L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein has assembled the smartest and most creative suggestions for how to fix the Oscar show that I’ve read anywhere. I’ve listed a few, but it can all be boiled down to three words — fire Gil Cates. He’s too old to get with the 21st Century program and needs to be put out to pasture — simple. Bring in a producer who’s younger and fresher and more alive-in-the-moment. Somebody in their 60s, I mean.
(1) “Although I’m sure it will cause a firestorm inside the academy, the technical awards — sound editing, sound mixing, visual effects, makeup and costume design — have to go,” Goldstein writes. “No one outside of the academy wants to hear acceptance speeches from people they’ve never heard of, no matter how heartfelt. The Oscars may have once been a celebration of craft, but the world has changed. Today’s audience wants a horse race. The show is just bad TV.”
(2) “The same goes for those cringe-inducing renditions of the best original songs. With the exception of a wonderfully spare rendition of ‘Falling Slowly’ from Once, they were all massively overproduced, drenched in so much glitz that they lacked any emotional resonance. I mean, who did the choreography — Michael Bay? And why is the academy president Sid Ganis on camera, taking up valuable time explaining arcane voting procedures? It’s just dead air.
(3) “There is plenty of precedent for streamlining the Oscar telecast. Just watch the Grammys. In a typical telecast, the Grammys have roughly 20 musical performances while giving out 10 actual awards. The other 100-odd Grammys are presented earlier in the day at a pre-award show with presenters, acceptance speeches and a full audience. As an experiment, this year’s pre-show was webcast on Grammy.com with the idea of expanding it into a bigger event in the future.”
(4) “MTV stages a web simulcast for its Video Music Awards, with separate hosts situated backstage, giving fans watching on the Internet a chance to see some of the backstage action. The Oscars should have a full-on web broadcast, anchored backstage by someone who’s been in a Judd Apatow movie, with live remotes from Oscar parties around the country.
(5) “The technical awards, beefed up with appearances by younger actors and filmmakers as presenters, would have enough appeal to merit their own telecast, perhaps on a movie channel like AMC or Turner Classic Movies the night before the Oscars. Freed from the weight of academy ceremony and tradition, they could serve as a proving ground for fresh ideas and new talent that could be incorporated into future Oscar telecasts.
(6) “Having a separate, less formal tech ceremony would allow the academy to experiment with new ideas, whether it’s trying a web simulcast, showing user-generated parodies of Oscar films or launching a Web-sponsored ‘pick the host’ contest. The show could add star appeal by doing interviews with stars preparing for the big show the following night, playing fun clips from the Independent Spirit Awards or having a live remote from an industry Saturday-night party.”
“The [Oscar telecast] ratings are going to drop a bit more each year because the Oscar show reflects the cares and passions of industry-ites (filmmakers, distributors, academy members, press, web savants) who at least pretend to care about movies that emotionally engage or arouse or deliver insights about the human experience.
“Unfortunately, this is pretty much what the Gorilla Nation people in the malls — the ones who just want to watch stuff like Transformers or the Hannah Montana concert movie and who basically prefer films that provide surface thrills or happy-pill highs — do not want to see as a rule. (Although they will occasionally.)
“The only way a big audience will come back is if some movie version of a Barack Obama comes along, and that’s not very likely. The phenomenon of Titanic was the last time this happened. The Oscars can’t go home again because the homogenous America of the 20th century is pretty much gone. Except when something magical happens, and it returns.” — HE’s response to a query from L.A. Times staffer Deborah Netburn in a 2.27 article called “Can This Show Be Saved?”
MCN’s David Poland voted for a grand total of 7 correct Oscar calls in the final Gurus of Gold chart. Out of 21 categories, that is. (MCN doesn’t include doc short, live action short or animated short.) Poland also missed 4 of the top 8 categories including such no-brainers as Best Picture and Original Screenplay. He went with Tony Gilroy and Michael Clayton instead of Diablo Cody and No Country for Old Men.
This doesn’t precisely fortify the legend of the Poland Curse (i.e., any Best Picture he gets behind big-time will lose) because Poland didn’t push all that rigorously for Michael Clayton, or not as hard as he campaigned for Dreamgirls and Munich. But it does tend to support the idea that Poland, a major Hollywood know-it-all, has a less than sterling track record in this realm.
Pete Hammond, who got the most correct choices among the Envelope Buzzmeter crew, was first among MCN’s Gurus with 16 correct calls, followed by Jack Matthews (15), Dave Karger (14), Glenn Whipp, Anne Thompson, Sean Smith, Mark Olsen (13), Susan Wloszczyna, Eugene Hernandez (12), Lou Lumenick, Sasha Stone (11), Peter Howell (10), Glenn Kenny and Scott Bowles (8).
“There will be plenty of eulogies from people who knew William F. Buckley better than I did — and certainly from those who agreed with him more than I did,” Time‘s Joe Klein has written. “But he was an honest man, an actual conservative — who, in the end, was quietly appalled by George W. Bush’s radicalism, in Iraq and when it came to the federal budget.
