3. Don’t Have A Theme, And Cut All The Montages
This is something of a more recent invention, thanks to producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron who produced the last two shows, which revolved around "heroes" and "movie musicals" for reasons that seem pretty arbitrary. And we can't think of anything more pointless than having a tacked-on theme for the ceremony; it adds precisely nothing to the evening. It only encourages more montages that are unrelated to anything that’s actually nominated. We’re all for including a bit of film history in the evening, but most of these montages don’t stretch back more than ten years, and we can probably do without micro-snippets of “Kung Fu Panda” or “After Earth”—as we’ve said before, it surely doesn’t make a difference between someone tuning in or not. So don’t have a theme and believe us, no one will miss it. And, themed or not, enough with the montages in general.
4. Cut The In Memoriam Section
We’re aware this isn’t necessarily going to be the most popular suggestion, and it’s one that caused a certain amount of internal debate. The In Memoriam section is the show’s sole chance to pay respects to those that passed in the previous year, and is certainly responsible for some potent moments, such as last night's reel closing on Phillip Seymour Hoffman. But it’s also not always done all that tastefully, as also evidenced this year, where the reel was followed by Bette Midler singing “Wind Beneath My Wings.” And often, this portion of the show opens up something of a can of worms, when it comes down to the choice of who’s included and who isn’t (there were inevitable complaints about the exclusion of Tom Clancy, and Alain Resnais). So why not do away with it altogether? The nod to Sarah Jones, the crew member killed in an accident a few weeks back, which wasn’t part of the main montage but followed on-screen after Midler’s song, and which led to an extended version of the presentation online, showed that in this day and age, you can use the internet to make everyone happy. So why not keep it online, and stop the applause-measuring, the debates over who was worth including and who wasn’t, and the mood-stalling nature of squeezing in quiet moments of reflection in an evening of jocular self-celebration.
5. Go Back To 5 Best Picture Nominees
Again, we have mixed feelings about this one. Though it was done mainly because of falling ratings, and because "The Dark Knight" had missed out on a nod, the expansion of the Best Picture field to ten has had some boons. It's hard to imagine movies like "Winter's Bone," "Amour," "The Tree Of Life" or even something like "Her" this year making the cut with only five slots, and it's nice to see smaller films showcased in that way alongside more obvious awards fare. But it's also lead to some pretty questionable fare making the cut too ("Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," for instance), and may have had repercussions beyond that. Mark Harris persuasively argued at Grantland that a wider Best Picture field has actually led to fewer films being recognized, with the 44 nominations in the major categories being spread between only twelve films. And as we saw last night, even with the Best Picture nominees being grouped into three to be "presented," an expanded field also takes up more time, so for the benefit of the show if nothing else, why not revert to five? It makes those five feel a little more "special," as it were, and in theory could make the show both more focused and more diverse in terms of the films that were getting picked.
Anything else you’d do if you were in charge? Let us know in the comments section below. — Jessica Kiang, Oliver Lyttelton