Goldstein’s Oscar suggestions

L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein has assembled the smartest and most creative suggestions for how to fix the Oscar show that I’ve read anywhere. I’ve listed a few, but it can all be boiled down to three words — fire Gil Cates. He’s too old to get with the 21st Century program and needs to be put out to pasture — simple. Bring in a producer who’s younger and fresher and more alive-in-the-moment. Somebody in their 60s, I mean.
(1) “Although I’m sure it will cause a firestorm inside the academy, the technical awards — sound editing, sound mixing, visual effects, makeup and costume design — have to go,” Goldstein writes. “No one outside of the academy wants to hear acceptance speeches from people they’ve never heard of, no matter how heartfelt. The Oscars may have once been a celebration of craft, but the world has changed. Today’s audience wants a horse race. The show is just bad TV.”
(2) “The same goes for those cringe-inducing renditions of the best original songs. With the exception of a wonderfully spare rendition of ‘Falling Slowly’ from Once, they were all massively overproduced, drenched in so much glitz that they lacked any emotional resonance. I mean, who did the choreography — Michael Bay? And why is the academy president Sid Ganis on camera, taking up valuable time explaining arcane voting procedures? It’s just dead air.
(3) “There is plenty of precedent for streamlining the Oscar telecast. Just watch the Grammys. In a typical telecast, the Grammys have roughly 20 musical performances while giving out 10 actual awards. The other 100-odd Grammys are presented earlier in the day at a pre-award show with presenters, acceptance speeches and a full audience. As an experiment, this year’s pre-show was webcast on Grammy.com with the idea of expanding it into a bigger event in the future.”
(4) “MTV stages a web simulcast for its Video Music Awards, with separate hosts situated backstage, giving fans watching on the Internet a chance to see some of the backstage action. The Oscars should have a full-on web broadcast, anchored backstage by someone who’s been in a Judd Apatow movie, with live remotes from Oscar parties around the country.
(5) “The technical awards, beefed up with appearances by younger actors and filmmakers as presenters, would have enough appeal to merit their own telecast, perhaps on a movie channel like AMC or Turner Classic Movies the night before the Oscars. Freed from the weight of academy ceremony and tradition, they could serve as a proving ground for fresh ideas and new talent that could be incorporated into future Oscar telecasts.
(6) “Having a separate, less formal tech ceremony would allow the academy to experiment with new ideas, whether it’s trying a web simulcast, showing user-generated parodies of Oscar films or launching a Web-sponsored ‘pick the host’ contest. The show could add star appeal by doing interviews with stars preparing for the big show the following night, playing fun clips from the Independent Spirit Awards or having a live remote from an industry Saturday-night party.”


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  • Mgmax, le Corbeau

    1) Instead of brooming them, how about making them interesting? We all watch DVDs of making-of stuff, why not give the award and follow it with a minute-long clip showing what was involved in it? We’re interested in special effects, music, cinematography– we’re just not interested in an assistant’s editor’s love for his wife and kids.
    2) One out of 10 is electrifying– all the best moments on this show belonged to Hansard and Irglova. They’re just being done badly. Same for Sid’s video, which was like a YouTube film by some kid in Iowa, except a YouTube film would have at least one laugh in it. I’ve made videos for plumbing sales conventions that were more professional than that thing. (Dropping your pen to vote– WACKY!) Maybe there’s somebody in the Academy with some experience in comedy who could tackle that aspect of it?
    3) There aren’t nearly as many Oscars as Grammys. It just feels like there are. Which is the point.
    4) Yes.
    5) Anything would be better than the two-minute recap by this year’s bimbo.
    6) Good point.

  • Dave

    Those are all pretty good suggestions.
    Alas, losing the technical categories is tough. Sure, *I* could do without makeup and costume design, but what to the chicks care about then? And are Cinematography, Editing and Score considered technical awards too?

  • Sam Adams

    The problem with the Original Song performances isn’t the performances — it’s the songs. The winners have improved greatly, but the nominee pool is still clogged with way too much pseudo-Broadway gunk. I mean, Jesus: Three Enchanted songs and no Eddie Vedder? I don’t know if it would take a rule change or simply new blood, but the song perfs could easily be a highlight if the nominees were better. Even people who don’t like “Falling Slowly” think that Glen and Marketa’s acceptance speeches were a highlight. (Side note to Goldstein: How is Amy Adams on a bare stage “overproduced”? Whatever you think of the song, her performance killed.)
    At least Goldstein doesn’t take aim at the short filmmakers. They often give some of the best acceptance speeches, since they’re actually grateful for the recognition.

