Sonn: How to improve the Oscars

BY BARRETT SONN | MARCH 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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Sunday’s Oscars ceremony scrounged up 43.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched since 2000. Of course, that doesn’t mean things can’t be done to improve future telecasts. After all, change is a good thing, and the Oscars are way too long. Here are my suggestions for making it better.

We’ll begin by adding some new award categories.

“Best New Actor” and “Best New Actress”:

I’m stealing this premise from some Korean awards ceremonies, as well as the Rookie of the Year Award in sports. In ruthless and intensely competitive industries such as the movies, it’s important to applaud quality performances from newcomers. All too often, rookies will go to battle against such perennial nominees as Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep, lose, and then seemingly disappear.

“Best Stunt Work”:

Stunts are a big deal in movies — the vast majority of actors and actresses don’t do their own stunts not just because professionals are a better choice but because of such things as legal/contract stipulations. When there are two categories for sound (“Best Sound Editing” and “Best Sound Mixing”), is it really appropriate to neglect something such as stunts and the people who risk their well-being to sell characters as superhuman?

Nobody likes overly long ceremonies, which means the inclusion of several new categories must be balanced somehow. Time to start cutting things.

Fewer musical performances: Am I the only person who just remembered there are numerous musical performances every year? For whatever reason, I thought only one nominee from the “Best Original Song” category was performed. What does it say that I couldn’t remember even last year’s performances off the top of my head? Most of the time they aren’t memorable, and sometimes they’re downright atrocious (Gwyneth Paltrow in 2011). Rarely there’s a gem, such as Three 6 Mafia in 2006.

I propose this: Only the “Best Original Song” winner should perform. The obvious counter to that idea would be that it takes rehearsal and time to actually perform a song live, especially on national TV. Fine then — make the winner known sometime before the Oscars begin (maybe a couple of weeks), so the performer has ample time to prepare.

Cut the montages and extra footage:

A lot of time can also be saved by removing unnecessary montages and footage from other awards telecasts. Montages seem to be used as filler material more and more, and Sunday’s telecast had montages with more than one movie that was not nominated for an award. Montages are supposed to be cool and fun; let’s try to be more selective with how they’re used and what’s in them.

I’m still unsure why footage from other awards ceremonies are shown during the Oscars telecast. Every Oscar isn’t presented on TV, so why are other ceremonies getting screen time? Plus, they tend to skew towards lifetime-achievement awards, which the average viewer doesn’t care about. If they have to show that type of footage, everything precedes the Oscars. Surely they can pick more interesting material.

Of course, my list of timesavers would be anchored by my groundbreaking …

Joe Pesci Rule:

In honor of Joe Pesci’s 1991 two-second acceptance speech — “It’s my privilege. Thank you.” — this would require an award recipient to deliver an acceptance speech between five and 15 seconds long. Recipients would be allowed to speak beyond those time limits only if their speech is actually something unique (think Russell Crowe for Gladiator or Jamie Foxx for Ray) and not just a laundry list of people to thank.

The implementation of all my suggestions would make for a better and more interesting ceremony — it’s undeniable. But change often takes time, so it’s a good thing there’s a year to take action.

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