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David Poland

By David Poland

The Morning After Oscar

So… every idiot is out there writing the same stupid story about “fixing” the Oscar show.

1. This show was bland, but not painful… unless you don’t really like watching the Oscar show. It was no more painful than this year’s Globes, this year’s BAFTA, this year’s SAGs, or this year’s BFCA Critics Choice Awards. It was also not exceptionally better than any of them.

For me, the reality of the show that eludes almost all of these freshy-minted experts is well-expressed in the last 38 minutes last night. 10:52p in the east… 7:52p in the east. There are 3 awards to hand out and an In Memoriam section to do. In those 38 minutes, they managed 2 awards and the In Memoriam. THAT’s The Oscars.

24 awards @ 4 minutes each is 1:36 or about 2 hours with commercials. Now add the opening, specialty acts, clip packages, and some more ads thrown in there. That’s your 3 hours-plus.

The core of why so many people do watch The Oscars, even with the ratings declines of the last decade or so, is that it is what it is. It’s not a show that can be reconfigured in a complete way to the tastes or notions of the producer who comes on board every year. Basically, the show is a Christmas tree and the new producer can decorate it as he or she sees fit. But no cutting off limbs, no painting the tree, no replacing the tree with a different kind of cool, hip tree that you read about being a fad in Sweden. And if you’re not cautious, you end up with women in cigarette girl uniforms handing out popcorn during commercial bumper space. Oy.

2. Billy Crystal IS an old, familiar joke. It’s so very easy to whine about bringing something new to the party. But being a know-it-all and actually having to deliver the goods are two very different things. Some people – Andrew O’Hehir, who is now rationalizing why his rationalization about Viola Davis having won Oscar before she failed to do so was wrong – seem to have forgotten that there was another, younger, hipper producer and another younger, hipper host in place just a few months ago. And Brett Ratner did what many “younger, hipper” people do… he acted like he was too cool for school, shot off his mouth like he could do no wrong, and committed awards season suicide by spouting off homophobic stupidity. And Eddie, who would have been a brilliant host, didn’t trust anyone else to get him through a very public job that offers many pre-written brickbats (as we are seeing this morning).

Do people remember last year… when Billy Crystal was almost universally hailed as a breath of familiar, but fresh air when he turned up and self-congratulated on the show? Who were the hosts? Young, very talented, very smart actors… who turned out to be terrible hosts, especially in combination.

If it was easy, Mary McNamara would be producing the Oscars.

But of course, as was inevitable, Billy Crystal can’t just be overly familiar, like a joke you’ve heard Henny Youngman tell 100 times… he has to be a DISASTER. Come on. Can’t you get page views with some smart, simple, thoughtful writing? Does everything have to be a three alarm fire.

The show was ok. Billy Crystal was ok.

3. I kinda want to put a big old “sod off” out there for anyone who is both talking about how the Oscars needs to connect with a wider audience and then attacks the show for having Adam Sandler try to express himself about his very specific, extremely popular craft.


Do I wish Sandler would hire more skilled directors and push himself a little harder? Absolutely. But unlike critics, he is doing the work, year in and year out, putting himself on the line, taking all the abuse, and still serving an audience that loves watching him be silly. And if he and I live to be 80 and LAFCA gives him the lifetime achievement award and The Academy bestows a special Oscar on his ass, I will mock you all.

Critics, especially of the Oscar show, want it all ways. They want it younger, but not vulgar. Smarter, but not stodgy. Fewer categories, but they want to see the categories they care about. They want it louder, faster, funnier… but then they want to slam it for not slowing down for “the right things” and trying too hard to please. They want to scream about the Academy demographic and the movies that are chosen, but bizarrely assume that a younger demo would somehow pick more popular, but better movies…. like, uh, what? Drive? Love Drive, but not a box office bonanza. Shame? Love Shame, but not a box office bonanza.

Here’s a chart of the Top Grossers of 2011. Now, pick a film in the Top 31 (the $100m domestic grossers) that you would like to have seen nominated that might have made it more interesting for more people? What will most say? Bridesmaids and Apes. And now, ladies & gentlemen, your 2011 Academy of Quality Pop Culture Awards.