  • bmcintire

    I’d say his comparison between the Oscars and the Super Bowl is highly misguided. These are two wholly different animals. Imagine how boring it would be for the NFL to give out an MVP award for every position on the field and televise the results. The ESPYs would be a closer thing to examine, but that whole wink-and-a-nudge approach is what gave us the MTV Movie Awards. Two of those we don’t need.

  • http://www.filmjerk.com Edward Havens

    With all due respect to Wells or Goldstein, there is no easy fix for the Oscars. Are either of you seriously comparing the jokes that are the Grammys and the MTV Movie Awards to the Oscars? These “notes,” if any were to be implemented outside of dumping Mr. Cates, would reduce the value of the Oscar by a far greater exponent than any immediate production value.
    Ratings are down for everything, and have been for decades. With the exception of a truly super, possibly historic Super Bowl, of course. The only way to get the Oscars back on an upswing is to educate the sub-30 year old moviegoer about the importance of the Oscars and movies in general. My age difference between my brother and I is 11 years (I’m 40, he’s 29), but the gulf between my love of movies and his indifference is staggering. I doubt if Dave goes to five movies in any given year, and I doubt his DVD collection is in double digits. He just doesn’t care about movies, nor do most of his friends.
    I also suspect the multiplexing of America has something to do with it. I work at a ten-plex myself, and it doesn’t hold a candle to my first theatre, The Del Mar, a grand old theatre in Santa Cruz, built in 1927 and recently (mostly) restored to much of its former glory. Going to the movies isn’t as special as it used to be. My wife, for example, won’t go to the Arclight unless the film she wants to see is playing in the Dome. She won’t go to Hollywood and Highland unless the film she wants to see is playing at the Grauman’s. She too once worked at a movie theatre, a tiny four-plex in San Jose, and she flat out refuses to pay for a movie unless it’s at a movie palace. Even when we lived in New York City, it had to be the Astor Plaza or the Ziegfeld or the Beekman, unless the film she wanted to see was playing in the big house at the Cinema 1 2 3 or the Sutton.
    Fixing the Oscars is going to take decades.

  • Geoff

    The Del Mar is a damn fine theater.
    I need to see set design and cinematography though on Oscar night. Who’s with me on that? That can’t go away. Everything else I would begrudgingly accept.
    And picking one good song or score to play would be great.

  • http://www.filmjerk.com Edward Havens

    It is a damn fine theatre, and I’m sure it’s even damn finer now that the main auditorium is somewhat whole again.
    The two biggest houses at the Regal 9 on the Pacific Garden Mall don’t hold a candle to either the Del Mar or the Rio, and it sucks for cinemagoers in Santa Cruz the latter is no longer a regularly functioning movie theatre. While the big houses in the Riverfront Twin and the Aptos Twin are of a satisfactory size, neither building makes the experience of going to see a movie at either theatre a memorable experience, especially the extremely tiny lobby at the Aptos Twin.
    The best we can hope for in the coming years is the disintegration of the gigaplex and the reinvigoration of the single screen palace. Sadly, that’s not likely to happen.

  • http://www.filmjerk.com Edward Havens

    For those of you not familiar with Santa Cruz, here is a short photo tour of the Del Mar Theatre. The second photo is the main auditorium, from the left-hand side of the theatre, about half way between screen and back wall.
    That’s the kind of theatre I want my kids to fall in love with the movies at.

  • JeffGP

    I was a projectionist at the Del Mar a few years ago, and I can concur with your assessments from spending most days a week there. A beautiful place with great owners, managers and projectionists that really do care. Santa Cruz is one of the best non-metropolitan arthouse moviegoing towns in the country. Recently visited and got to see BLOOD in the Grand Auditorium… perfection as usual.

  • JeffGP

    For a real video of what the Del Mar experience is like inside and out, and a “visit” with some of the great staff… check out this thing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eQwRJw9VCw.

  • BlueBomm

    Oh, man. I worked at the Del Mar as well, and had the great pleasure of watching a short I’d made projected on the main screen during the Santa Cruz Film Festival.
    What a great town. Wonderful years.
    Just for the heck of it, here’s a brief video I made in college that climaxes in the Del Mar lobby (and is a tour of fun Santa Cruz haunts throughout).
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=LEaasewWWHA

  • http://www.filmjerk.com Edward Havens

    JeffGP… thanks for those wonderful memories. Smoking on the roof, eating pizza… did you ever drop spent Xenon bulbs off the top of the roof into the back parking lot?
    BlueBomm… how did you get into my head and steal my life in my twenties? And where is the shot of the Surf Bowl?

