Monday, March 15, 2010

Oscars producers make poor decisions

Property The Daily Gamecock

Producers Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic seemed to have two goals in mind for this year’s Academy Awards: streamline the show and get a bigger audience. Well, they succeeded, but at what price?

Yes, the Oscars enjoyed a nice rise in viewers — up to about 41 million after last year’s roughly 36 million, and the problem of resolving the behemoth length seemed under control for most of the show, with awards and speeches moving quickly.

But somewhere along the way, Shankman and Mechanic moved past efficiency and into sheer disgrace. There’s a difference between trying to quicken a show’s format and simply disrespecting those you’re supposed to be honoring.

The problem started with the Academy’s annual tradition of awarding entertainers with a Lifetime Achievement Award. This year they chose four, and dedicated a separate, untelevised evening to honor their work. At the actual Oscars ceremony director Roger Corman and actress Lauren Bacall, two of the four, showed up but barely got an introduction. They didn’t give any context for unfamiliar viewers.

Heck, they didn’t even get to a microphone. Corman and Bacall merely stood at their seats and waved at a bemused Kodak. Attendees clapped politely, unsure whether or not they were going to move to the podium or not. After a moment, everyone just sat down.
No eloquent, long-winded speeches and no moving montage, just a polite wave.

Later, James Taylor took the stage for a live rendition of “In My Life” to accompany the annual In Memoriam montage. Plenty of departed faces moved past in slow motion, including Michael Jackson for his acting turn in “The Wiz,” but it all felt over far too quickly.
Only the next day did industry writers realize: The Academy forgot Farrah Fawcett, who tragically died earlier this year approximately the same time as Jackson. On top of that, they forgot legendary Bea Arthur too. Now, one can make the argument that Arthur was more a TV than film actress, and thus the Academy didn’t owe her anything, but Fawcett was a 40-year Academy member.

In an attempt to appeal to younger viewers, “Twilight” stars Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner introduced an out-of-place montage tribute to horror films; their opening script included the line, “it’s been 37 long years since horror had a place on this show, when ‘The Exorcist’ picked up two awards.” Fittingly, Stewart coughed as she said the line, perhaps realizing it simply wasn’t true.

The montage included clips from 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs,” and while many would argue whether it is or isn’t a horror movie, it still won five Oscars, including Best Picture. Clearly, it had been a little less than 37 years; was this simply the Oscars of stupid mistakes?

On top of this, the producers axed performances of the Best Original Song nomination to streamline the show, but had a massive interpretive street dance accompany samples from the five nominees for Best Original Score. Sorry, “The Hurt Locker’s” subdued guitar work doesn’t really lend itself to street dancing, and such a performance isn’t really saving any time.

By the end of the ceremony, Best Picture presenter Tom Hanks practically ran on stage and ripped the envelope open in haste, as if he had to get it in under the wire.

While the Oscars glided down at a breezy three and a half hours, it would have been nicer to enjoy an hour more of careful planning and producing instead of what felt like a series of severely misguided decisions. Hopefully next year the producers can find a classier way to reward the viewers they draw in. That’s Entertainment.

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