Thursday, February 23, 2017

Must the Show Go on?

It’s Academy Awards week.

But excuse me if I don’t walk around whistling “Hooray for Hollywood.” 

In my somewhat jaded view, the Oscars is a shameless group hug on the part of the movie industry for producing a handful of notable films amid  the hundreds of clunkers that befoul the screen each year. 

Think of it: The same folks who brought us “Casablanca” and “The Godfather” also subjected us to “Batman and Robin” (characterized by one critic as not the worst movie ever. No, indeed. It's the worst thing ever. Yes, it's the single worst thing that we as human beings have ever produced in recorded history”)  and “The Hottie and the Nottie,” a film described as “crass, shrill, disingenuous, tawdry, mean-spirited, vulgar, idiotic, boring, slapdash, half-assed, and very, very unfunny."

All that and Paris Hilton as the star.

It’s also a night when the entertainment profession, which has had a few thousand years to practice putting on a really good show, rolls out a spectacle that often falls to the level of an elementary school Thanksgiving pageant.

Then they’ll cap it off by picking “The Sound of Music” over “Doctor Zhivago” for best picture or “Forest Gump” over “The Shawshank Redemption.”  

So I’ll curl up with a good book which will allow me to ignore 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.

But wait, it may get worse.

This year’s ceremonies will be awash in enough anti-Trump commentary to resemble open mike night at a Democratic Party beer bust.

Want to play a drinking game?  Down a shot every time a winner doesn’t mention Trump or his policies.  You’ll be stone cold sober at the end of the evening.

I’m certainly not advocating a gag rule for our show biz friends. It wouldn’t work even if you tried.

Give an actor a microphone, put he or she in front of a glamorous audience of like-minded celebrities while untold millions watch on TV, and you’re going to get some scenery chewing.

That’s why Meryl Streep has received as much notoriety for her award show rants, specifically her Trump bashing at the Golden Globes ceremony, as she has for her considerable acting ability.

In Hollywood, you’re only as good as you’re last performance, scripted or otherwise.

And if Meryl Streep or Daffy Duck or whoever wants their public to know exactly Where They Stand, nobody is going to stop them.

But there’s some thin ice here.  The Oscar telecast isn’t exactly knocking the socks off the American TV audience.  Last year’s Oscars finished with the third-lowest viewership in the show's history.

And as Aaron Blake pointed out in the Washington Post:

“There are basically two camps right now on ever-partisan social media: Those who think Meryl Streep's speech…criticizing President-elect Donald Trump at the Golden Globes was great, and those who think this kind of thing is basically Why Donald Trump Won — i.e., elite Hollywood liberals going after the guy blue-collar voters chose to be their president.”

Speaking of rants, there’s one other thing.

Several years ago I conceived and published a sure-fire formula for presenting the awards in a reasonable amount of time. I never heard back from the Academy so, on the off chance their congratulatory and heartfelt letter to me got lost in the mail, here are my suggestions, free of charge:

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.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.

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