How Can the Oscars Be More Entertaining? Here Are Five Ways
With a traditional in-person Oscar ceremony at the Dolby Theater unlikely, we asked a few industry insiders to tell us about the telecast they’d like to see:
A comedy writer whose credits include “The Simpsons” and “Late Night With David Letterman” as well as the 2009 Oscars preshow and the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors.
To add excitement to the [best-picture category], I propose the Oscars adopt a Miss Universe type of finale. Each best-picture nominee would select one person — let’s assume it’s the directors — to represent that film. And from the stage, the Top 5 would be called up. Let’s use 2020 as an example. The Top 5 might be “Little Women,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “The Irishman,” “1917” and “Parasite.” So you’ve got this nice tableau of Greta Gerwig, Taika Waititi, Martin Scorsese, Sam Mendes and Bong Joon Ho. They would all stand shoulder to shoulder, and Jane Fonda, who was the presenter, would say: “It’s down to these five finalists. Which will be awarded the Oscar for best picture?” Then they start with the fourth runner-up. Maybe it’s “Jojo Rabbit.” Then third is “Little Women,” and then second goes to “The Irishman.” Then you have that beautiful moment when Sam Mendes and Bong Joon Ho take hands and everyone’s heart is pounding. And then they announce that the first runner-up is “1917,” which means “Parasite” is that year’s best-picture winner.
In Miss Universe, if for some reason the winner cannot perform her duties, the first runner-up will take over. So maybe we add a clause that if it turns out one of the producers is a rapist, then they lose [the award] and the runner-up gets to be the best-picture winner for that year.
A comedy writer whose credits include 23 Oscar shows, for which he has won two Emmys.
Nobody wants to look at a screen full of famous faces covered up. If I were the academy, I would forget about the Dolby. I would shoot at the Academy Museum [the organization’s delayed new institution] and make the whole thing be about how the movies this year mesh with the movies of the last 93 years. And about the difference in streaming something at home and being in a theater with people. This would be a huge plug for the museum, which they want to be on the list with Disneyland and Universal as places one must go in L.A. Plus it would take the show back to what it’s really about, the experience of movies. You have a million [remote camera setups] for the major nominees so you can go to them when they win and they don’t have to stand there with masks. They can be in their full glory. And [some categories] have to be shot before the show. Everything doesn’t have to be live, except for the reveal of the winner.
Then I think it can go back to what it was. The Oscars are such a gigantic revenue stream for so many people. But this will be a special year. Everything is unprecedented right now, so this will be [too]. That doesn’t mean it sets the precedent.
An Emmy-nominated former writer and producer of “Seinfeld.”
Let’s face it. The subtext of every Oscar night is, wow, look how much better our lives are than yours. We wear gowns that cost roughly the entire tax base of Tulsa. We make embarrassing acceptance speeches and still get to cancel each other a day later. I mean, just dial back that privilege a little bit. Hollywood should give up on the idea that everyone aspires to be us.
These aren’t glamorous times and yet we keep acting like we’re taking our cues from Norma Desmond. Maybe this year instead of black tie they should tone it down to office casual. Like on the red carpet, if the best supporting actress says she’s wearing Converse All Stars and L.L. Bean, maybe the audience will be more open to, you know, cleaning out the plastic gyres in the ocean. And do we really still need a red carpet? Can these people not stand on a sidewalk now? To tell you the truth, the first thing they should do is just not invite any of the acting nominees to attend. Set up live remotes at their homes, maybe in a room that doesn’t have a view of the indoor-outdoor tide pool, or they’re not backed by an original Warhol silk-screen of Chairman Mao. Don’t you think accepting an Oscar on a couch with dogs and kids might just humanize these people?
The award-winning comedian, writer and five-time host of the Golden Globes.
I like to see acclaim and I like to see people rewarded, and if it means something to them, that’s nice. But I also want to see a bit of humility and fun. The audience knows they already got tens of millions [of dollars] that year, and now we’re meant to care as much about that award as they do. Well, that’s a hard ask.
Hollywood has taken a knock in recent years. People got tired of being lectured by millionaires. You know, they’ve got as much right as anyone to say what they want. But it makes me laugh when people are very, very brave until the studio says, “Can you apologize for that tweet?” And they apologize — but they don’t mean it. They’re worried about their movie. So all those things make the audience step back and go, “Do I believe these people? They pretend for a living.”
I think they’ve got to mix it up and laugh at themselves a little bit. “Thank you, what a lovely occasion, this is dedicated to my gran” — that’s all fine. It’s when someone takes the stage, like everyone in the world has asked them for their help to change humanity. And they take their glasses out and go: “A few things need to be said, and I’m the person to say them. Thank God I’m here.”
A BAFTA-winning producer whose credits include “La La Land.” (He’s the one who let viewers know that “Moonlight” — and not his movie, as incorrectly announced — had actually won the best-picture Oscar.)
The experience of being in the room during the Oscars is strikingly different from the experience of watching it on television. There is an intimacy that comes from everyone in the room having been with each over the course of the season. There’s this camaraderie that’s palpable.
But something about the energy doesn’t quite communicate through the way that it’s televised. You watch Oscar shows from the ’60s and ’70s and they were really small rooms, and the way that the show was presented felt like there was a more collective sensibility.
Part of my heart wants to go back to it being a dinner with just the nominees and the presenters. [Or] a Zoom broadcast. [With the Emmys this year] there was an intimacy to seeing people as they truly are in their homes and who they chose to be with and how they chose to be with them. That was really exciting.
I always wonder why the academy doesn’t make a bigger deal of the Governors Awards, which honor a full career as opposed to what we’ve elevated in a particular season. Maybe there’s a way to reorganize our priorities as an industry and say to culture at large: “Here are actually the things that are important. It’s not who spent the most money on the right ad and put the best billboards up with the best quote.”
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