Six days ago Time‘s Richard Corliss reprised a suggestion originally made by Jamie Stuart (posted as a Hot Blog comment on 9.1.09) that the Oscar show “needs to adopt a Top Ten, American Idol-like framework, gradually counting down from #10 to #1 throughout the program to create suspense.”
We all know why this idea will never fly with the Oscar-show producers. One, the makers of the films to be eliminated early on would feel insulted (despite the obvious honor of being Best Picture nominated in the first place), and two, the Academy would be indicating proportionate vote tallies by staging a preferential countdown, and they never indicate anything. And I hear that.
But at the same time this is why the Oscar show as we’ve known it is dying on the vine. However they tweak it to try and reach under-30 viewers, it is basically (and always will be) an older person’s presentation of pomp — a stately, hide-bound, proscenium-arch event produced each year with an amiable mule-like mindset and an instinctual deference to the-same-but-slightly-different. They may deny it, but the people running that show have always felt a responsibility on some level to never let the Oscars become a show that the ghost of Bob Hope wouldn’t recognize.
Corliss is right — a Best Picture elimination scheme would “add welcome suspense” and perhaps be “too entertaining.”
The vast majority of moviegoers out there see going to the movies as akin to visiting a theme park. Just as the vast majority of producers working for the big studios see their job as producing theme-park-like entertainments. There’s obviously a slot for this kind of thing, and there’s obviously an economic necessity to keep this kind of crap coming. But too many people go to movies looking only for cheap highs and jerk-off diversion. And these people — hear my call and mark my words — are the problem, and the only way to properly regard and produce the friggin’ Oscar telecast is to tell these people to get off the Oscar lawn.
Academy honcho Tom Sherak needs to man up, Clint Eastwood-in-Gran Torino style, and say the following to everyone within earshot: “Movies are a religion, and whether some of you get this or not, going to see the best movies — not the Battle: Los Angeles-type films that happen in the late winter, spring and summer but the end-of-the-year quality stuff — is the same thing as going to church and, in a manner of speaking, taking Holy Communion. They’re about values (philosophical or otherwise) and emotion and contemplation and quality of life and spirit. And that’s what the Oscar show needs to be — superficially a muscle-car thing about discipline and smarts and non-draggy pizazz, but primarily a deep-water thing about spirit and soul.
“Everything that happens on the show, including the funny stuff, has to be some kind of reflection of the satori aspect. The Oscar show needs to be the biggest Unitarian movie-church service of the year, and if that means that not as many atheists and agnostics will watch, good. But they will watch, you see. Because even the shallowest people out there understand that the best movies contain and in fact propel notions of spirit and emotion and profound transcendental recognition.”