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The Amazing Race: 5 Suggestions On How To Make Next Year's Oscars Better Than The 2012 Ceremony

Awards
by Oliver Lyttelton
February 27, 2012 4:24 PM
15 Comments
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Crystal Jackman

So the general consensus on last night's Oscars is in, and no one's particularly happy (the full winners are listed here in case you somehow missed it). Well, ABC might be, with ratings slightly up on last year (although still a fraction of years gone by), but few seem to have been wowed by the show, even if it managed not to be the trainwreck of the 2011 ceremony. Like the nominees themselves, there was a familiar warmth to it, but nothing even close to exceptional about it.

We're 365 days or so away from the next ceremony (leap year, don't forget), but it's clear there's plenty of room for improvement, and we've picked out five suggestions to make next year's Oscars a little more palatable for the audience at home. They're unlikely to happen, but it'd be nice.

billy crystal
Don't Hire Billy Crystal
We don't dislike Billy Crystal. We will physically fight anyone who says a bad word about "When Harry Met Sally." And he's been a good host in the past. But his time for this sort of thing has passed and, while it's strangely appropriate in a year full of so many nostalgic pictures, he was a pretty terrible choice to host, as we've already discussed. Yes, he wasn't the first choice, but that doesn't stop the fact that he, and the material, kind of stunk. So top of the memo? Delete him from the Academy rolodex. You don't have to keep going back to the same well for hosts (which isn't to say that we wouldn't welcome Hugh Jackman or Chris Rock, or even Jon Stewart, coming back). Why has Tom Hanks, who kills every time he does SNL, never done it? What about Ben Stiller or Will Ferrell or Tina Fey or Steve Carell, who've always been fun when they present awards? Why not Will Smith? Hell, Albert Brooks has had a career revival of late, and is pretty much the funniest man in the world again. These aren't edgy choices -- all are pretty much paid-up members of the establishment these days. But they've got a broader appeal without dumbing it down.

Bruce Vilanch
Axe Bruce Vilanch, Get New Writers
While Crystal gets the lion's share of the blame this year, there's been a recurring problem over the last few years: the jokes have just not been that funny. Veering on the side of respectable (except for the sort-of-staggering blackface and race gags this year, which, like Crystal, seemed to come straight out of a 1961 ceremony), and rarely hitting the spot, responsibility must come at the feet of veteran comic Bruce Vilanch, who's been head writer on the show for a decade. James Franco publicly feuded with Vilanch after the show last year, and while Franco was far from blameless, we saw his point: like Crystal, Vilanch, who is 63, has seen better days, and the show needs some new blood. And that's something they seem to be aware of -- Hugh Jackman's gig in 2009, was penned by, among others, Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab ("Community") and Ben Schwartz ("Parks and Recreation," "House of Lies"). They've all been busy on TV shows, for sure, but given that writers rooms on many shows wrap in early February, it wouldn't be impossible to get them back. And if not them, there's plenty of others who could make it work. Of course, there's another related problem here, which leads us to...   

The Dictator Oscars
Allow A Little Danger In
We get that the Oscars are a night of self-celebration, but, Jesus Christ, you don't have to take them so seriously. The fuss in some quarters about Sacha Baron Cohen on the red carpet was only the most pertinent example of something that became a real problem this year -- a relentlessly self-important tone. We're not saying you have to get Ricky Gervais in (he was pretty bad at the Golden Globes this year), but you can have fun without being mean-spirited, and that's really what it should be. If it looks like everyone in the audience, and on stage, are having a blast, the audience will have fun too -- that's what Jackman & co got right a few years back. If the ceremony comes across as a three hout anti-movie piracy PSA, then the audience are going to tune out. You can still honor good work sincerely without making movies out to be the most important thing in the world.

Cirque Du Soleil Oscars
Don't Spend So Much Time On Pointless Montages/Dance Numbers
Speaking of honoring work, playing off winners' speeches, neglecting lifetime achivement winners and skipping things like a Muppets musical number plays especially sour if a disproportionate amount of the running time is made up of things that are totally irrelevant. We're not clear why no one has worked out that interpretative dance numbers at the Academy Awards ARE ALWAYS TERRIBLE. Every single time, and yet every year they come back. Does the dancers' union have a surprisingly powerful lobby or something? Similarly, montages unrelated to anything that's happened in the previous year tend to be nothing but dead air, and when you're playing off someone who's actually achieved something in order to get to five second clips of "Titanic" and "Lord of the Rings." Some rethinking of priorities are in order.  

