Roughly 40 years ago Sir Laurence Olivier was presented with an honorary Oscar. This YouTube capture lasts six minutes and 25 seconds — 130 seconds for Cary Grant to introduce Olivier, 80 seconds of standing ovation, and two minutes and 45 seconds for Olivier’s eloquent acceptance speech (i.e., “the prodigal, pure human kindness of [this tribute] must be seen as a beautiful star in that firmament”). And that’s not counting the film-clip reel, which probably lasted a good 90 seconds if not longer. So figure 7 minutes, 55 seconds — call it eight minutes.
This was one of the great emotional-surge moments in Oscar history. (Consider Jon Voight‘s reaction after Oliver concludes.) And this is what people watch the Oscars for — for some great articulation, some damburst of feeling, some out-of-the-blue surprise or upset or even a big mistake. The 2017 La La land / Moonlight screw-up was actually great TV…really!
As I understand it, the ABC commissars want this year’s host-free Oscar telecast to unfold as fast as possible, and that means eliminating or reducing Larry Oliver moments and cutting down on acceptance speeches and suppressing emotional outbursts and basically cutting all the impromptu stuff.
And — this is significant — handing out the Best Cinematography Oscar off-screen. Movies are an overwhelmingly visual medium, and they want to hand out the Best Cinematography Oscar during a commercial? The people who love movies and the joy and glory of legendary Oscar telecasts and the whole messy fun of it need to rise up and tell the ABC commissars to leave the room and let the Oscar show breathe and be itself, and basically let the love and humanity back in.