4. Some critics still behave like critics. They know the difference between what they say at the dinner table or at the bar and what they print as professionals. Most journalists now will pretend to be anything at any time, instant experts because they have an opinion. And as the old joke notes, everyone has an asshole too.

I don’t know if the repetition of the same memes exhausts me more or the combination of arrogance and an utter lack of knowledge about the subject.

I guess I am supposed to give this day of whining all the weight of another thousand tweets flowing through the iPhone… just so much water under the bridge. And I will. Tomorrow. When all the idiots move on to opine on their next great area of instant expertise.

But today, I am irritated by the volume… and the volume of the volume.

It wasn’t a great show. But it was no tragedy. It will change next year. It won’t be the MTV Movie Awards… and if it was, there would be even louder screaming. It won’t be The Golden Globes… and if it was, there would be even louder screaming. It will still be the stodgy, old, 3:22, too many actors out of character reading prompters, clip packages, and awards you are too dumb to care about Oscars. And it will still be seen by 40 million people, which no one else knows how to equal. Deal.

5. I still expect firings at The Academy over Sacha Baron Cohen’s lame joke. It had no business on the red carpet… because it was business on the red carpet… and nothing but business. The tone deafness of current leadership at The Academy about what is at the core of their brand is stunning. And it’s not just that one thing. It’s been happening over and over lately.

It’s the old thing about sex scandals. No one really cares who you had sex with… but when you are the President, receiving fellatio from a 20-yr-old intern in the hallway closet suggest that you might have some judgement issues. Before Charlie Sheen lost it – again – he was saner than some when he noted, “You don’t pay prostitutes for sex. You pay them to leave.” 20 year olds keep semen-stained dresses. The Marilyn Monroes of the world do not.

It doesn’t matter, as a single event, that Sacha Baron Cohen walked the red carpet in a movie costume and spilled fake ashes on Ryan Seacrest. But it matters when six people are trying to do it next year. It matters when you give control of the show – and/or the season – to marketing people who are marketing their product, not The Oscars. it matters when you don’t know how unfunny the gag was and then promote it on your website afterwards like it was a part of the show.

You don’t get fired for the action. You get fired for the cover-up. You get fired for the embarrassing lack of judgement.

Anyway… I had a lovely night, after the show… but that’s another conversation…

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32 Responses to “The Morning After Oscar”

  1. Paul D/Stella says:

    How in the hell do you please everyone with the Oscars show? Reading over criticism today (boring, poorly paced, lame jokes, too nostalgic, etc.) it starts to feel like some people want to hate it and take great delight in hating it. It wasn’t a perfect show, but that doesn’t exist. I found it mostly agreeable. Not much annoyed me and the 3 hours went by fairly quickly. I’d say it was as good or nearly as good as any show in recent memory.

  2. cadavra says:

    I thought the show was just fine…but then, I’m an old, white guy, so that’s to be expected.

    But someone seriously needs to hammer these guys–again–on the Memoriam Reel. How do you leave out John Barry (five Oscars and the James Bond theme) and Harry Morgan (nearly 100 movies over a 55-year span) yet put in a singer who appeared in exactly four movies (one yet to be released)?

  3. Rob says:


  4. Gustavo says:

    I’m baffled by the naysayers.

    To me it was the best show since 2007. As a spectator, I can say the producers did a solid job in keeping me entertained (without insulting my intelligence unlike last year) for over 3 hours. Crystal was funny, the pacing was tighter than usual, there were less unnecessary musical/dance sequences, some of the gags were really funny.

    What else do people want? Something that is not the Oscar, probably, then they would bitch even more. But you wrote that already…

  5. brack says:

    I still like Billy Crystal’s schtick. So does the academy. Otherwise they wouldn’t keep asking him to come back.

    Sacha Baron Cohen embarrassing E! and Ryan Seacrest I don’t think was that big of a deal.

  6. grandcosmo says:

    Great post and it expertly details the idiocy of these morning after reviews. O’Hehir’s being one of the worst of the worst.

