This past weekend, I heard about these things called movies where you sit in a dark room and there are people trapped inside of a big screen in front of you and cigarette girls walk down the aisles and hand out popcorn. Movies are the best.
Everybody likes “the movies.” The girl from Precious likes to watch herself in movies because it reminds her that she exists (she might need counseling). Adam Sandler, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Ben Stiller like the movies too (and they all have phenomenal memories that allow them to recall the very first one they ever saw!). Even Edward Norton even climbed out of wherever it is that he’s been for the past three years to chime in on the magic of these movie things.
What’s that, you say? Movies still exist? Wait a minute, Billy, are you talking about those things people watch on their phones, and their, dare I say it, iPads? Those same universally-known fourteen-dollar HD theatre experiences that those wretched young people are ruining with all their texting and touch-screens and penny-pinching and, ugh, Netflix accounts?! I wish there was something I could do to revitalize—
Hi, I just got back from the movies. Boy, are they the coolest. Thanks for the suggestion, Billy Crystal, Brian Grazer, and the Academy. Together, I believe we can teach everyone in the world about the movies.
Morgan Freeman, the love of my life, opened the 84th Academy Awards by presenting returning host Billy Crystal’s expected montage of his grinning mug inserted into 2011’s top films. When Billy unveiled this trademark in 1997, his interactions with Yoda and Jerry Maguire were incredible, cleverly utilizing turn-of-the-century technology. Well over a decade later, it’s grown predictable, the technology that makes it possible is no longer impressive, and the manner in which Billy appears in the pics feels too cut-and-paste.
Crystal also brought back his “What’s the audience thinking?” gag, a lackluster, and somewhat nonsensical, segment that directed our attention back to the oft-shown George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Crystal’s classic opening medley was present as well, but it was incoherent and inaudible due to technical difficulties.
Unfortunately, Crystal subscribes to the comedy of namedropping. Referencing a film title or actor name and flashing a grin is his foremost form of joke-telling. Maybe Martin Scorsese could teach him a thing or two. See, that’s funny because I said Martin Scorsese. This isn’t all that clever or necessarily entertaining for people that aren’t as familiar with the nominees.
There is no denying that Crystal is a born entertainer, and it’s nice that he likes his job and that he has a movie coming out eight months from now—but the shtick that worked for him twenty-two years ago doesn’t anymore. Things have changed. Crystal is old, and more importantly (to the Academy, at least), he’s safe. Grazer and Crystal made sure that nothing unexpected, and therefore nothing extraordinary or Youtube-viral-worthy (thank you, Sacha Baron Cohen) happened in the telecast. For live television and for millions of viewers, that’s just a shame.
Without further ado, here are seven ways to improve the Academy Awards:
1. Fix the montages.
Open with a two-minute talking-head montage of relevant movie stars and filmmakers discussing the magic of movies. The montages during 84th Oscars weren’t a terrible idea, they just felt like a waste of time because they were disorganized, repetitive, and filled with stars that had nothing to do with this year’s awards. Instead, put one of the montages as an opening to kick off the show in sentimental, celebratory fashion (if Crystal is invited back, it can end with him onscreen, so that he can then walk out on stage), and replace the later talking-head clips with scenes from the Best Picture nominees a lá early the 2000s.
Play a Crystal-esque in-the-movies montage, minus Justin Bieber, somewhere in the middle of the telecast to break things up.
If the producers still really want a few more celebrities onscreen, how about a behind-the-scenes/on-the-making-of montage featuring the filmmakers and stars of that year’s nominees? My mom has always liked that special feature on DVDs…
2. There were only two original songs nominated this year, but neither were performed. To make room for them, the Oscars should trash those inexplicable mash-ups of random movies; this year’s was like some sort of promo on a DVD or something played on The Twenty in the wait before a movie starts at Regal Cinemas.
3. Deal with sound system problems prior to airing a live telecast in millions of homes.
4. Replace Cirque du Soleil with a performance from that year’s animal celebrities! This year could have featured Jack Russells Uggie and Cosmo, Young Adult’s Pomeranian Dolce, Hugo’s Doberman Blackie, Joey the Horse, and that chimp Andy Serkis. Throw in a few Muppets, an animated macaw bird, penguin, panda, and chameleon, and you’ve got a real crowd-pleaser.
5. Do not make Robert Downey Jr. look like even more of a jerk by writing him a tedious, lame spoof to execute with Gwyneth Paltrow. Get them both out of there and let the winners have a few extra seconds to revel in the best moment of their lives.
6. It’s nice that last year’s Best Actor and Best Actress winners present those awards the following year. It makes sense. Tom Cruise announcing Best Picture? Not so much. How about next year putting Cecil B. DeMille winner Morgan Freeman to use there, instead of wasting his gravitas at the start of the show? Or maybe the producers of last year’s big winner? Or maybe even me? Anyone but Tom Cruise.
7. If Tom Sherak insists on an Oscar theme, then let it be a real theme, like pre-historic times or fairytales or the undead or the 70s. Or, piggyback that year’s movies; 2012 could have seen a roaring 20s show. Theme shows (just like theme parties) entail dressing up in accordance to the theme—and that’s a red carpet I would watch.
The awards season has come to an end at last, and that means we can finally leave 2011 behind us and look to 2012 for better box office numbers, bigger hits, more sequels, more adaptations, new talented faces, old talented faces, unexpected gems, more Harvey Weinstein, and when the time comes, an all new Oscar season.
Right now though, I’ve got an entire world to educate about the movies, and an Academy president to mail suggestions to (I’m rallying for producer and host next year. I think I have a good shot).
Happy Leap Day, folks. Use it wisely!
Jennifer Sperber currently studies Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and works in TV Production and Development at Zodiak USA. When she’s not writing film or television, or writing about it, she is usually watching it.