MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

20W2O: What The Oscars Should Learn From This Super Bowl

Two medium market teams.

Grammys right up the event’s butt, making the 2 weeks roll-out into a one-week rollout for all but hardcore fans.

A blowout game.

Zero points from the #1 offense in the NFL this season.

Relentless pre-game hype of ads taking away from the fun of watching the game for the ads.

And… what is looking like record ratings.

Now think about all the excuses made up, by The Academy and by media, about why The Oscars is not an ascending ratings event.

Not big enough movies… too long… event overload… not an exciting competition…

Waa, waa, waa.

The Oscars benefit from and have long benefited from what the Super Bowl does. It is an institution. Like all live events (and ironically, like opening a movie), no one knows what the content of the show is going to be. All they know is that they want to participate in that event. They want to have fun. They want to go, “ooooo.” They want to get ticked off. They want Jen Lawrence to trip going up the stairs but to be the world’s biggest movie star once she gets to the podium.

But they have no idea what will actually happen that night.

And here is where it gets tricky.

Because if you have noticed, you get the same damned Super Bowl show every single year. It gets bigger each year… or tries to. But basically, it’s the same, predictable thing.

And what happens with The Oscars. Different producers (most years), different hosts, wildly different shows.

Even last year to this year with the same producers, same director… expect a completely different show. Why? Because they are building a show around Ellen DeGeneres, not Seth MacFarlane. So expect a lot of enthusiastically bad dancing to replace a lot of enthusiastically bad singing. (I would, however, bet dollars to donuts that McFarlane will do a cameo, making fun of himself as last year’s host.) But expect a tonal change of significance.

Is this Ellen DeGeneres’ opportunity to lock up Oscar hosting duties for the next 5 years or longer?

I hope so.

It’s not because I think she will be the best host ever. But I do think she is capable. And what the show needs is not “the best host.” You can’t just create the best host. It needs something upon which audiences can rely. And it needs to get over selling the host every year. As long as The Oscars are an annual referendum on the host, The Academy is failing in doing what’s best for the show.

Finally, The Academy needs to get the false idea out of its head that some magical change is going to make a movie awards show a growth industry. Not going to happen. Not how things are. And as they keep throwing stuff at the wall, they risk slowly but surely undermining the brand.

Ironically, as Dawn Hudson got her Academy job based on the Independent Spirit Awards, this is exactly how the Indie Spirits have lost strength. It lost sight of its brand. It became a pale reflection of the more indie side of The Oscars and became neither fish nor fowl. It’s a fun day for those who participate in the event on site (including me). But for civilians, where is the thrill? Seeing Actor X win for the seventh time in two months or seeing Actress Y win one knowing full well she is going to lose the same award at The Dolby a night later? And who is hosting this year? Who the hell knows? (No disrespect to some terrific one-time hosts in the last five years.) This is why it is now a tape-delayed, bleep-heavy, liquor-ad drenched show on one of those cable networks (sorry, IFC) that isn’t finding a new audience anymore… and can find an after-party sponsor some years and not others.

The Academy Awards do need to celebrate the most commercial cinema. Absolutely. They don’t need to sell it. But they need to honor this product, that is now bigger in the rest of the world than at home, and the people make it and star in it. Then they need to seriously honor the best films of the year as seen by this group of 6,000 industry professionals.

You want a “theme” that would work this season? How about a tribute to women? Frozen, Hunger Games, GravityDespicable Me 2 is about Gru’s life being changed by a woman… Pepper Potts suits up in Iron Man 3… Lois Lane… the witches of Oz… Uhura… Daisy Buchanan… it’s right there… and it’s not just popular movies… there are Oscar nominees and previous winners and all kinds of stuff to work with.

Of course, we’ll end up seeing some of this stuff anyway. But my point is, don’t offer up some theme show… especially “heroes” in the year of the anti-hero. I know that, for instance, Ron Woodroof will end up being part of some hero montage. And he was heroic. But he’s a classic antihero, taking action out of personal need and evolving. And that distinction matters.

The lesson of the ratings of this year’s Super Bowl are that it was The Super Bowl. Audiences know that surprises will happen within. But they know what they are buying. And that is why they turn on the TV to begin with… because they can’t know what will happen and they can’t go back in time after it does happen… unless The Academy is anxious to get bigger YouTube numbers.

[Edits and corrections above.]

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8 Responses to “20W2O: What The Oscars Should Learn From This Super Bowl”

  1. Scott Renshaw says:

    “Todd McFarlane”?

  2. Daniel says:

    Actually the Super Bowl has done an excellent job at expanding beyond its core audience to become a true multigenerational family event. You think Madonna or Beyonce or even Bruno Mars at halftime were for the sports fans? Plus, they’ve used the annual discussion about event ads to bump up water cooler interest AND ensure premium prices for the spots. They made Super Bowl Sunday an annual holiday for the whole family, along with all the requisite press about the athletes and their moms, recipe ideas, etc, etc. The Academy Awards should do something to attract straight men besides the host (the equivalent of halftime) and turn the whole show into a must-see-live family affair.

  3. Daniella Isaacs says:

    It’s might be hard to redefine it as something people others than women and gay men watch. To be honest, these award shows perpetuate that canard, in their jokes, more than anyone. It’s far easier to get women and gays to watch sports than it is a certain kind of straight guy to watch something so defined–outside of LA–as a girly/gay-guy thing. Homophobia and sexism, don’t cha know.

  4. YancySkancy says:

    In some ways, it’s something of a miracle that the Oscar show continues to get pretty big ratings. For every film buff who sees enough films to care about which are considered the year’s best, there are God knows how many “average Joes and Janes” who think of movies strictly as disposable entertainment — something that gets them out of the house a couple of times a year or passes a couple hours between dinner and bedtime. I think it was a little different in the earlier years, when there were fewer (or no) TV choices and more people were going to movies more often. The ceremony itself brought out larger-than-life stars whose private lives weren’t shoved down our throats 24/7, and there weren’t half a dozen other award shows stealing its thunder between nominations and broadcast.

  5. Bob Burns says:

    truthfully, it looks pretty much the same to me every year.

    nominees onstage, or not, singing and/or dancing, one host, two…. it still all looks pretty much the same.

    I do think they should yank back the award from anyone giving one of those awful thank you litanies. “oops, obviously we voted for a bore by mistake. move along. we’ll have that back.”

  6. Bulldog68 says:

    And if it’s still true that studios can’t have movie trailers during the Oscars, they should change that. Coming right after the Superbowl, which gets a lot of press about it’s ads, the Oscars could be the same about the special trailers that will make their debut.

  7. Ray Pride says:

    THR, 2013: “A few years ago, the Academy’s rules stipulated that no commercials were allowed for movies opening prior to the last Friday of April. An Academy spokeswoman, though, said the rule has been relaxed so that now any film opening after the telecast may be advertised. Another recent revision was to the rule that each studio may advertise only one film during the Oscars. Now, each studio may advertise up to three movies, though that would require purchasing three separate ad spots, as another rule prohibits any single commercial from advertising more than one movie. The Academy also doesn’t allow ads for sequels to any of last year’s best picture nominees, nor does it allow any movie ads to mention the Academy Awards.”

  8. Hallick says:

    The Super Bowl is more football. The Academy Awards is not more movies. This will always hamstring the latter.

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