It is a truism that the Oscarcast can’t help but suck horribly. No matter what tweaks are put into effect, no matter what technological innovations are displayed, the show is a stiff for several reasons, including:
—the fact that moviemakers only make movies well, they can’t put on a live show properly (haven’t ever been able to);
—it’s grating to watch a community pat itself on the back for over three hours of TV time;
—the attempts to snare young viewers are hopeless and pathetic (young viewers have better things to do than watch the Oscars)
—and the lip service given to the “respect” the Academy has for its legacy and elders is of course disproved by the disrespectful treatment those same elders receive during the program (which is related to the previous point).
So, let’s run through the statistics, shall we? What I’ve always found interesting, and thoroughly obnoxious, about the Oscars is the constant back-patting about what a great industry they’re a part of. If you check the MPAA’s website it is noted that 560 films were theatrically distributed in America last year — if you remove nearly half of those in the expectation that many are independent features (one hopes) and/or foreign releases (these days, quite few), you still have a good 300 films made and released by Hollywood annually.
So the fact that a small handful of movies get saluted at the Oscars each year has always been a don’t-watch-that-watch-this bit of misdirection. The fact that the “sweep” factor finds less than 10 films nabbing most of the nominations contributes to this, as does the sporadic instances, as with this year’s King’s Speech, where a film made in the U.K. receives many nominations and most of the top prizes. So Hollywood is indeed proud of the fact that about 10 out of every 300 films that are produced here are very good — and that better movies are often made elsewhere.
And then we come to the dead folk. As regular readers of this blog know, I am devoted to saluting the Deceased Artistes whose work I loved, so of course one of the reasons I have to watch the Oscarcast is to see what they do with their annual necrology segment. For years it was an odd popularity contest in which they led up to the biggest names, and the audience was encouraged to applaud wildly at whomever they recognized. That iniquity was taken away a few years ago, when they started doing severely solemn necrologies that gave less than 10-15 seconds to every person saluted.
This year each person was given approximately three and a half seconds of screen time, no matter if they were an agent, an executive, a producer, or a Hollywood stalwart performer like Tony Curtis or Dennis Hopper. Four seconds, and yer out! So much for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ respect towards its elders.
Of course, there is also the shameful move instituted last year, where the Lifetime Achievement awards were shunted off the program and thrown into a separate event held months before the Oscar telecast. This year our Funhouse deity Uncle Jean (aka Jean-Luc Godard) didn’t make the trip from Switzerland to Hollywood to receive his five-decades-delayed Oscar for Breathless, but the three other honorees were in attendance, and all four gentlemen were given 20-25 SECONDS each to be saluted on the puffed-up Oscar show.
Some of the tech awards remain, the shorts remain, the wretchedly bad comedy bits remain, the tributes that come out of the blue and go back into the blue and make no sense remain — Billy Crystal talking to Bob Hope? (That guy’s immense ego hasn’t deflated since he made himself a partner to Laurel and Hardy some years ago) — and yet the Lifetime honorees get 25 seconds each.
It was only natural that one of those honorees, the brilliant film historian Kevin Brownlow, displayed the MOST respect for Hollywood’s legacy of filmmaking by simply saying in his acceptance speech, "I really do regret the loss of black and white...."