  7. JS Partisan says:

    Basically the point of this everything is fine and no one should complain about it? Really? That’s your big response to the criticism? Come on this show needs some tinkering and repair. Nothing major, but a change has to come David and the academy is reactionary enough now to make it happen.

  8. Yancy Skancy says:

    I haven’t read many of the post-mortems, but it seems to me that it’s quite possible to consider the show generally boring and bland and only fitfully amusing, nitpick about the things that didn’t work, and yet still say ‘it is what it is’ and there’s no point in worrying about ‘fixing’ it. I mean, that’s basically how I feel about it, and I’m sure others do, too.

    I’m sure the pundits (and their editors) feel that no one will want to read about the broadcast unless the article includes some snarky zingers though.

  9. Lucy says:

    LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOO Angelina Jolie, for once you are quite…funny ! ha
    (i used to love her before when she was edgy now she is boring..but this ‘pose’ mouahahaha)

  10. john says:

    John Barry died before the previous year’s Oscar telecast on January 30th.

    The Harry Morgan is pretty odd and how did they miss Charles Napier? So sad that they don’t have better QC when it comes to those segments. Adding a still photo to the montage adds absolutely NO TIME to the proceedings.

  11. storymark says:

    Pop culture or not – I still think Apes is one of the best movies of the year. The stigma against genre is a lot of why people view the awards as irrelevant.

  12. bulldog68 says:

    The thing though is that while the Academy has their own a agenda, the Awards show is always sold as a celebration of movies, but last night seemed to be anything but a celebration of the nominated movies.

    It may not be any kind of mandate that the award show is supposed to provide a boost to the business, but answer me honestly, were any of the nine nominated movies celebrated and put on the pedestal that they deserved for their night. Is it really just a cliche that it’s an honor to be nominated?

    Of the millions of people that tuned in last night, how many of them were convinced to go out and see any of these nine movies or get the DVD because of the prestigious stage these movies got last night?

    I know I sound like just another voice griping about this, but I faithfully watch the Oscars every year, my wife and kids view this as my Superbowl. I pull out the ice cream for the kids, and I had some Crown Royal and Coke, (the kind you drink, not inhale) and they ask me whom I think is gonna win. Looking at my wife last night, and she has seen none of the nominated movies, after the fact, there was no comment about wanting to see any of them, because they got no exposure.

  13. leahnz says:

    i thought it was okay, nothing special but the nominated movies and production design had a whole retro vibe going so ‘crypt-keeper crystal’ as host was in keeping at least. i don’t see him getting the gig again, tho

    (the biggest laugh for me was the bit where the huge song book rose up dramatically to fill the stage with the swell of the orchestra, and crypt-keeper crystal with perfect timing quipped, ‘eh’. that struck me funny – but maybe it’s just me)

    by far the biggest ‘omission’, as others have pointed out, was not taking a mere couple minutes to highlight each individual best pic nom during the course of the ceremony – that is MOST peculiar and inexcusable, really – the rush at the end was very poorly conceived. i could have done with a few minutes less of watching randomly selected actors prattle on and on about their formative cinema-going experiences (who fucking cares) in order to be reminded of one of the major reasons for the ceremony to exist in the first place…or perhaps they could have cut that inexplicably bizarre movie montage that had no apparent meaning or purpose or theme or connection to anything in the ceremony, to properly highlight the best pic noms. whoever fucked that up needs a caretaker grady-style ‘correction’.

  14. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    What David fails to acknowledge is this monday morning grilling could usually be avoid by the Academy not doing things that appear fucking retarded to anyone with brain.

    Just someone with intellect and under 75 who can do a final run through and sign off on things, maybe even fire a few bullet points through before it is locked down.

    – more props to the best pic nominees
    – don’t end on Sandler for every segment about “film” as an artform
    – we only got two songs so lets play em out
    – dump the no-fucking-reason montages
    – don’t put corpses in the memorium that aren’t film stars and leave off major ones
    – lets think of the show like a fucking movie and build up to a climax

    Seriously DP, you honestly don’t think simple suggestions like this could make for a better show. It’s really not rocket science and it’s these obvious lapses that drive the O’Hehir’s of this world apoplectic. Is there no process in place for anyone to make these calls or is it a total dictatorship.

