5 Ways To Make Next Year’s Oscar Show Better

5 Ways To Make Next Year's Oscar Show Better

So the numbers are in, and last night’s Oscar telecast raked as the ceremony’s highest viewership stats for a decade, reaching an audience of 43 million. Of course its being hailed as a triumph for host Ellen DeGeneres, but we’re going to suggest that part of that was due to a more open, or rather less decided, race for Best Picture between “Gravity” and eventual winner “12 Years A Slave.” Not to mention all the people who tuned in with their kids to hear the one and only Adele Dazim sing “Let it Go.” (Be sure to check out our list of the Best and Worst Moments from the show).

With the figures 6% higher than last year’s, and with no foreseeable fallout along the lines of the sexism accusations that plagued Seth McFarlane’s hosting turn (that grew louder online and in the op-ed pages over the subsequent week) the organizers must be feeling pretty good about themselves. To which, killjoys that we are, we’d say whoa there! Not so fast! This year may have got a few more eyeballs, but there are still a few changes that we think will make next year’s telecast better. Here are five suggestions (along with the permanent, standing suggestion that they ply the celebs with more booze à la The Golden Globes), for your consideration.

1. Bring In An Edgier Host
So, we were quite impressed with the job Ellen DeGeneres did last night, with producers opting for a safe, steady pair of hands, and with a hosting style that was that bit more informal, after last year’s diametrically different, wannabe Rat-Pack/Vegas show feel that Seth MacFarlane brought to the stage. But we do hope that the Academy now feels that they have the license to go a bit further next year, and that the hiked-up viewerships figures are not necessarily read as being a direct result of a more conservative hosting choice. In fact, the impulse that seems to have governed recently is “take a risk” followed by “play it safe” on alternate years (Hathaway and Franco were risky and bombed so Billy Crystal came back the next year, then MacFarlane followed by DeGeneres) and by that same logic we should be in for something a bit less, well, cosy in 2015. But we just hope that the fact that so many of the riskier choices of late have turned out badly doesn’t see the Academy retreating back into their shell. Ellen we can take and mildly enjoy for a year, but we can’t see people getting hugely excited for another helping. Also, while the looseness of her off-the-cuff approach was refreshing, it did contribute to the show’s overlength, and the feeling of general sagginess that set in somewhere around hour two. Which brings us to….

2. Drastically, Vastly Reduce The Running Time, By At Least An Hour
Last night’s Oscars, at 3 hours 35 minutes were apparently, to the minute, the same length as 2013’s ceremony, but it sure felt longer. Though admittedly that might be because the mean-spiritedness of MacFarlane’s gig exerted its own kind of fascination. But while DeGeneres didn’t help matters by including a tortuous 15-minute bit about ordering pizza which was maybe hilarious if you were there but soon became irritating to the watching millions, a lot of the the dead air and slackness of the telecast was totally not her fault. The sluggish pace was basically down to the whole event not being run crisply. Do the celebrities doing the category presentations have to be introduced with such stately fanfare themselves? And do we really need to see a potted edition of every single Best Picture nomination, introduced by yet another celebrity who needs to be introduced? This sort of thing kind of guarantees the evening can’t ever really build momentum, and instead regularly judders to a halt. There are a bunch of ways the ceremony’s designers could go about tackling this, from reducing the categories they feature to staging in such a way that it’s more designed for the TV audience than for the attendees. But if there was one change we could impose on all future ceremonies, it would be this one: for the love of Mike, lose an hour.

3. Don’t Have A Theme, And Cut All The Montages
This is something of a more recent invention, thanks to producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron who produced the last two shows, which revolved around “heroes” and “movie musicals” for reasons that seem pretty arbitrary. And we can’t think of anything more pointless than having a tacked-on theme for the ceremony; it adds precisely nothing to the evening. It only encourages more montages that are unrelated to anything that’s actually nominated. We’re all for including a bit of film history in the evening, but most of these montages don’t stretch back more than ten years, and we can probably do without micro-snippets of “Kung Fu Panda” or “After Earth”—as we’ve said before, it surely doesn’t make a difference between someone tuning in or not. So don’t have a theme and believe us, no one will miss it. And, themed or not, enough with the montages in general. 