“He was a lovely writer, of course. His book, The Unmaking of a Mayor, an account of his own wry run for mayor of New York in 1965, is not only hilarious but also an early — and accurate — critique of the political correctness, unionized sclerosis and wasteful bureaucracy that almost killed the world’s greatest city in the 1960s and 1970s. He was an excellent man. My condolences to all the Buckleys.”
Consider this Charlie Rose retrospective to get a measure of the man. Buckley wasn’t as earthy or plain-spoken as Barry Goldwater, whose rep was sharply elevated by Mr. Conservative, the HBO doc that ran last year, but his disdain of the Bushies certainly made him seem a lot more appealing than he did 40 years ago when he lost his cool and physically threatened Gore Vidal during an on-air debate during the Democratic National Convention.
Meaning that “I’m f—ing Seth Rogen”, a video in the exact same vein that may have been the creative brainchild of Zack and Miri Make a Porno costar Elizabeth Banks (and not director Kevin Smith) doesn’t make it. It’s too imitative and not clever enough. If they wanted to get a fast satirical bounce off the Silverman video, fine, but they should have shot it and gotten it online immediately after it surfaced. It’s too late now. Kimmel beat them to it. You have to move fast these days. Hours count. Days can be fatal.
The Zack and Miri version (exclusive on Quick Stop Entertainment) is about Banks (or the character she’s playing in the film) lamenting that she’s obliged to “do” Rogen in order to pay the rent and get work. This is funny? Rogen’s a very cool guy — smart, successful, funny, connected. It may not have been believable that a slacker he portrayed in Knocked Up could score with Katherine Heigel‘s E! reporter, but Rogen on his own real-life terms is a different story.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno (Weinstein Co., opening later this year) costars Traci Lords, Craig Robinson, Jeff Anderson, Katie Morgan and Ricky Mabe. It’s been described as “a decidedly NSFW cautionary tale about just what it takes to get ahead in Hollywood.” The acronym NSFW means “not sympathetic or fair to WASPs.”
It’s commonly known that Valkyrie director Bryan Singer had wanted to direct the long-in-development Harvey Milk biopic called The Mayor of Castro Street for producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, based on a revised script by Chris McQuarrie. But as Variety‘s Anne Thompson reported two or three weeks ago, that project has been abandoned. Zadan and/or Meron confirmed this during a producer’s panel at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, Thompson has told me.
Now comes an item in the Portland-area publication Willamette Week that Gus Van Sant, director of as currently-rolling Harvey Milk biopic called Milk, has “extended an ‘olive branch’ to Singer by enticing him to make a cameo appearance in the film, which has Sean Penn in the title role. When asked to confirm, Van Sant said he had his fingers crossed that Singer will join his cast. ‘We hope so,’ Van Sant told WW in between takes on the San Francisco set. ‘He said that he will, but scheduling is hard.’
In a 2.26 N.Y. Times opinion piece called “Mr. Nader’s Unforgivable Wrong,” Ron Klain reminds that “the Ralph Nader presidential vote in the 2000 election was larger than the Gore-Bush margin of difference — not just in Florida, but also in New Hampshire — is grating and significant.
“So let’s just put it this way, as neutrally as possible: while there are several reasons why Al Gore was not sworn in on Jan. 20, 2001, one of them certainly is because Ralph Nader drew votes that would have given Mr. Gore the election — in not just one state, but two — making Katherine Harris, dimpled chads and the Supreme Court wholly irrelevant.
“But, some Nader sympathizers object, who could have known back then that Mr. Nader’s campaign would help throw the presidency to George Bush? Who could have seen it coming? The answer is that Mr. Nader did, which is why he initially promised supporters that he would not campaign in swing states or take other steps that might make him the ‘spoiler’ in the race — a promise he inexplicably broke, to the chagrin of many environmentalists, in the final weeks of the campaign.
“The risk that Mr. Nader might cost Mr. Gore the election was so well understood that one of the country√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s most creative progressives, Jamin Raskin, hatched an elaborate plan to try to minimize this risk while preserving a chance for Naderites to make their voices heard — a plan that Mr. Nader refused to back. There’s simply no escaping the fact that Mr. Nader knew the risks he was taking, and did not care, believing that a vote for Mr. Gore was a vote for Mr. Bush, and that there were ‘few major differences’ between the two major party candidates.”
I fully agree with this response from N.Y. Times reader Shoji Suzuki, to wit: “I firmly believe that Mr. Nader had already proved his point in 2000. A minute drop of toxin in our environment can destroy the balance of nature. He was the toxin in the political nature then.”
He’s not a Barack-star in debates — he’s shown that time and again. But he was cool, comprehensive, explicit, sharp and unflappable tonight, and that means he won. But there’s one thing Hillary said tonight that I really quite liked. When Tim Russert asked her to name President Vladimir Putin‘s successor in Russia (whose name is Dmitri A. Medvedev), she said it was “um, Med-medvedova, whatever.” My Hillary hate evaporated when she said that. I laughed, liked her smile.