    Everyone thinks a straight, clean classy show will scare off millions of viewers. It’s the Oscars stupid.


  15. Don Lewis says:

    I cannot post anymore…..anyone else having issues?

  16. Don Lewis says:

    oops, there we go. WTF???

  17. Triple Option says:

    re:bulldog68 – I was at a small party and some people were talking about definitely wanting to go see Hugo, especially after it won cinematography over Tree of Life, which they thought was beautiful but didn’t otherwise care for. I and another person were talking it up but also mentioning it was one worth seeing in 3D. There inlies the rub cuz I don’t know how many places it’s still at and if those screens are 3D. I did hear some people talking at work about needing to get around to see The Artist “especially now that it won.”

    I do kinda get what you’re saying though. I saw 7 of the 9 best films and still have no desire to make an effort to see the last two (war horse and extremely loud crying). And sometimes speeches will kind spur my curiosity. Love Plummer, thought his speech was good but eh. We’ll see if it’s on Sundance Channel or Netflix streaming in the next year or so, cuz I can’t be bothered. Same with the Glen Close Noobs movie. She’s got skills and seeing the makeup clip seemed like they did a remarkable job but meh, who knows if I’ll ever see it.

    I don’t know if it has something to do with feeling a little blase about the overall winner. Like if these films aren’t making a bigger splash against a film I thought was at least 3 or 4 down, why bother to rush out to see them. Of course, they could be films I would find far superior to the winners, which has happened plenty of times in the past. I guess what I’m ultimately saying, it’s not that the show did nothing to get me to want to see the films, I think I did a better job in seeing a lot of the films.

    Oh, you know what I love about Angelina’s pose on stage while presenting? It was so staged, like she initially forgot to do it and sorta stuck her leg out after the fact like she had to move over to step into the spotlight, but it still completely worked. Just a nice, not so subtle reminder that “even if I don’t have a movie in the running, it’s no pr hype, I AM teh sexy.” Although I could hear 10 million toilets across the country flushing simultaneously after she walked off stage from all the tween & teen girls seeing her emaciated arms and trying to catch up. Holy crap, how long before people in Uganda and Cambodia start hosting telethons to send her French fries? Maybe I’m missing something, is she gearing up to star in the Karen Carpenter Story? OK, that’s it for now.

  18. Triple Option says:

    Oh, and can someone post a link for whatever Andrew O’Hehir was going on about? It musta really been a doozy for David “Dewey Defeats Truman” Poland to bring it up in the wake of Michelle Williams’ victory last night.

  19. Breedlove says:

    Never have understood why these super hot chicks think it looks good to be that thin. Angelina, Rose Byrne is too skinny…a bunch of these chicks would look much hotter if they gained 15 pounds. I saw Kate Bosworth walking around down in the West Village a couple of years ago, who is obviously stunning, or should be…she looked gross. Her arms and legs were about as thick as pencils or drinking straws. Hillary Swank, same thing, way too thin. Pointless.

  20. Breedlove says:

    P.S. my two cents, show kinda sucked this year. I remember Billy Crystal being much funnier in the old days. He was lame as hell from the very start of the show. Not very funny at all. Boring, boring show.

  21. movielocke says:

    99.999% of the criticisms of how the oscar show should go boil down to “why won’t they pick only what I want?” And really, from critics, I expect better than self-reflective, over indulgent whining.

  22. Hallick says:

    “So… every idiot is out there writing the same stupid story about “fixing” the Oscar show.”

    This isn’t the same thing as “every story about fixing the Oscar show is written by an idiot”.

    Meanwhile, the story that every idiot IS writing doesn’t have fixes, they just have the word “sucked” attached to other words like “Billy Crystal” and “montages”.

