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Countdown to Oscars

Thursday, February 28, 2013
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How Can The Oscars Telecast Be Improved?

By Joey Magidson
Film Contributor

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It’s no secret that I love the Oscars and just about everything that comes with it, but if there’s one element of the season that I’m rather indifferent about, it’s the show itself. The Oscar telecast can often leave something to be desired, even if the producers’ hearts are in the right place. The ceremony itself can invoke mockery more than admiration among the masses, and even if I don’t share that, I do recognize that there are improvements that can be made.

I want to help the Academy have the best awards show possible, one that appeals to both die-hards like myself and the casual viewer who watches as much as anything in order to be knowledgeable around the water cooler the next day. It might be a task that can’t be feasibly done, but what’s the harm in trying?

Some of the changes I’m proposing — with a little help from Scott — have to do with making the winners slightly more satisfying. Others have to do with the aesthetics and pacing of the televised ceremony itself. The goal is to keep the Oscars feeling like the Oscars for those of us who truly love them, but to do so in a manner that would be more pleasing to everyone.

The first element to consider is a rule change that only lets people vote for Best Picture and the categories which which their branch corresponds. This would replace the current system in which everyone votes in every category. I didn’t used to think this was a big deal, but as we saw more and more Academy members share their ballots this season and comment on their voting reasons, it’s clear that many aren’t even trying to see every nominated film.

Another idea would focus more on speeding up the show by moving the presentation of the shorts awards to another night instead of Oscar Sunday. When discussing this topic, Scott made sure to tell me how the Academy does a wonderful job with two Shorts Nights during Oscar week when the nominees are celebrated and their films are screened — why not present the award at the end of that night rather than during the show? When the vast majority of viewers haven’t seen and don’t care to see the shorts, these categories just bog things down. Eliminating them from the telecast could shorten a ceremony that everyone always complains is too long. It’s a bit on the radical side, but I actually think it could work out rather nicely.

To go along with that idea, a long-shot suggestion worth considering is separating the show into two nights. The first night could be for the tech awards, while the second would be for the big eight categories of Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay. The Animated Feature, Documentary Feature and Foreign Language Feature could go there, too, or they could headline the tech night. Doing this would also placate certain groups who’d like to see new Oscar categories — one honoring stunts, for example. Under my plan, that could be part of the tech night, and the more star-studded night could perhaps integrate Best Cast Ensemble as well.

On a similar note, a change needs to be made in regard to the speeches that the winners give — both in terms of their content and how they’re treated by the showrunners. Too many recipients of the Oscar merely rattle off a list of names they need to thank, and too often the music plays off people who deserve to have a moment in the sun.

My final suggestion centers around more effectively integrating the Oscar host. As it stands, the host mainly is there for the opening monologue, and it’s often awkward after that. Instead of eliminating the host altogether, as some have suggested, I think finding an appropriate fit for the year’s theme will exhibit a better show altogether.

For example, I actually think Seth MacFarlane turned out to be a perfect choice for a telecast that factored in music heavily. That being said, if he weren’t there, I wouldn’t have noticed. The show didn’t cater far enough to his strengths as well to make him an asset to the experience.

Overall, there’s nothing that would stop me from ever watching the Oscar telecast. But much like America, it’s a union that can always continue to be perfected. I have my doubts that it’ll ever be an ideal ceremony, but that doesn’t mean that the effort can’t still be made, right? I’m sure most of these ideas will be ignored and the next few years will have both good and subpar shows, since much like the quality of the Best Picture winner each year, we all watch — for better or worse.

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  • Fsaq

    I disagree about separating the shorts’ awards from the bigger awards. It’s the only time these relatively unknown filmmakers get their moment in the spotlight and perhaps, a few people even watch their stuff afterwards; so, it’d be totally unfair to take that away from them.

    • Joey Magidson

      I’d separate it into a two night show, so they’d still get their moment in the sun…