But I also love the new 2.27 Maureen Dowd column that was written just after tonight’s debate. Here’s a taste:
Hillary Clinton “has been so discombobulated that she has ignored some truisms of politics that her husband understands well: Sunny beats gloomy. Consistency beats flipping. Bedazzling beats begrudging. Confidence beats whining.
“Voters gravitate toward the presidential candidates who seem more comfortable in their skin. J.F.K. and Reagan seemed exceptionally comfortable. So did Bill Clinton and W., who both showed that comfort can be an illusion of sorts, masking deep insecurities. [But] the fact that Obama is exceptionally easy in his skin has made Hillary almost jump out of hers.
“After saying she found her ‘voice’ in New Hampshire, she has turned into Sybil. We’ve had Experienced Hillary, Soft Hillary, Hard Hillary, Misty Hillary, Sarcastic Hillary, Joined-at-the-Hip-to-Bill Hillary, Her-Own-Person-Who-Just-Happens- to-Be-Married-to-a-Former-President Hillary, It’s-My-Turn Hillary, Cuddly Hillary, Let’s-Get-Down-in-the-Dirt-and-Fight-Like-Dogs Hillary.
“Just as in the White House, when her cascading images and hairstyles became dizzying and unsettling, suggesting that the first lady woke up every day struggling to create a persona, now she seems to think there is a political solution to her problem. If she can only change this or that about her persona, or tear down this or that about Obama’s. But the whirlwind of changes and charges gets wearing.
“By threatening to throw the kitchen sink at Obama, the Clinton campaign simply confirmed the fact that they might be going down the drain.
“It’s a hard sell for Hillary to say that she is the only one capable of leading this country in a war when she helped in leading the country into that war. Or to paraphrase Obama from the debate here, the one who drives the bus into the ditch can’t drive it out.”
I missed Christine Jeffs‘ Sunshine Cleaning when I was at Sundance, but I heard almost nothing about it afterward. People were apparently underwhelmed. But now, four weeks after the festival’s end, Variety‘s Winter Miller and Anne Thompson are reporting that it’s been picked up by Overture Films for roughly $2 million. Sunshine Cleaning was “deemed a tough sell for its gory subject matter,” they comment, and it was also considered a “hard sell at Sundance because the filmmakers were trying to recoup their cost, which insiders say was about $7 million.”
Politico‘s Jeffrey Ressner is reporting that Alex Gibney, director of the Oscar-winning doc Taxi to the Dark Side, is now making a documentary about the Jack Abramoff scandal, which will involve a close look at GOP presidential candidate John McCain‘s role in investigating the affair. The film, currently titled Casino Jack and the United States of Money, will “come out later this year.”
Director George Hickenlooper has informed, meanwhile, that he’s developing a dramatic feature about the Abramoff scandal called Bagman. He says he’s partnered with producer George Zakk (a Vin Diesel associate who’s exec-produced several of Deisel’s films, including Find Me Guilty) on the project, and that the writer is Norm Snider. Hickenlooper says it’s “close to a finished script.”
Casino Jack “should give viewers a greater understanding, in a blow-by-blow way, of how the political process works, particularly with regards to lobbying,” Gibney tells Ressner. “This movie will have it all: wild international intrigue, money changing hands in unexpected places, etc. It will be fun. As someone said about an earlier picture I made: ‘It’s a comedy that turns into farce and ends up in horror.'”
McCain “of course” comes up in the film, adds Gibney, who has “put the word out” to the Arizona senator’s presidential campaign for comment. “He certainly plays a role — he ran the [Abramoff] hearings, so he’s unavoidably involved in the story. Then the questioning extends. Upon further investigation, one looks at his motives and things like that. I don’t want to say much more than that, but he is a character in the story.”
Fox 411’s Roger Friedman reported this morning that “several sources” have told him that Steven Spielberg‘s reps “and the folks at the Cannes Film Festival are in negotiations to bring Paramount’s highly anticipated Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to Cannes for its official worldwide premiere in May.
“The star-studded event easily would be the centerpiece of the festival, akin to the premiere last year of Ocean’s Thirteen. I’m told that Spielberg, perhaps producer George Lucas and stars Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LeBeouf, Karen Allen and others would make the walk up the fabled red carpet at the Palais. Talk about sizzle! Sacre bleu!”
Thank God the last Clinton-Obama debate is about to happen. 12 minutes from now. A few days and no more listening to that raspy cackly witch-voice. No more looking into those cold steely eyes, or having to discern the real calculation behind those repulsively phony emotional offerings. I realize Barack has to act cool and unruffled like Ronald Reagan in the final debate with Jimmy Carter, but oh, how I would love to see some kind of serious slapdown between them, like that thing they got into in South Carolina.