"The Artist"
"The Artist"
Maybe It's Time To Go Back To Five Nominees?
Going up to 10 was done essentially because "The Dark Knight" was snubbed in 2008 and there was major outrage, but has this reparative move bettered things? Ideally 10 nominations make way for deserving tentpoles and smaller indies -- but aside from nominations for "Winter's Bone," "Up" and "District 9" -- those additional nominations have done little. In fact, this year, neither indie nor deserving mainstream film (many felt like the final  "Harry Potter" or "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes" were deserving not to mention indie fare like "Beginners") were nominated, perhaps thanks to the new voting system and flexible number of nominees. Instead, the additional nominations simply went to more Oscar bait films and mediocre ones at that ("War Horse," "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"). So what's the solution here exactly? Is this move truly benefitting anyone that the expansion was meant for? Nothing gets much of a box office boost, and picking out ten (or nine, or eight) takes the sheen off the honor. The experiment hasn't worked: go back to five.

-- Oliver Lyttelton & RP

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15 Comments

  • Jake | February 28, 2012 9:26 PMReply

    Let's go back to five nominees AFTER The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, and the musical adaptation of Les Miserables are all released in time for next year's ceremony. THAT'S the Oscar telecast I want to watch.

  • bruce vilanch | February 27, 2012 7:58 PMReply

    dear mr. lyttleton -- i had nothing to do with the show this year. check the credits. i am also 64 years old. check my birth certificate. i am also a person who encouraged hugh to bring in those writers and we all wrote and rewrote together. they got the credit on the opening song and won the emmy. i am sorry my best years are behind me. but so's my ass, which is pretty fabulous and gets a lot of work. this is really me. see what happens when you have google alert? you get to read all the misinformed crap that's written about you. enjoy your career!

  • Dr. Fightmaster | March 4, 2013 8:34 PM

    "we all wrote and rewrote together." I hear you're a liar. Enjoy your career!

  • Russell | February 27, 2012 10:23 PM

    Bruce Vilanch loves himself far too much to not stay above the fray. Hilarious --- unlike his work.

  • Yod | February 27, 2012 10:11 PM

    That's awesome.

  • Yod | February 27, 2012 10:10 PM

    That's awesome.

  • Edward Copeland | February 27, 2012 6:07 PMReply

    What really needs to happen is that the Academy needs to grow a pair and tell Disney/ABC that they will never have the ratings of the show's glory days because there are a lot more options than three channels now. They need to accept that the Oscars aren't going to get an audience by default. It is now niche programming and instead of attempting to attract new viewers that it's not going to get, it should cater to viewers like us that it will instead of continuously pissing us off. There will become a point when many of us get used to not seeing award shows such as BAFTA and the Spirits live and just seeing who won afterward and we might start choosing that option for Oscar as well. Why not watch something entertaining and just checking the Web every so often to see what's been winning? If that means missing Cirque du Soleil, I'll take that chance.

  • Daniel | February 29, 2012 3:47 PM

    You make a lot of sense, sir.

  • StephenM | February 27, 2012 5:52 PMReply

    Yeah, it wasn't amazing, but when have the Oscars ever been amazing? Maybe back when Bob Hope did it, I dunno, but even then that was just some great one liners, and very little showbiz. Personally I thought this year was a big improvement over last year's, and in some ways the best in the last 3-5. It wasn't that the jokes were hilarious or not, it was more about the warm and respectful presentation without becoming narcissistic. Remember the way they had all the other actors compliment each other on what great people they were a couple years back? And everyone gave really good acceptance speeches this year, too--they didn't go on too long, and none of them went crazy or nothin'. So pretty solid and respectable, and that's all you can really ask for.

  • Murphy | February 27, 2012 5:34 PMReply

    Poehler/Fey please.

  • Bakunin | February 27, 2012 4:56 PMReply

    "but you can have fun without being mean-spirited"

    Kind of contradictory considering Cohen was being mean-spirited with his new, xenophobic movie/character.

  • david | February 27, 2012 4:54 PMReply

    NPH or GTFO.

  • ben | February 27, 2012 4:40 PMReply

    Grazer axed Bruce Villanch this year.

  • oogle monster | February 27, 2012 4:39 PMReply

    Please fax this to the Academy ASAP.

  • RayA | March 1, 2012 2:41 PM

    Fax? Are you kidding? The Academy doesn't know how to work a fax machine. Postal mail or courier, please, or they'll never see it.

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