  • rocco

    The oscars used to be one of the few opportunities to see actors, actresses, et al outside of their films…they were bigger than life and associated strongly with their characters…now, there is 24/7 watch-til-you-puke celebrity coverage…watching them play dress up is no longer interesting.
    I know iconoclastic biker-poets love award shows, but I don’t see declining viewership of this shit as a problem, I see it as progress.

  • BlueBomm

    Damn, rocco. Smoke one and be cool, right?

  • Chinaski

    As for number 2, why not just nominate good songs instead. All the Enchanted numbers were cringe-inducingly awful. They did the same thing last year nodding three songs from Dreamgirls, when I’m sure there were better songs out there.
    Happy Working Song was better than Eddie Vedder? Or any of the other songs? Really, academy, really?

  • http://www.antidisartsandent.blogspot.com K. Bowen

    I just wrote a few suggestions down on my blog in response to the article. Ya’ll can click the link to read the rest of it, but here’s the main thing. Certainly all these things would be too much, but maybe my brainstorming will get some ideas started.
    1) Cut a segment in which each one the Best Actor nominees takes the performance of a Best Actress nominee and explains what he loves about the performance, and vice versa.
    2) Have Martin Scorsese, American director emeritus and a guy who can project his enthusiasm for movies, tape a segment talking about what he loves in each of the Best Picture contenders. Kevin Smith might do some of this, too, perhaps in a different category.
    3) Let Roger Ebert, health permitting, talk about what he loves about Juno or obviously whatever film next year.
    4) Get Julie Mann and Judd Apatow to do a humorous he-said-she-said segment about one of the categories or all the categories, or whatever they want to do with the nominees.
    5) Have each Best Director nominee film a short documentary on one of the acting nominees. Have Julian Schnabel film a day in the life of George Clooney or P.T. Anderson spends a night on the town with Javier Bardem.

  • romeoisbleeding

    Yes we need to see set design and cinematography. The best song category really hurt the show this year. Besides the song from Once, which was just as it should be, the other songs just seemed ridiculous. Yes why not any music from Into The Wild. Also… I don’t think trying to turn this into an MTV award show will help really. I don’t think a lot of teenagers watch this show. Most of the people who watch it are older. You will lose them if you try and make it more MTV friendly. People have to decide… do you keep this show as something that honors Hollywood or do you try and streamline it into something totally new. As a kid growing up watching the Oscars was a big deal for me. I loved the Glamour.. the big stars. This years show was totally absent of any kind of glamour. And Jon Stewart was trying so hard to be glib and cool and snarky and unenthusiastic that he made the rest of the people not care either. Part of the long time appeal of this show is that we are star struck. But you need the stars to show up to make this a reality. We love movies.. that is why we are here right?? but if the show does not reflect this love of cinema what is the point? This was the worst Oscar show I have ever seen and I have been watching a long time. Bring back the stars, bring back movies that don’t alienate half the audience and bring back a host that cares and is not afraid to show it.

  • http://www.antidisartsandent.blogspot.com K. Bowen

    Or maybe Judd Apatow should do his thing with Leslie Mann, since that’s the name of his wife. :)

  • The Hoyk

    Junking the technical awards from the broadcast effectively tells the American public that if you are a drug-addicted abusive mother caught on nannycam, you can get a whole hour of over-the-air TV coverage on “DATELINE” or “DR. PHIL,” but if you are a hard-working crafts artist who has honed that gift to the highest point of recognition, you’re not worth 30 goddamned seconds of air time one night of the year?
    Screw that. You strip the technical awards off the telecast, the mouthbreathers win. No sale.

  • truefaith

    “Bring back the stars, bring back movies that don’t alienate half the audience and bring back a host that cares and is not afraid to show it.”
    I am in complete agreement with your three points, romeoisbleeding–especially bringing back movies that don’t alienate half the audience. Maybe the Oscars should do what BAFTA does: have additional categories for Best American Film, Best American Director, etc. That way we may see more younger American directors and films being nominated for Best American Director and Fillm. And a wider range of films for the Best Director and Picture categories. Just an idea.

  • Mgmax

    1) Instead of brooming them, how about making them interesting? We all watch DVDs of making-of stuff, why not give the award and follow it with a minute-long clip showing what was involved in it? We’re interested in special effects, music, cinematography– we’re just not interested in an assistant’s editor’s love for his wife and kids.

    2) One out of 10 is electrifying– all the best moments on this show belonged to Hansard and Irglova. They’re just being done badly. Same for Sid’s video, which was like a YouTube film by some kid in Iowa, except a YouTube film would have at least one laugh in it. I’ve made videos for plumbing sales conventions that were more professional than that thing. (Dropping your pen to vote– WACKY!) Maybe there’s somebody in the Academy with some experience in comedy who could tackle that aspect of it?

