February 20, 2009

The Oscar countdown

The Oscars have some things planned to make this year’s telecast fresh and exciting. (Ranting side note: I can guarantee you that in the brainstorming meeting, someone definitely talked about Generation Y/”Millennials”/”The Facebook Generation” having ADD. Guess what y’all, we don’t! Please stop pandering to us with your take on what fast-paced intelligence means.)

The first thing you might notice is a slightly less busy red carpet. According to my very reliable sources (thanks Megan!), show producers are asking presenters to avoid the red carpet. They’re hoping this will force more people to tune into the show to see what everyone is wearing. Interesting idea, but I don’t see it working. Half the hype around the Oscars – and the best way to drive post-show buzz – is from the red carpet, and since most of the presenters have an upcoming project to promote (that’s why they’re presenting in the first place!), they won’t want to skip out on that.

Another change to the traditional Oscar format is this year’s host: Hugh Jackman will take over the reins. He’ll be the first non-stand up comedian to host since 1975. The ladies love him – that accent! – and he’s done Broadway – so he has the power to command a stage – and I’m sure he’ll do just fine, but with his X-Men prequel due out this spring, it seems a bit convenient.

The final new feature that I know about (the first-time production team of Bill Condon and Laurence Mark are being very tight-lipped about the updates) is a montage of upcoming movies that they’re going to show at the end of the show, presumably to excite the public about what’s to come. I think this is a horrible idea. Not only does it make me wonder how much studios are paying to have their movie included, by providing a shortlist of Movies That Matter, it’s making the movie world even smaller.

Think about it: The movies that the broader American public gets to see is already limited by things like distribution deals and production houses that sort of arbitrarily decide what’s marketable (thus worth their money/efforts to promote) and what’s not. And I’m not just talking about super-independent movies. Consider: this movie starring Rachel McAdams and Tim Robbins:

Two very main stream actors, in a very mainstream, probably heartwarming, plot. Absolutely no buzz or publicity. Or that Christmas movie that came out with Debra Messing. I mean, people will watch anything during the holidays, but, for whatever reason, no one (outside of New York and LA) even got the option of this one.

Part of the job of being a movie fan is “discovering” those movies you probably wouldn’t have seen. That’s why everyone is so in love with ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ (and ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ or ‘March of the Penguins’ before it.). By traditional industry wisdom, 95% mainstream America never would have seen this movie, but the word of mouth buzz propelled it into non-independent movie theaters, gave it a marketing budget and made it essentially a shoo-in for the Best Picture Academy Award. I feel like the Academy Awards choosing movies in advance is limiting that possibility. But, because ’m not an Academy member and my opinion means naught. I suppose we’ll just have to see how it plays out.

Enjoy the show all!