4. Cut The In Memoriam Section
We’re aware this isn’t necessarily going to be the most popular suggestion, and it’s one that caused a certain amount of internal debate. The In Memoriam section is the show’s sole chance to pay respects to those that passed in the previous year, and is certainly responsible for some potent moments, such as last night’s reel closing on Phillip Seymour Hoffman. But it’s also not always done all that tastefully, as also evidenced this year, where the reel was followed by Bette Midler singing “Wind Beneath My Wings.” And often, this portion of the show opens up something of a can of worms, when it comes down to the choice of who’s included and who isn’t (there were inevitable complaints about the exclusion of Tom Clancy, and Alain Resnais). So why not do away with it altogether? The nod to Sarah Jones, the crew member killed in an accident a few weeks back, which wasn’t part of the main montage but followed on-screen after Midler’s song, and which led to an extended version of the presentation online, showed that in this day and age, you can use the internet to make everyone happy. So why not keep it online, and stop the applause-measuring, the debates over who was worth including and who wasn’t, and the mood-stalling nature of squeezing in quiet moments of reflection in an evening of jocular self-celebration.

5. Go Back To 5 Best Picture Nominees
Again, we have mixed feelings about this one. Though it was done mainly because of falling ratings, and because “The Dark Knight” had missed out on a nod, the expansion of the Best Picture field to ten has had some boons. It’s hard to imagine movies like “Winter’s Bone,” “Amour,” “The Tree Of Life” or even something like “Her” this year making the cut with only five slots, and it’s nice to see smaller films showcased in that way alongside more obvious awards fare. But it’s also lead to some pretty questionable fare making the cut too (“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” for instance), and may have had repercussions beyond that. Mark Harris persuasively argued at Grantland that a wider Best Picture field has actually led to fewer films being recognized, with the 44 nominations in the major categories being spread between only twelve films. And as we saw last night, even with the Best Picture nominees being grouped into three to be “presented,” an expanded field also takes up more time, so for the benefit of the show if nothing else, why not revert to five? It makes those five feel a little more “special,” as it were, and in theory could make the show both more focused and more diverse in terms of the films that were getting picked.   

Anything else you’d do if you were in charge? Let us know in the comments section below. — Jessica Kiang, Oliver Lyttelton

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Comments

the sayer of the truth

The ONLY way to make the Oscars a better show would be to flush the whole out-moded fiasco smartly down the toilet ! ! !.

Stacey

Here's where the Oscars "miss it". The Grammys have live performances of the year's best performances in music so the audience can listen to the songs which are being honored that night. Same for the Tonys, which feature many live performances of the plays and musicals which are being honored that night. So those two awards shows feel like real celebrations of the year's best work in their industries. But at the Oscars, we barely see more than a few seconds in clips of the nominated films and performances. Show more clips, honor those whose work is being honored that night. Forget the people who annually say to dump the montages, this is an industry about film viewing, have MORE film viewing! Only make the montages interesting and entertaining, and not cut-and-pasted together by 4th graders who seemed bored by the job.

Joe

Here's the only way it can get better: B.E.T.

No, scratch that. Change it. I meant "Cleavage".

Ferdinand

How about Bette Midler to host 2015 OSCARS? She would be perfect, with her comedic timing, sensational singing voice and buckets of personality, it's a walk in the park for Bette!

Marcus

How about nominating movies viewers at home have actually heard of, and maybe even gone to see?

AR

The suggestions are not very good. Sorry

benutty

3.5 hours is not too long of a show.

The problem isn't the show's length, it is definitely in the presentation of it. I've never understood the relevancy of having a comedic host spend lengthy amounts of time entertaining the audience. Instead, an Oscar ceremony should be classy, grounded in tradition, and have respect for all of the nominees being honored. I'd like to see the scene submissions by all nominated actors, hear excerpts from all the nominated screenplays, and see images for each of the nominated effects categories (especially cinematography).

The goal of The Academy should be to honor their nominees and create a sense of esteem surrounding who they anoint. One of the best things they did was have past winners introduce and congratulate the acting nominees. I also remember fondly when Whoopi came out in costumes from each of those nominees.

Show the audience WHY films were nominated in a tasteful manner and stop this trend of making fun of them.

Ron

I actually love the montages!

V.

The only thing that really needs to be changed is the voting system. The Hunt, the Great Beauty or the Act of Killing had no chances in winning anything big and yet they are ten, if not hundred, times better than the cliche goldmines like American Hustle or Gravity and incredibly over-the-top sentimental cr*p like Dallas Buyers Club or 12 years… Now obviously films like the Hunt or Love will never win best picture, but my point is this: would it not be beneficial to the ratings of the Oscars (round the globe that is) to include lesser known European directors in the mix? Attitudes would immediately change towards the Oscars if people like Vinterberg were to be nominated instead of Russel and Payne (two nominees about ten years past their prime and now getting recognition only because of who they are). As for the best picture it is easy to understand why the Hunt or the Act of Killing can't and I'd say even shouldn't win, yet giving a real go to films like the Great Beauty would actually change the way we see the ceremony, that nowadays awards two kinds of films: political correctness manifestos or incredibly middle of the road pictures with recognizable faces. Naturally films like 12 years will always be a lot stronger than obscure independent pictures, but wouldn't the inclusion of less crowd pleasing films make it way more interesting (no matter who you root for as long as there is some actual rooting to be had)? Surely if there were any real intrigue to it, people wouldn't mind waiting for three hours and hearing a few mediocre artists? But obviously in order for that to happen the whole system ought to be changed, which is not going to happen, so now I fell dumber than the 60 year old make up artists who decide the worth of art.

Daniel Delago

Make opening the envelope more dramatic. Back in the day, cameras would zoom in and lock onto all the nominees faces as the winner's name was read. It was priceless to see the losers' reactions. As gracious as they try to come off, let's face it, acting is one of the most ego-driven professions in the world. Nobody wants to go home empty-handed without the Oscar.

Joe

There's only one possible way to make the show any better: B. E. T.

That's right, they should just go ahead on and air the show on Black Entertainment Television. It would be ratings blast. Follow my logic, here, people: global audiences wouldn't know how to process the information and the entire world would tune in to see just what the hell the Acadamy was thinking, putting the most revered of all awards shows on a rickety, nickel-and-dime network that barely passes the broadcast qualifications for public access. The Academy covers the "edgy" quote (and then some), and also helps bring in revenue for a fringe network. It's win-win, people.

Christian

Let's see make it shorter? Yes
Better host? Yes
For the technical awards show some BTS footage.
For the short films make them easily accessible. You can't find most of them till way after the ceremony. If want people to care about them make it to where people are actually able to watch them. There's no reason to not release them. No one I making tons of money off of them.

gurli

disagree oh so very much with the suggestion of cutting the In Memoriam section. It's an important moment. One of my favourites. But yes it should be done tastefully, which it also would have been IF they had just left it at showing the montage. The Bette Midler thing was too much. They should have a Best Soundtrack category – that would be exciting, giving the Music Supervisors some credit! Even though Randall Poster would probably take it all :)

Sean

I disagree with all of these suggestions haha.

Cutting the memoriam? Go back to 5 nominees? Well these are never gonna happen lol. No wayyy!

But I do have an idea!
Having Kevin Spacey host next year! (he had some few funny bits & I think he can genuinely do it & it would be a fun & I think somewhat daring choice) lol

MarlinC

Cutting the Best Song performances would cut out a huge chunk of time. Let's face it, it's not a terribly exciting category in the first place. And with the exception of a few rare instances, most of the songs nominated every year are pretty lackluster. I know it provides performance content to the Oscars, but I'd rather see that time devoted to behind-the-scenes of the Best Picture nominees or something that focuses on actual movies and filmmaking.

Lorem

Not sure how long ago, but there was a time when for best screenplay and adapted screenplay they would show you a scene on the page and then show that scene from the film. That was my favorite part. They need to bring that back.
I also think that they need to spend some more time on the "smaller" awards. We obviously don't know who the sound mixers or make-up artists are and instead of just hustling through those awards give me a little behind the scenes montage of these people at work. Try to show how important they are to the films they worked on. I'd gladly sacrifice all of the best song performances for a little clip about what goes into getting quality sound or how long it took to sew some crazy costume.

helen

I think the Oscars have become more interesting since they added more movies to the list of best picture nominees.If they cut down to five,it will always be down to the obvious choices,and the ones with the best campaign(and that kind of stuff already makes the Oscars pointless).
This way this year more people heard abour Her or Philomena,than they normally would.

Mongoosecmr

I wouldn't want to cut the memorial segment, but it does need to be better done. TCM's video, while a bit sappy, is a lot more moving and wide ranging. There is clear effort and care put in, while the Oscar one felt like it was cut in a day, and seemed to mostly include those who passed in the last three months instead of the whole year. If they cut out a skit/song and put some effort into it I don't see any reason why you would argue it being removed

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