  23. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    99%? Really? I think most people think in this day and age how can they continually include sequences that are either redundant or plain dull filler. There’s no reason for poor decisions like that. They have a year to think of great ideas. It always seems so much has been done by tired people with ideas thrown at them a month out. These complaints have nothing to do with the films chosen.

    Apologists like DP don’t help. At times it feels like the audience should thank their lucky stars they’re even allowed to watch. The host always divides people. Some of the jokes fall flat. Who cares. That’s not whats habitually wrong with the shows. It’s the very simple obvious things about pacing and pertinence. There’s just shit that should not be in there. You know the bits in the past that people love? Here’s an idea, use those fucking good ideas every year if they work. No one will complain if it works.

  24. David Poland says:

    JBD – No. Nothing you mentioned would do anything but change the content of the whining.

    – What kind of props? More clip packages?
    – Sandler wasn’t in the telecast in the past. They still bitched.
    – So when they have 5 songs, same thing? Will anyone ever be happy with how they are performed?
    – You mean the 6 minutes of 188 minutes of air time?
    – very political… and the 2 left on and 2 left off shouldn’t be the obsession of people, should it?
    – they do. director, actor, actress, picture. What other climax do you want?

    I agree… a clean, classy show is the way to go. They weren’t that far off last night. The devil is in the details and making those details happen.

  25. Hallick says:

    Idiot fix #22:

    The “In Memoriam” segment: Focus solely on the deceased. If you want to use a singer or a choir, keep them in the dark or behind the screen. This isn’t their moment. You can thank them and they can take a bow on stage right after you come back from the commercial break.

    If you really want to use clips of celebrities talking about how movies affected them growing up, okay, tell us about how the people that died in the last year affected you with their work. Those are memories I think I’d really enjoy knowing.

  26. Hallick says:

    “What kind of props? More clip packages?”

    They’d be more pertinent and relevant clip packages than “The History of People in Movies Watching Movies” (which seemed to encompass shots from “The Shawshank Redemption” and maybe two other films). Were you not a bit puzzled yourself that NOTHING was done for the Best Picture nominees during the course of the telecast?

  27. Hallick says:

    The devil that’s in the details of the Oscar show is in how things are done, not so much the things that were done themselves: Billy Crystal would’ve been fine with some better jokes, the montages would’ve been better with more relevant themes (or Best Picture nominees), Cirque du Soleil wouldn’t have left a bad taste in my mouth if they weren’t give a giant on-stage screen “CIRQUE DU SOLEIL” at the end (wanna talk about marketing people using the Oscars to market a product?).

  28. Pat says:

    If they dropped the ‘In Memoriam’ montage completely, maybe Octavia Spencer could have finished her speech. At least she’s still alive.

  29. cadavra says:

    John: I’m aware of Barry’s death date, but I don’t recall him in last year’s reel, either. Does anybody else?

  30. Eldrick says:

    great post david. we see the same bs every year. like that louis ck joke, how everything is amazing but nobody is happy. should be a little more self awareness from the critics, who should be more professional. i don’t like it when everyone whinges cause it just brings everybody down on what should be a great night, but hey, i guess the punters have the right but the critics should know better. for what its worth i thought billy crystal was pretty good.

  31. shm says:

    A decade or so ago, I was visiting the Museum of Television in NYC and I discovered that they had some old Oscar telecasts that you could watch. I watched the first televised Oscars (Greatest Show on Earth year) and then the 1971 awards (Patton). The first awards were as awkward as you would expect but the 1971 awards were awful. Just pitiful. This was that period when only 2 or 3 of the nominated actors per category would show up and your star presenters were in the range of Joan Blondell. This years show was one of the best of the recent ones (even with the tinny sound).

  32. movielocke says:

    “Were you not a bit puzzled yourself that NOTHING was done for the Best Picture nominees during the course of the telecast?”

    It’s called an act out, rather than using a clip package for each film that stops the show dead nine times, they featured the BP films on the act outs (with a bit of narration and ‘fun facts’). I think the fun facts were kind of dumb, but I think the BP features on the act outs is good for the flow of the show. If you’re DVRing and fast forwarding like a maniac you probably missed them.

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