    3) There aren’t nearly as many Oscars as Grammys. It just feels like there are. Which is the point.

    4) Yes.

    5) Anything would be better than the two-minute recap by this year’s bimbo.

    6) Good point.

  • http://journals.aol.com/terrymcca/poetry-arts-confidential/ Terry McCarty

    My guess is that Bob Iger has his own plans for improving the Oscars, beginning with more Disney/ABC/Disney Channel stars and either the teams of Regis-and-Kelly or Tom Bergeron-and-Samantha Harris or perhaps a combination of THE VIEW castmembers (Whoopi included) as hosts.

  • http://www.filmjerk.com Edward Havens

    Truefaith… the more categories you add, the more you dilute the value of the award. The BAFTAs have those British-centric awards due to the sheer number of American movies which get released in the UK. The opposite is not a problem here. This year, American filmmakers took all five nominations for Best Director (two of them under the age of forty) and four of the five nominees for Best Picture were American. How would a Best American Director or Best American Film have changed things? Would it have been like the BAFTAs, where Atonement was nominated for, and won, both Best Film and Best British Film? Can you imagine how the world would laugh if No Country had won the Oscar for Best Picture and There Will Be Blood won for Best American Film?
    The vast majority of nominations every year go to American movies. AMPAS doesn’t need to protect the Oscars the way BAFTA needs to protect their awards, to ensure something from the local industry gets to go home with the local prize.
    You can’t fix the Oscars by drastically altering the presentation or adding/subtracting awards. The problem goes much deeper. It’s going to take a complete rewiring of the national thought process that movies are worth going to see at the cinema. In 1946, ninety million people went to the movies EVERY SINGLE WEEK. By 1960, it was down to forty million per week, and to twenty million by 1970. In 2006, the number had rebounded back to just under twenty-eight million per week… but there were only a few thousand screens back in 1970, and nearly forty thousand in 2006. Exhibitors put their new theatres closer to the people in the suburbs, gave them a wider variety of titles to choose from, with a bevy of convenient showtimes… and moviegoers still haven’t come back two generations later.
    The industry has to pull their heads out of their asses and respond the way the moguls did at the first threat of television more than a half-century ago. Make movies an even bigger spectacle than before. Digital 3D is a good first step, but what good is Digital 3D if most of the theatres people will be seeing it in seat under 400 and have screens that aren’t even forty feet wide when opened for anamorphic presentation? (And this shit with wall to wall screens where the masking has to come down and make the screen smaller if the film was shot in 2.39:1 has got to go.)
    Patrons will respond more positively if given better presentations. And that’s not just digital sound and picture. It’s the whole package. It took generations for people like Stanley Durwood and Garth Drabinsky to reduce movie theatres to a level where they are only a step or two above ones own living room. And if we don’t fight against the Bob Igers and Steve Jobses of the world, who are trying to reduce the size of the screen we watch our movies on to something smaller than in index card, cinema will no longer be merely obsolescent as it sadly is now but completely antediluvian.
    I love money. Wish I had a lot more of it. But we’re already seeing the effects of this constant need of corporations to get as much money as possible as quickly as possible to keep the stock price as high as possible. Ironically, money is one of the main reasons Disney bought the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, and spent millions of dollars restoring it. When you go see a movie at the El Capitan, it feels special. There is a magic feeling you get when you see a movie there you simply do not get at 99.9% of other movie theatres. Disney can command a higher ticket price for admission to the El Capitan than most movie theatres, because most patrons feel that theatre is worth that premium price. The El Capitan, Grauman’s Chinese and the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, the Cinerama in Seattle, the Ziegfeld in New York City… we make an effort to go to these movie palaces when we are nearby. It’s not just the movie. It’s the experience. And to save the Oscars, we need to bring that experience back on a nationwide scale. We need to make moviegoing special again.

  • bachelorcool

    Doesn’t look like much is going to change.
    http://hollywoodinsider.ew.com/2008/02/conversation-wi.html

  • christian

    I say more Hannah Montana. Let the kidz play!

  • Vitesse98

    And yet, even with so many awards given out off-camera, the Grammys and the Oscars weren’t that different in length, were they?

  • Jay T.

    I don’t think they should remove those categories, but why not make sound editing/mixing one category since 99% of people have no idea what the damn difference is, and usually the same movie wins for both categories (this year when Bourne won sound editing, you knew it would win for sound mixing).
    One thing I actually miss is how they used to do a little segment spread throughout the show for each of the best picture nominees… they could bring that part back and maybe add some behind the scenes stuff.
    And yes, those musical performances are horrible – thank god for TiVo.