How to Fix the Oscars

Oscar StatuetteIt seems that every year, as soon as the Oscars are over, the public trashing begins. It’s like a blood sport. After reading the blogs, scanning through Twitter and listening to feedback from Facebook friends, I think I am the only person on this side of the universe who thought the Oscars show on Sunday night was, well, pretty good. I enjoyed it; there, I’ve said it.

I laughed during Seth MacFarlane’s commentary and smiled at the musical numbers. I cherished watching some true divas sing live, especially the ones I thought were dead (sorry Shirley Bassey). And I marvelled at the fashion and hair choices of not so much the presenters, who looked predictably flawless, but more so the award winners, who did not. (On a side note, someone needs to more broadly distribute the memo stating that no man should have hair longer than Jennifer Aniston’s; and no self-respecting woman over ten should wear pink leggings to anything, much less the Academy Awards.)

Now that the glitter dust has settled and the reviews are in, the organizers of the Oscars are undoubtedly wringing their hands in existential angst wondering as they do every year where they went wrong and what they can possibly do in the future to right this ship. If I had somehow managed to sneak past security and into the room, I would offer the following piece of advice to these people.

Bring more genuine humanity to the show.

This may be a gross generalization, but I think many men and women who are passionate about the cinema (as I am) are such because they are fascinated with people and the human condition. We watch movies because we get to escape our own worlds for a moment and see others navigating through different ones, experiencing struggles and triumphs that are relevant though compellingly unfamiliar to us.

In turn, we enjoy the Oscars each year not only because it celebrates an art form we love, but also because it gives us a glimpse behind the silver screen at the talented people who appear on it and the equally talented people who put them there. But while I appreciate that the movies I love are momentary suspensions of reality, I don’t want the Oscars to be. Certainly, there should be glitz and glamour, but this is the time when I want to see the shiny veneer of make-believe stripped away, exposing more of the genuine human nature of the people connected to the film industry, especially the actors and actresses. It’s interesting that one of the things people are talking about the most from the telecast is when Jennifer Lawrence tripped on her way up to the stage. We loved and could relate to that moment because it was genuinely human.

In the spirit of bringing more humanity to the Oscars, I would do these three things.

  • Get rid of the red carpet interviews. The Oscars are likely losing viewers over time because no one with half a brain can stand to sit through more than ten minutes of the pre-show interviews. They are remarkably forced and unbelievably insincere, and everyone involved, especially the celebrities being interviewed, look like they are going through a root canal. It sets the Oscars off on the wrong foot before the show even starts.
  • Make all nominees go through acceptance speech training. Appreciating that the acceptance speeches probably account for 20% of the total telecast, the producers of the event should do whatever they can to make them more memorable. Instead of thanking a long list of people we’ve never heard of, winners should take some of the valuable time they have to say something meaningful and share a part of themselves and their craft with the audience. I will remember Daniel Day Lewis’s acceptance speech, while I forgot Anne Hathaway’s before she even finished it.
  • Showcase more raw talent. I think one of the key reasons I enjoyed this year’s event was because it reminded me how unbelievably talented many of these people are. Say what you will about Seth MacFarlane’s sense of humour (which I happen to love), but the man can sing and dance (as can Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt); and that’s pretty impressive. Who knew Charlize Theron could dance so well? And while Adele and Jennifer Hudson still have it, you have to love and admire Barbra Streisand and Shirley Bassey for putting themselves out there, even if their voices aren’t what they used to be.

Part of being genuinely human is being yourself, proudly and unabashedly. The organizers of the Oscars should take note of that. I think one of the reasons the Oscars struggles is because it continually tries to be something it’s not and, in doing so, tries to be all things to all people. Quit it. It feels like you’re trying too hard: like you’re acting. And this is the one time of year where I don’t want to see that.

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