Abbreviated Day-After Thoughts

February 28, 2011
A thought by James Berardinelli

As Meatloaf crooned, "Two out of three ain't bad." Or, to be precise, 13 out of 21 for 62%. My gambit of thinking a pro-The King's Speech surge would carry the film to wins in a number of the lesser categories didn't pay off, but it still won the big ones, proving that late momentum is more important than being the early frontrunner in the Oscar race. All hail the Weinsteins. Apparently, Melissa Leo's relentless self-promotion didn't hurt her. The fact that her accidental use of the word "fuck" in her acceptance speech created so much buzz is a testimony to how carefully packaged the Oscar telecast has become.

The good... The length was reasonable, at a shade over three hours, although it had a chance to come in at less than that, but things slowed down markedly during the final 30 minutes. At 10:50, I remarked to my wife that it looked as if the telecast was going to end before 11:30. Sadly, that didn't happen, but the relative brevity (if you want to call it that) of the ceremony was welcome. As I wrote in my pre-Oscar musings, if you account for the increase in commercial time, a three hour telecast today roughly equals a two and one-half hour telecast. For me, there were two highlights during those 188 minutes: Kirk Douglas and Billy Crystal. (Did he have botox done?) I don't know how much of Douglas' dragging out the anticipation was shtick, but it was funny shtick. And Crystal reminded us what it's like to have a cool, confidant host. He was the emcee for some of the longest, most bloated Oscar telecasts and he made them bearable.

The bad... The lengthy plaudits for the Best Actor/Actress nominees. We know who they are and why they have been nominated - get on with it. Short and sweet is the best way to go with these things. There's no need to have Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock call each candidate by name and read a few words of praise from the teleprompter. Also, I found it odd that the "speech" from The King's Speech was used as "voiceover narration" during the Best Picture clips montage. Considering the result, it was appropriate, but it would have struck a dissonant chord if The Social Network had won. (I'm assuming, by the way, that the people assembling the show did not have prior knowledge of the winner - that would violate secrecy rules.) Anne Hathaway and especially James Franco were out of their depths; it felt like amateur hour. Some of the bizarre inserts could have been ditched. Why, for example, have quick snippets from four seemingly random orchestral scores? If there was going to be a musical tribute, why not target John Barry, whose contributions to cinema were legendary?

The Ugly... Apparently, Monique and Christophe Waltz are too important to show up and present the Supporting awards this year. Funny - neither of them stayed away when they were front-runners to win last year. What happened to "And the Winner is..."? Back for one year, then gone again? I wish they'd make up their minds. Finally, this had to be the worst year yet for acceptance speeches. "Thank you, thank you, thank you." You'd think that at least the frontrunners would have prepared something intelligent and witty.

The fixes... Suggestions no one will take. There's no need for a host. The last few years have proven this beyond a shadow of a doubt, and it's better to have no host than the wrong one (or ones). Next year, either lure Billy Crystal back for opportunity #9 or go host-less. Allow a different celebrity to "own" each segment, with "The Voice of God" introducing each celebrity. Also, although this proposal might be controversial, it's time to end the acceptance speeches. They waste precious minutes and contribute to show length bloating. Allow the winner to come on stage, smile and accept the award - then he/she can go backstage and give as many thank-yous as is desired to a camera with an on-line feed. Speeches were worthwhile when something was being said. Now that they have become laundry lists of "thank yous" that mean nothing to anyone except a select few, they should be treated as such. Finally, bring back as many geezers as possible to present awards. Kirk Douglas' appearance was a highlight. Admittedly, a lot of the old luminaries are dead, but there are still enough survivors to create some moments. Let's not wait for the "In Memorium" segment to see them again.

Now that the Oscars are over, maybe Hollywood can start releasing watchable movies again. January and February 2011 have been shockingly bad, both in terms of quality and buzz. Box office numbers are off by 21% compared to last year, so there's a lot of catch-up. There are some interesting titles being released in March - let's hope some of them live up to the marketing. Thus far, though, we've yet to see even a dark horse candidate for a 2012 Oscar.