “Let it Go.” (Be sure to check out our list of the Best and Worst Moments from the show).

With the figures 6% higher than last year’s, and with no foreseeable fallout along the lines of the sexism accusations that plagued Seth McFarlane’s hosting turn (that grew louder online and in the op-ed pages over the subsequent week) the organizers must be feeling pretty good about themselves. To which, killjoys that we are, we’d say whoa there! Not so fast! This year may have got a few more eyeballs, but there are still a few changes that we think will make next year’s telecast better. Here are five suggestions (along with the permanent, standing suggestion that they ply the celebs with more booze à la The Golden Globes), for your consideration.

Ellen DeGeneres

1. Bring In An Edgier Host
So, we were quite impressed with the job Ellen DeGeneres did last night, with producers opting for a safe, steady pair of hands, and with a hosting style that was that bit more informal, after last year’s diametrically different, wannabe Rat-Pack/Vegas show feel that Seth MacFarlane brought to the stage. But we do hope that the Academy now feels that they have the license to go a bit further next year, and that the hiked-up viewerships figures are not necessarily read as being a direct result of a more conservative hosting choice. In fact, the impulse that seems to have governed recently is “take a risk” followed by “play it safe” on alternate years (Hathaway and Franco were risky and bombed so Billy Crystal came back the next year, then MacFarlane followed by DeGeneres) and by that same logic we should be in for something a bit less, well, cosy in 2015. But we just hope that the fact that so many of the riskier choices of late have turned out badly doesn’t see the Academy retreating back into their shell. Ellen we can take and mildly enjoy for a year, but we can’t see people getting hugely excited for another helping. Also, while the looseness of her off-the-cuff approach was refreshing, it did contribute to the show’s overlength, and the feeling of general sagginess that set in somewhere around hour two. Which brings us to....

McConaughey, Oscars

2. Drastically, Vastly Reduce The Running Time, By At Least An Hour
Last night’s Oscars, at 3 hours 35 minutes were apparently, to the minute, the same length as 2013’s ceremony, but it sure felt longer. Though admittedly that might be because the mean-spiritedness of MacFarlane’s gig exerted its own kind of fascination. But while DeGeneres didn’t help matters by including a tortuous 15-minute bit about ordering pizza which was maybe hilarious if you were there but soon became irritating to the watching millions, a lot of the the dead air and slackness of the telecast was totally not her fault. The sluggish pace was basically down to the whole event not being run crisply. Do the celebrities doing the category presentations have to be introduced with such stately fanfare themselves? And do we really need to see a potted edition of every single Best Picture nomination, introduced by yet another celebrity who needs to be introduced? This sort of thing kind of guarantees the evening can’t ever really build momentum, and instead regularly judders to a halt. There are a bunch of ways the ceremony’s designers could go about tackling this, from reducing the categories they feature to staging in such a way that it’s more designed for the TV audience than for the attendees. But if there was one change we could impose on all future ceremonies, it would be this one: for the love of Mike, lose an hour.

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  • the sayer of the truth | March 12, 2014 10:58 PMReply

    The ONLY way to make the Oscars a better show would be to flush the whole out-moded fiasco smartly down the toilet ! ! !.

  • Stacey | March 10, 2014 2:56 PMReply

    Here's where the Oscars "miss it". The Grammys have live performances of the year's best performances in music so the audience can listen to the songs which are being honored that night. Same for the Tonys, which feature many live performances of the plays and musicals which are being honored that night. So those two awards shows feel like real celebrations of the year's best work in their industries. But at the Oscars, we barely see more than a few seconds in clips of the nominated films and performances. Show more clips, honor those whose work is being honored that night. Forget the people who annually say to dump the montages, this is an industry about film viewing, have MORE film viewing! Only make the montages interesting and entertaining, and not cut-and-pasted together by 4th graders who seemed bored by the job.

  • Joe | March 8, 2014 4:51 PMReply

    Here's the only way it can get better: B.E.T.

    No, scratch that. Change it. I meant "Cleavage".

  • Ferdinand | March 8, 2014 10:21 AMReply

    How about Bette Midler to host 2015 OSCARS? She would be perfect, with her comedic timing, sensational singing voice and buckets of personality, it's a walk in the park for Bette!

  • Marcus | March 5, 2014 12:53 PMReply

    How about nominating movies viewers at home have actually heard of, and maybe even gone to see?

  • AR | March 4, 2014 6:07 PMReply

    The suggestions are not very good. Sorry

  • Jane | March 8, 2014 4:53 PM

    All I try to do is please YOU and you consistently INSULT me! What else do I have to do? WHAT! ELSE! DO! I! HAVE! TO ! DO!!!!!!

  • benutty | March 4, 2014 3:05 PMReply

    3.5 hours is not too long of a show.

    The problem isn't the show's length, it is definitely in the presentation of it. I've never understood the relevancy of having a comedic host spend lengthy amounts of time entertaining the audience. Instead, an Oscar ceremony should be classy, grounded in tradition, and have respect for all of the nominees being honored. I'd like to see the scene submissions by all nominated actors, hear excerpts from all the nominated screenplays, and see images for each of the nominated effects categories (especially cinematography).

    The goal of The Academy should be to honor their nominees and create a sense of esteem surrounding who they anoint. One of the best things they did was have past winners introduce and congratulate the acting nominees. I also remember fondly when Whoopi came out in costumes from each of those nominees.

    Show the audience WHY films were nominated in a tasteful manner and stop this trend of making fun of them.

  • Ron | March 4, 2014 2:22 PMReply

    I actually love the montages!

