7 ways to fix the Oscars
In what has become an annual ritual, critics are once again trashing the Oscars telecast, which they're largely panning as too safe, too long, and too boring. Looking ahead to 2013, several are already offering unsolicited advice on how to improve the ceremony. Here, seven suggestions:
1. Hire a relevant, funny host
Drafting the right host is a tricky endeavor, and one the Academy has failed miserably at in recent years, says Jeff Bercovici at Forbes. The ideal Oscar host is someone "who's funny now," whose best comedy years aren't behind them (Billy Crystal) or ahead of them (James Franco and Anne Hathaway). Sunday's telecast revealed several contenders: Chris Rock, whose high-energy, hilarious riff was the night's highlight; Sacha Baron Cohen, whose red carpet stunt provided one of night's few memorable moments; or a dream team of Kristen Wiig and Tina Fey. Don't forget Jimmy Kimmel, says Lisa de Moraes at The Washington Post. His annual post-Oscar special routinely upstages the actual ceremony.
2. Scrap the host altogether
None of Billy Crystal's middling hosting moments are likely to make this year's Oscar highlight reel, says Katey Rich at Cinema Blend. Instead, youthful, edgy, and downright funny bits from awards presenters — like the cast of Bridesmaids and a fully-game Emma Stone — stole the night. It "makes you wonder if the whole idea of the host is outdated." Producers would be wise to ditch the host and refocus their energy on making these individual sketches really sing.
3. Show us the movies
When The Artist won Best Picture, it had barely grossed $30 million at the U.S. box office. The Channing Tatum romantic weepie The Vow and the Denzel Washington thriller Safe House earned more in just their opening weekends. So here's a novel idea, says David Hinckley at New York's Daily News: "When most of us have never seen most of the major nominated films, show us a little of them." The Grammy and Tony Awards are terrific fun because they spotlight the nominees, complete with compelling live performances, says Noel Murray at The A.V. Club. Instead of the Oscars loading up on "montages arguing that, in theory, movies are great," they ought to show more clips from the nominated films that ostensibly prove that notion.
4. Serve booze
Anyone who watches the Golden Globes and the Indie Spirit Awards knows those ceremonies "seem to move faster and offer a bit more joie de vivre," says Evan Shapiro at The Daily Beast. One key reason: The celebrities are drunk. Unlike the very-dry Academy Awards, the Globes and Spirit Awards seat the A-listers at tables and keep the booze flowing, leading to a looser, less-predictable telecast. The Academy should also move the show to Saturday night, so viewers wouldn't have to work the next morning. "We could all drink at our Oscar parties," and then spend Sunday morning debating the winners. "We'd even be more willing to watch a longer show."
5. Quit focusing on the past
The telecast would be far more enjoyable if, instead of being nostalgic about the past, the Oscars were enthusiastic about today's films, says Alan Sepinwall at HitFix. Sunday's telecast featured an endless series of montages with the apparent theme, "Movies: Weren't they just swell when you were growing up?" Ugh, says Katey Puchko at Cinema Blend. Instead of constantly reiterating the fact that movies in general are exciting — "we're watching the Oscars, we know they're exciting" — at least try to convince viewers that the films nominated this year are more exciting than ever.
6. Slash and burn
Everyone agrees that the Oscars are too long. There's no reason the ceremony can't be over and done with in 100 minutes, says Monica Weymouth at Metro. Even two and a half hours would be a huge improvement, says Shaprio. How to accomplish that? Cut some categories, says Bercovici. Sound, documentary, and shorts are first on the chopping block. There's already a special ceremony that hands out "special awards to all the nice fellows who've made technical breakthroughs," says Stephen Whitty at the New Jersey Star-Ledger. Moving even more less-exciting technical awards to that night is obviously the way to go.
7. Kick out the old people
When someone is inducted into the Academy, they're in for life. That leads to an Oscar-voting body that is far more "old, white, and male" than the typical moviegoing population. As long as there's lifetime membership, "the median age of the electorate is going to be inconveniently high and 'Oscar material' is going to remain synonymous with 'nostalgia fest,'" says Bercovici. The solution: Term limits.