Break out the tuxedo. Slither into that designer dress. Rent a limo.
Shut down the streets. Put up the bleachers. Roll out the red carpet. Alert the media.
It’s Academy Awards time, that magical season when the move industry salutes itself for producing a handful of notable films out of the hundreds of clunkers that befoul the screen each year.
It’s when the entertainment profession, which has had a few thousand years to practice putting on a really good show, rolls out a spectacle that falls somewhat short of a high school production of “Our Town.”
It’s a time when films like “The Sound of Music” beat out “Doctor Zhivago” for best picture. Or “Forest Gump” wins over “The Shawshank Redemption.” Or movies like “The Artist” prove that cute dogs can elevate mediocrity to Oscar status.
We’re supposed to take this seriously?
So when they pass out the Oscars tonight, I’ll be curled up with a good book. Or maybe watching a basketball game.
Either option will allow me to miss the rambling, incomprehensible acceptance speeches made by winners who do their best acting by appearing surprised and humbled.
I’ll also miss an evening of air kisses and disingenuous platitudes in a ceremony that conveys all the warmth and emotion of a Walmart colonoscopy.
None of which is new, of course. Writing about the Oscars a decade ago, David Foster Wallace said, "The truth is that there's no more real joy about it all anymore. Worse, there seems to be this enormous unspoken conspiracy where we all pretend that there's still joy."
I understand this may be heresy. No matter where you live in Southern California, you are resident of the vast fantasy land that is Hollywood and duty bound to love, honor and obey “the industry.”
God knows I’ve tried. Heck, I was born in Hollywood. And I have been watching the Academy Awards since Bob Hope was the host. Come to think of it, the ratings have declined since Hope mastered the ceremonies.
I’ll cut the academy some slack. There aren’t a lot of options when you’re staging an awards show. It’s like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich: there’s pretty much only one way to make it.
On Oscar night, however, there’s more creativity gathered in one room since, to paraphrase a famous statement, Walt Disney dined alone. Why not harness that genius?
The producers let their imaginations run wild on a few occasions in the past. In 1989, they had no host at all, an experiment that led to what is perceived by many as the worst Oscar telecast of all time. If that’s not bad enough, the opening number featured a duet between non-singer Rob Lowe and an actress playing Snow White .
Donald Duck co-hosted the show in 1958. Fortunately, Hope, David Niven and Jimmy Stewart were on hand to help save the day.
Two years ago, someone got the bright idea to turn the hosting duties over to James Franco and Ann Hathaway. It wasn’t an experiment so much as it was a desperate attempt by the academy to attract younger viewers. It didn’t work. The evening had all the charm of a bouncer at a beer joint.
I’m no impresario, no producer, no creative force. But this isn’t rockets science, either.
So try this: First, cut the show to two hours. Period. Start by limiting the acceptance speeches to the top categories: actor, actress, director and best movie. Nobody wants to hear the third assistant production designer thank his accountant.
Forget the documentary short, the short film or any other category with the word “short” in it. Dump the sound editing award. Nobody understands what it is anyway.
Get rid of makeup and hairstyling. As one wag once wrote when “Driving Miss Daisy” won in this category, it was only noteworthy if “Jessica Tandy was in fact 20 years old and Morgan Freeman was actually white.”
Next, get a host who is witty but won’t spend an inordinate amount of time trying to extract laughs from an audience that didn’t come to see him or her.
Dump the dance numbers. If I want to see dance, I’ll go to the ballet.
Cut the number of best picture nominees back to five. Ten dilutes the value of a nomination. And adds to the insufferable length of the broadcast.
Do this and I might just tune in.