Friday, November 23, 2012

My Ideas for Oscars 2013

There was a nationwide chorus of "Seriously?" when The Academy announced that its host for next year's Oscars telecast will be Seth MacFarlane, the irreverent talent behind the hit animated TV series Family Guy and American Dad!  Last month, I blogged about him going from "Family Guy" to "Oscar Guy."  Reportedly, the Academy is out to woo younger male viewers.  Well...that's not really the Oscars audience.  That's the crowd that watches the MTV Awards.  Those young dudes aren't paying to sit through mature Meryl Streep movies, Brokeback Mountain, The King's Speech, There Will Be Blood, The Queen, The Artist and The Help.  They want to see Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Knocked Up, The Hangover and The Avengers.  The Oscars are about film art and excellence.  The MTV Awards are about commerce and marketing.  The MTV Awards are a high school popularity contest.  The Academy roster is full of the kind of folks attending a staff meeting in the teachers' lounge.  But every year there's that big question of "How Do We Improve the Oscars® Telecast?"  I've got some ideas.
First, the producers should watch the show the way average viewers do.  DVR the complete show from the previous year, sit down at home and watch the whole thing the way we ordinary people do.  Not in a busy, crowded network TV control room.  Ben Stiller as a blue character from Avatar makes the minutes fly by like hours now, doesn't it?  Then watch the BAFTA Awards, the British Oscars telecast on BBC America, and take notes.  Less "shtick" moves the show along.  Instead of cute scripted banter betweem two celebrity presenters, try something different. The Oscars are broadcast around the world.  We viewers are told that our troops overseas watch.  Let a few members of our armed forces present an Oscar with a celebrity -- like the Oscars for Best Editing, Best Sound,  Best Cinematography or Best Costume Design.  Trust me, there are many members of our armed forces who are quite comfortable onstage, can read TelePrompTer and are terrific representatives for our men and women in uniform.  Pair a GI with a star.
Wouldn't that be a great "thank you" and a sweet American show biz salute to our troops?  I think so.  Invite a few to Hollywood Prom Night.  Make them feel like stars.  Put them on the A-List.  The Academy may be jones-ing to put young male butts in the home seats to watch the Oscars but it should not ignore the young women.  Nor the older women, for that matter.  One such woman won her first Oscar for playing Funny Girl in 1968.  She won her second Oscar for co-writing the "Evergreen," the Best Song of 1976 in the last (hopefully) remake of A Star Is Born.  Hollywood's Oscar winning actress/singer/songwriter-turned-film director, Barbra Streisand, was the last woman to present the Oscar for Best Picture reportedly.  That was in 1991.  The Best Picture winner was Dances With Wolves.  Let's change that presenter sexism with some legendary Hollywood class in the mix next year.  My suggestions for the Best Picture presenter: Shirley MacLaine.  She starred in three Best Picture Oscar winners -- Around the World in 80 Days (1956)....Billy Wilder's The Apartment (1960) co-starring Jack Lemmon...
...and Terms of Endearment (1983) which also brought her the Best Actress Oscar.
She gave another knock-out performance in this year's Bernie, co-starring Jack Black.
MacLaine rates a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Bernie.  If she's too busy shooting Downton Abbey, consider Mary Poppins Oscar winner Julie Andrews, star of the big box office champ, The Sound of Music (Best Picture, 1965)...
or Rita Moreno, star of West Side Story (Best Picture, 1961), which also brought her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and made her the first Puerto Rican to win one for playing a Puerto Rican.  (José Ferrer won for playing Cyrano de Bergerac.)
The Academy should name an award and/or Women in Film scholarship in honor of the groundbreaking and glass ceiling-shattering Warner Brothers actress who paved the way for Barbra Streisand, Penny Marshall and Jodie Foster.  Ida Lupino was a Hollywood star and a respected actress winning critical praise in the 1930s and '40s.
She showed her acting chops in films such as They Drive By Night, High Sierra, The Man I Love, The Hard Way, Deep Valley, Lust for Gold and The Big Knife.  While acting, she also studied what her directors were doing.  When opportunity knocked, she was ready.
By the early 1950s, Lupino was still acting and had brought diversity into the Boys' Club of Movie Directors.  She started her long and respected career as a film and TV director.  No woman in Hollywood had pulled this off before Ida Lupino did.  She was a pioneer.
When we babyboomers were kids, if a woman had directed a Hollywood film or TV episode, that woman was actress/director Ida Lupino.  For episodic television, she directed dramas, westerns, thrillers, sitcoms and cop shows from the 1950s into the late '60s.  She acted into the late 1970s.  Lupino never got an Oscar nomination in her career, but she started a great new chapter in the Hollywood history for Women in Film.  Today, Kathryn Bigelow made history as the first woman to win the Best Director Academy Award (for The Hurt Locker).  Stars such as Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks Salma Hayek, Nick Nolte, Annette Bening, Bill Murray and Jeremy Renner have Oscar nominations to their credit thanks to taking direction from women.  High time the Academy put a major spotlight on the memory and contributions of Ida Lupino.  They are still significant today for women.  Director Lisa Cholodenko's Best Picture nominee, The Kids Are All Right, is a wonderful film about family.  Mia Wasikowska won my heart as the college-bound California teen of suburban lesbian parents played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore.
Then Wasikowska wowed me with her acting range as Jane Eyre, heading the fine Cary Fukunaga adaptation that should've been a contender for Best Picture of 2011.
That's my next to last point.  If the Academy is going to kick the number of Best Picture nominees back up to ten -- which is the number it was until reduced to five during the 1940s -- then give us ten nominees like the Academy used to do.  Don't give us nine and not include a worthy production like Fukunaga's Jane Eyre or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows:  Part 2, a beautiful and touching conclusion to that successful fantasy franchise.  Give us ten or five nominees.  Pick a number and stay with it.  The same goes for Best Song category.  Five nominees are now the norm.  It used to be ten.  "The Way You Look Tonight," "Over the Rainbow," "White Christmas," "Secret Love," "It Might As Well Be Spring," "The Way We Were" and "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" all won the Oscar for Best Song. Last year, there were only two nominees.  Elton John and Bernie Taupin could've been contenders for their delightful tunes in the animated feature, Gnomeo & Juliet.  They weren't.  "The Living Proof," the excellent song from Mary J. Blige that was such a perfect fit for The Help, was shut out.  It should've been nominated.  Mary J. should've won.  If we get five good songs nominated, let Seth MacFarlane sing one.  He's got a good voice.  Had he been a 1950s/60s hit vocalist like a Frank Sinatra, Jack Jones and Andy Williams, he have recorded Best Song Oscar nominees like "Dear Heart," "Charade" and "Moon River" on an album called MacFarlane Does Mancini.   Finally, he may not have been a star like Andy Griffith, Ernest Borgnine, Celeste Holm and Whitney Houston...but I wish the In Memoriam segment would include Damien Bona.  He was most kind to me in my early TV days in New York City.  He loved Hollywood history and the Academy Awards.  His encyclopedic books, Inside Oscar: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards, were great fun to read and still are a top resource when doing my entertainment journalism research.  His research on the Oscars from its first awards ceremony was extensive.  We lost Damien this year at age 56.
For all his inexhaustible and passionate work covering the Academy Awards history, it would be a lovely gesture to see that the Oscars note his loss and appreciate his memory.  Finally, there should be a 4-star, deluxe musical tribute to the late Oscar winner Marvin Hamlisch.  That could be a highlight of the show.  And there you have it....a few thoughts from me for Oscars 2013.








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