  • V. | March 4, 2014 8:19 AMReply

    The only thing that really needs to be changed is the voting system. The Hunt, the Great Beauty or the Act of Killing had no chances in winning anything big and yet they are ten, if not hundred, times better than the cliche goldmines like American Hustle or Gravity and incredibly over-the-top sentimental cr*p like Dallas Buyers Club or 12 years... Now obviously films like the Hunt or Love will never win best picture, but my point is this: would it not be beneficial to the ratings of the Oscars (round the globe that is) to include lesser known European directors in the mix? Attitudes would immediately change towards the Oscars if people like Vinterberg were to be nominated instead of Russel and Payne (two nominees about ten years past their prime and now getting recognition only because of who they are). As for the best picture it is easy to understand why the Hunt or the Act of Killing can't and I'd say even shouldn't win, yet giving a real go to films like the Great Beauty would actually change the way we see the ceremony, that nowadays awards two kinds of films: political correctness manifestos or incredibly middle of the road pictures with recognizable faces. Naturally films like 12 years will always be a lot stronger than obscure independent pictures, but wouldn't the inclusion of less crowd pleasing films make it way more interesting (no matter who you root for as long as there is some actual rooting to be had)? Surely if there were any real intrigue to it, people wouldn't mind waiting for three hours and hearing a few mediocre artists? But obviously in order for that to happen the whole system ought to be changed, which is not going to happen, so now I fell dumber than the 60 year old make up artists who decide the worth of art.

  • Daniel Delago | March 4, 2014 6:21 AMReply

    Make opening the envelope more dramatic. Back in the day, cameras would zoom in and lock onto all the nominees faces as the winner's name was read. It was priceless to see the losers' reactions. As gracious as they try to come off, let's face it, acting is one of the most ego-driven professions in the world. Nobody wants to go home empty-handed without the Oscar.

  • Joe | March 3, 2014 9:29 PMReply

    There's only one possible way to make the show any better: B. E. T.

    That's right, they should just go ahead on and air the show on Black Entertainment Television. It would be ratings blast. Follow my logic, here, people: global audiences wouldn't know how to process the information and the entire world would tune in to see just what the hell the Acadamy was thinking, putting the most revered of all awards shows on a rickety, nickel-and-dime network that barely passes the broadcast qualifications for public access. The Academy covers the "edgy" quote (and then some), and also helps bring in revenue for a fringe network. It's win-win, people.

  • Christian | March 3, 2014 9:08 PMReply

    Let's see make it shorter? Yes
    Better host? Yes
    For the technical awards show some BTS footage.
    For the short films make them easily accessible. You can't find most of them till way after the ceremony. If want people to care about them make it to where people are actually able to watch them. There's no reason to not release them. No one I making tons of money off of them.

  • gurli | March 3, 2014 9:00 PMReply

    disagree oh so very much with the suggestion of cutting the In Memoriam section. It's an important moment. One of my favourites. But yes it should be done tastefully, which it also would have been IF they had just left it at showing the montage. The Bette Midler thing was too much. They should have a Best Soundtrack category - that would be exciting, giving the Music Supervisors some credit! Even though Randall Poster would probably take it all :)

  • Sean | March 3, 2014 8:27 PMReply

    I disagree with all of these suggestions haha.

    Cutting the memoriam? Go back to 5 nominees? Well these are never gonna happen lol. No wayyy!

    But I do have an idea!
    Having Kevin Spacey host next year! (he had some few funny bits & I think he can genuinely do it & it would be a fun & I think somewhat daring choice) lol

  • BEF | March 3, 2014 8:53 PM

    I really think that Spacey was auditioning for the gig last night ... I'd be down for it.

  • MarlinC | March 3, 2014 6:44 PMReply

    Cutting the Best Song performances would cut out a huge chunk of time. Let's face it, it's not a terribly exciting category in the first place. And with the exception of a few rare instances, most of the songs nominated every year are pretty lackluster. I know it provides performance content to the Oscars, but I'd rather see that time devoted to behind-the-scenes of the Best Picture nominees or something that focuses on actual movies and filmmaking.

  • joe | March 4, 2014 3:11 AM

    They tried to cut "The Best Song Performances" several times already. People always complain when they do.

  • Lorem | March 3, 2014 6:33 PMReply

    Not sure how long ago, but there was a time when for best screenplay and adapted screenplay they would show you a scene on the page and then show that scene from the film. That was my favorite part. They need to bring that back.
    I also think that they need to spend some more time on the "smaller" awards. We obviously don't know who the sound mixers or make-up artists are and instead of just hustling through those awards give me a little behind the scenes montage of these people at work. Try to show how important they are to the films they worked on. I'd gladly sacrifice all of the best song performances for a little clip about what goes into getting quality sound or how long it took to sew some crazy costume.

  • helen | March 3, 2014 5:57 PMReply

    I think the Oscars have become more interesting since they added more movies to the list of best picture nominees.If they cut down to five,it will always be down to the obvious choices,and the ones with the best campaign(and that kind of stuff already makes the Oscars pointless).
    This way this year more people heard abour Her or Philomena,than they normally would.

  • Mongoosecmr | March 3, 2014 5:37 PMReply

    I wouldn't want to cut the memorial segment, but it does need to be better done. TCM's video, while a bit sappy, is a lot more moving and wide ranging. There is clear effort and care put in, while the Oscar one felt like it was cut in a day, and seemed to mostly include those who passed in the last three months instead of the whole year. If they cut out a skit/song and put some effort into it I don't see any reason why you would argue it being removed

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