MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Changes That Would Actually Make The Oscars Better

With the news that the Academy is now cutting the honorary Oscars from the telecast – on top of the news that it is expanding its Best Picture field from five nominees to ten – it seems like the Academy Awards is going through a major period of adjustment.  I think both of these moves are silly, especially cutting the honorary Oscars from the telecast as that had long been my favorite part of the show every year.

But the Academy doing silly things shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone since this group has had a long history of doing remarkably silly things. The idea of giving awards to the “best” film or the “best” actor is a rather inane act in itself, but it seems as if the Academy is intent on stripping away any kind of legitimacy or value from the proceedings.

Since the Academy seems to feel that no rule or award is sacred, here are some helpful suggestions on how to fix the whole endeavor.

Make the show longer!

Every year we hear the same complaint about how the show is too long.  The people complaining about this are the same folks who buy tickets to a baseball game and then whine about how the game is so slow.  If you’re tuning into the Oscars, you are already expecting that the show is going to be a bit long, so get over it. The Academy shouldn’t be trying to cater to those curmudgeons who want a shorter show.  It’s important to recognize who the audience is for this show; a large majority of the people who watch the Oscars are fans of film just like the people who watch baseball games usually enjoy that sport. Catering to people who aren’t particularly big fans of what you’re doing doesn’t really seem like the wisest move.

In fact, I would say that the Oscars should show more retrospectives and really make it about celebrating the year in film, both good and bad.  Show a montage of the funniest lines from the year’s worst movies, instead of making the whole night about the “prestige” films that are nominated for the awards.  It shouldn’t be too difficult to celebrate the good films while also giving notice to some of the worse ones.

Overall, though, the show should just be longer because I’m sick of seeing people played off the stage by the orchestra.  If you’re going to invite people to a party where you’re giving them an award and time to speak about the achievement that just garnered said award, then you should give your honorees ample time to thank whomever they want.  The time limit makes the people accepting the award more frazzled about being able to say what they want in the allotted time.  How many times have we heard an awards recipient say, “ugh, okay it says I’ve got five seconds” which really just wastes more time.

Let the people you are honoring say what they want to say.  If people are daunted by the length already, then adding an extra half-hour or an hour really isn’t going to make such a gigantic difference.

Go back to five nominees.

The award for Best Picture should be an honor.  Ignore the fact that so many unworthy films have won or been nominated or that the nomination slots are often bought by savvy marketers and PR folks; being nominated for an Academy Award is supposed to be special.  There are something like three hundred films eligible for the big award every year, so if the are five nominees that means that there is a 1.6% chance that your film will be nominated.  When you double the amount of nominees to ten, then the percentage jumps to 3.3%, which still means the odds are stacked against you.  But, if you factor in that at least two hundred movies a year have no chance – or don’t want a chance – of competing for Best Picture, that certainly makes the odds a little bit better.

The bottom line is that with more and more films getting theatrical release every year, the odds of getting a nomination should be harder not easier.  I’ve long thought of the Academy Awards as a joke, so I’m not particularly offended by this change.  But I would recommend to the Academy that if they want to be taken as a serious arbiter of what is the year’s best in film, it might be a good idea to be somewhat elitist.

Allow actors to compete against themselves.

This is something that has long frustrated me about the Academy and it is a rule that I simply do not understand.  An actor cannot be nominated in the same category twice in the same year.  This has led to actors campaigning for two lead performances in two separate categories so that occasionally we get a person nominated for a supporting performance when they were the lead in that film.  But more importantly, sometimes this leads to the exclusions of wonderful performances because the Academy has had to choose between an actor’s two disparate but equally brilliant performances.

So, we get situations like Kate Winslet being nominated for The Reader but notRevolutionary Road because the rules do not allow her to be nominated for Best Actress for both films.  Or a couple of years ago, Leonardo DiCaprio gets nominated for Blood Diamond but not his searing performance in The Departed.  Why does this rule exist?  To make room for more actors to be nominated?  This isn’t supposed to be a middle school soccer match where everyone gets a trophy; this is supposed to be about giving awards and nominations based on merit.  So if a performer happens to give two brilliant lead performances in the same calendar year, then shouldn’t they be rewarded for doing so?

Cut the Best Song Oscar entirely.

I was happy to see that the Academy has new rules regarding the Best Song Oscar because, quite frankly, I wouldn’t mind seeing the award go right in the trash.  Every once in a while there is a song that is integral to a film’s success and legacy (“Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky or “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile or “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), but how many people remember what the Best Song was from a few years ago?  How many people are listening to “Last Dance” from Thank God It’s Friday(which won the award in 1978)?

The other problem is that so many songs get nominated that simply play over the end credits of the film, so they aren’t really technically part of the action of the film; they are simply songs that play while the credits roll.  That doesn’t seem like something that is worthy of twenty minutes of my time – including the performances of the songs – on Oscar night.

Get rid of the hosts if you’re not going to use them properly.

I’m tempted to say that we should just lose the hosts altogether since the real point of having a “host” for anything is to guide you through the evening.  And seriously, do we really need a roadmap of how an awards ceremony works at this point?  I think I can figure out that basically, we’re going to give you the nominees and then hand out an award to the most deserving one of those nominees.  This doesn’t really feel like a process that requires the help of a guide.

But it is about entertainment and if we’re going to hire a host to give us entertainment, then it has to be someone who is going to entertain us for more than just the opening twenty minutes of the show.  Every year, no matter if it’s Jon Stewart, Chris Rock or Hugh Jackman, the host gets his opening monologue or dance number and then basically disappears for large stretches at a time, popping up only to give us a witty one-liner and then disappear again.

If we’re going to use a host for this thing, then let’s allow them to really get comfortable and do their thing.  If you’re going to have Jon Stewart host, then let him do jokes about what is going on in the world of politics.  If you’re going to have Steve Martin host, then let him strum on the banjo.  Basically, let these hosts out of their cages to be themselves; and to not only be themselves, but to be themselves for more than just the opening of the show.

Let’s allow them to show up for five to ten minute stretches and give us some more comedy, some more dancing, some more entertainment.  Again, let’s not worry so much about how long this thing is gonna run (it’s going to be a LONG show, get over it – this is a point that I think needs to be stressed again), so let the hosts pop up more often and entertain us.  If you do that, I bet the show won’t feel as long.

Show the short films prior to the ceremony.

This is something I really don’t understand and it’s such a simple thing to do.  The majority of people aren’t familiar with many of the short films – animated and live action – before the awards start and that’s easily rectified.  Oscar coverage starts on E! at like 2AM the night before, so why doesn’t some channel – either E! or whoever is airing the actual ceremony – show the short films that day?  Before the red carpet stuff begins, just air the short films in no particular order in two blocks – first animation, then live action.

Besides the fact that it would give great exposure to the artists who work in these fields, it would also give audiences at home a rooting interest because they will have had a chance to watch these movies.  Then when the actual award is given out, they won’t turn the channel or yell at the screen, at the hard-working filmmaker trying to give out their thanks.  Come on, guys, this would be so easy to do!

– Noah Forrest
July 13, 2009
Noah Forrest is a 26-year-old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.

Frenzy On Column

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon