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February 28, 2005

And the Award for the worst Awards show goes to. . .

How bad was the Academy Awards telecast Sunday night? Bad enough that the cameras caught members of the live audience snoozing including at least one nominee. And it didn't have to be that way. Chris Rock was host, there was some competition in some areas and there were genuine surprises. The basic problem, IMO, is that the Academy Awards are no longer about celebrating the year in movies -- it's a platform for commercials to sell you stuff. In other words, it's not an event -- it's just another TV show.

The problems weren't because of gaffes or mistakes although there's always some of those. No, they planned this snoozer. And some of them were slap yourself in the head "What were they thinking?" kind of groaners. They improved it to death. It was the "new coke" of Academy Award shows.

The set major league sucked. Let's get that out of the way right away. But then there was also the practice of either lining up nominees on stage as if they were on American Idol or doing the whole thing from the audience and the winners never even get on stage! In the name of what -- saving some time? Visual diversity? What it said was "These are the minor awards" and was really insulting. These people worked hard and long in the fields or on the projects that the Academy was supposedly "honoring". Even Chris Rock commented that next year some Awards were going to be given out in the parking lot as part of a drive-thru. You want fries with that Award? Hey, Academy -- either give out those Awards at a separate function like you do with the technical awards or do it right or just eliminate the categories. But stop treating them like the bastard children. Let 'em sit at the grown-up's table if you're going to let them in.

And how about that music? Okay, the songs sucked. They suck almost every year. Having Beyonce' sing three of them didn't help matters. Not that she's a terrible singer but it made for a sameness through the show. It made you scratch your head and ask, "They couldn't get anyone else?"

Yo-Yo Ma is a great artist and having him play might be a great moment. Problem was -- they did the Memorial section with it and people were hesitant about applauding while Ma was playing -- and wasn't that the purpose of the Memorial? To salute those who were gone one last time? Speaking of which -- they gave Johnny Carson a separate memorial but Marlon Brando got maybe 5 seconds. I loved Johnny Carson but who was more important to films -- him or Brando? It underscores the underlying problem about the broadcast -- Carson was an emcee and from TV and that's what the Academy Awards has become -- another TV show.

I love movie soundtracks -- and this year you got maybe a three second snippet while the nominations were named. In the past, they at least had the orchestra play a medley of music from the nominated shows. Not this year. This year, they didn't even play the themes of the movies when there was an award for it. Morgan Freeman walked off after winning his best supporting actor award to the strains of STAR TREK; THE NEXT GENERATION. What the hell?! That and the theme from THE TERMINATOR were the two recurrent themes in the show. WHY?!

How about them film clips. "WHAT film clips?" you might ask and you might well ask. It used to be that for even the small features you'd get a TASTE of what the film was visually about. Many categories got none or had them projected in a mosaic pattern on the floor that made it virtually impossible to see ANYTHING! Add to that the CHOICE of clips made when you had them. Usually they seemed chosen for their brevity -- not because they were especially illuminating about a film, a performance, or the work done. Add to THAT the montage of clips at the start to which I could discern NO pattern or theme. Here's an idea -- wouldn't the start of the show have been better served by an overture of the nominated film scores and/or extended clips from the best films of the year. Remind everyone about what was really cool in the previous year?

And that clock. Some of those getting the awards were so nervous about the clock and rushing so fast that they had no MOMENT. The exceptions were ones like Jamie Foxx who made them LET him take a moment. Granted, there were actors like Hillary Swank who just don't know when to stop thanking people. Here's two ideas -- have someone work with the nominees BEFORE the show to make sure they know what they're going to say and then reserve the clock if they start to ramble.

The show felt disconnected, rushed, and -- oddly enough -- at the same time tedious. It needs a make-over. Get the Fab Five from Queer Eye over here. Let Thom design the set, let Jai work the nominees about what they'll say, let Kyan and Carson do the red carpet bullshit (as a montage -- and let them say what they will) and let Ted. . .do something.

I read somewhere that the Academy is trying to be more hip, more edgy, bring in the younger viewers. Ain't going to happen, folks. The kids are really not interested; they already have the MTV Movie Awards. The Academy Awards should be the Academy Awards -- an event like the Super Bowl.

Stop worrying about the time -- so long as it's under four hours, that's okay. Let it breathe a bit. Let it have some moments. Sunday night was just bad television.

No stars.

Posted by John Ostrander at February 28, 2005 07:51 PM


To be fair, the Star Trek: The Pepsi Generation theme was originally for Star Trek: The Motionless Picture; but, it's still an odd choice. I had to wonder about the recurrance of the Terminator theme, too. It's catchy--but, come on! The separate Carson tribute was no doubt due to the fact that he really wasn't known for film work. I agree that a lot of this year's changes will NOT be coming back.

Posted by: Andrew W. Laubacher at March 1, 2005 10:13 AM

I'm way old-school about this. My favorite parts are when the "little people" (i.e. the ones who are not actors) get to stand up in front of the whole world and gush in gratitude. Movie stars get adoration every day. Film editors get recognized maybe once in a lifetime. Let them kvell.

Posted by: Martha Thomases at March 1, 2005 01:05 PM

The Carson tribute was probably due to his having been the regular Oscar show host for a while back in the 70s/80s. The Trek theme was probably meant as some sort of tribute to also died this year composer Jerry Goldsmith, but it's unclear where the Terminator theme was coming from.

Posted by: Tom Galloway at March 1, 2005 05:52 PM

Like Peter David, I don't get Chris Rock...yelling does not equal funny. And I thought he went waaaay overboard on his jibes at Jude Law...imho, they crossed over from dubious comic jabs to downright meanness quite quickly...and I applauded Sean Penn for having the guts to publicly say what he did.

And what the h#ll was with the Academy censors LITERALLY taping up Robin Williams's lips?...okay, okay, I know Robin put the tape there himself, but it was just SO perfect a retort to this neo-puritanism that has gripped this country--by the way, did you hear the FCC "officially" okayed SAVING PRIVATE RYAN yesterday? Give me a break! At times I think of telling John that I'll emigrate to England--

Anyway, back to the Awards. Imho, the clips of Johnny Carson put Mister Rock to shame. Mr. Carson was the consumate host. Thirty years of THE TONIGHT SHOW, y'know? And though I was surprised that no individual posthumous honors were given to Marlon Brando, I'm glad they did give them to Mr. Carson, as he, as much as Bob Hope, put his own mark on the awards show.

And I also cringed when they made all the *ahem* minor nominees line up like beauty pageants or contestants on THE GONG SHOW...what WERE they thinking? (Obviously, they weren't!)

The biggest problem with the Academy Awards is that they are more concerned with showing all the advertising spots than allowing the awards themselves to be the show. Think about it...they cut off speeches, but will they ever cut off an ad spot? Even all those pre-Oscar shows are about advertising the designers and jewelers!

Other thoughts:

Hillary Swank may be able to act, but she sure acted like trailer park with her classless acceptance. She was almost as bad as Julia Roberts.

But then there was Jamie Foxx. And Morgan Freeman. And Sidney Lumet.

And Cate Blanchett was strikingly beautiful and, okay, can't help saying it, Hepburn-esque.

Renee Zelweigger (spelling? whatever!) looked anorexic. She needs to put some of the Jones pounds back on.

Pierce Brosnan is a beautiful man.

That's all for now. (Quite enough, I'm sure some of you are saying! :-D )


Posted by: Mindy Newell at March 1, 2005 11:18 PM

To defend the special tribute to Johnny Carson (over Marlon Brando): while Carson may not have been big to the movie industry, he was a great and long time host and was part of the Academy family and the tribute was to the loss of one of their "own".

Posted by: Erik Peek at March 4, 2005 11:04 PM

Mr. O, I suspect that you'd get more comments on your blog if you posted more than--oh--a month or so. I realize that you have to give preference to your professional writing; so, I'm just saying don't let lack of response discourage you from blogging.

Posted by: Andrew W. Laubacher at March 5, 2005 09:55 AM

I'm not sure if I can add comments or if I'm SUPPOSED to comment on comments but. . .here I am anyway. First, thank you all for replying. Very cool. Martha Thomases and Mindy Newell?! Not dissing everyone else but these two are wonderful old friends and one of them i haven't heard from in a long time. Yes, Ms. Newell, I'm saying you need to call me and let me know where you are!

RE: the Johnny Carson tribute at the Academy Awards --
Not dissing Carson at all and I'm not saying he SHOULDN'T have been honored with a memorial. But so should have Brando. If you're giving a separate tribute to Carson, then also give one to the guy who became an ICON in films.Carson was a host of the awards presented on TV; Brando was -- like him or not -- a genuine artist in the movies. My point was that, to me, giving Carson the tribute and NOT giving one to Brando was an example of of how the Awards has become a TV show. IMO.

RE: the music --
Okay, Jerry Goldsmith died and it COULD be interpreted that was why they were using his STAR TREK theme. However, Elmer Bernstein ALSO died and they didn't use any of HIS themes (including Magnificent Seven) and the composer to THE TERMINATOR is, I believe, still alive. So, IMO, I doubt Goldsmith's death was the reason the ST was used so much. Both ST and TERMINATOR are themes for popular SF franchises (both moribund at the moment) and whoever chose them may have thought they would appeal to "young people" No dount the actual reason is stupider than that.

RE: blogging more often --
Oh, be nice! Seriously, I'm still learning about this whole blogging thing. I did several when I first started and then there was a gap while I focused on deadlines. That will probably continue to be the pattern. Also, I'm TRYING not do a lot of blather but have something interesting to say and that takes some time. Actually, the trick is trying to find a coherent THOUGHT most days. Still, the point IS taken and I'll try to post more often.

-- John

Posted by: John Ostrander at March 5, 2005 09:19 PM

For what it's worth, Entertainment Weekly's post-Oscar issue includes a "Burning Questions" feature answering some of the show's "head-scratchers." With regard to the music played, the article:

(1) says most themes played were nods to composers who died last year--such as the Jerry Goldsmith's Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

(2) claims that The Magnificent Seven theme was similarly played as a nod to the late Elmer Bernstein (I don't remember hearing it, myself, but I may not have been paying that close attention.)

(3) has musical director Bill Conti describing his intention in playing the Terminator theme as a "wink at Chris Rock's 'welcome to the 77th and last Academy Awards joke. ('He's the terminator,' Conti explains. 'It's so subtle that nobody got it.')"

So, at least as far as the Terminator theme goes, it looks like you're right Mr. O--the actual reason they used it seems to be stupider than just wanting to appeal to young people. Stupider...but at least not as cynical or commercial-minded.

Posted by: Ali T. Kokmen at March 6, 2005 11:38 AM

John, a quick comment from the Republican side of your family in re: the Oscars, I thought that the Carson tribute was very nice and fitting, but I was wondering why there was no tribute to Ronald Reagan. Usually they do a tribute to all the stars that have died in the past years, but this year, I didn't see one. (I did miss a part of the show, so maybe it was during that period.) Congratulations on Grimjack! Marge showed me a nice story in your local paper, and we are looking forward to seeing you when you come in for Comicon.

Posted by: David Haynes at March 7, 2005 08:58 AM

There was an "In Memoriam" segment in this year's program, so you must have missed it. The montage screened while Yo Yo Ma played live on stage. Before the show, several folks wondered how the montage would run, since there were a number of big names who died this year. As it turned out, the sequence began with Ronald Reagan and finished with Marlon Brando.

Posted by: Ali T. Kokmen at March 8, 2005 02:32 PM

Does anyone know the piece of music they use at the awards to lrad into a commercial?

Posted by: Deb at April 13, 2005 09:18 PM