The Academy Awards aren’t necessarily broken, but that hasn’t stopped seemingly everyone responsible for this year’s ceremony (5 p.m. Sunday, ABC) from spinning The Wheel O’ Random Ideas in search of a fix.
A new award for best popular film. Letting only Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar perform their nominated songs while briefly mentioning the other three contenders. Presenting the awards for cinematography, film editing, live-action short and makeup and hairstyling during commercial breaks, with the winning moments — minus the long walks to the podium — airing later in the show to save time.
Academy leaders eventually abandoned those announced changes after Hollywood insiders howled as though someone proposed a ban on sequels.
The idea of tinkering with some of the show’s 24 awards, though, actually has some merit.
The Academy’s proposal just didn’t go far enough.
The Grammy Awards doled out 84 trophies this month, yet only nine made the cut for the TV broadcast. Everything else was presented during a separate event, dubbed the Premiere Ceremony, that took place hours before. Luis Miguel’s award for best regional Mexican music album (including Tejano) doesn’t come with an asterisk on it just because he didn’t receive it during the main ceremony. The same goes for Jimmy Carter’s award for best spoken word album. A Grammy is still a Grammy. By focusing solely on the more mainstream awards, the show had plenty of room to entertain.
On the TV side, the Emmy Awards are really three ceremonies, including the Creative Arts Awards, which take place on consecutive nights the weekend before the main event. You don’t hear winners at those earlier events bellyaching. They’re just ecstatic to have an Emmy.
What’s that you say? You can’t remove categories from Oscar night? Tell that to the Academy Honorary Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. Those lifetime achievement honors were bounced from the broadcast in 2009 and given their own ceremony, the Governors Awards.
All the Academy really needs to do is move most of the technical categories to the Governors Awards, televise it somewhere and call it a day.
Know the difference between sound editing and sound mixing? Exactly. Buh-bye. Visual effects? See ya. Production design and costume design? Gone and goner.
Clear out that slog in the middle of the Oscars, that period when many viewers can go two hours without seeing anyone recognizable honored, and use it to celebrate the nominees in the acting, directing and best picture categories.
Let viewers get familiar with some of the newer nominees, such as “Roma’s” acting duo of Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira. Good luck finding someone who can tell you what “At Eternity’s Gate,” which landed Willem Dafoe a best actor nomination, is about. So tell some of these stories through more than just a 15-second clip.
Give viewers a reason to care, and give them a reason to watch when they could easily save three or more hours by just streaming the most noteworthy acceptance speeches come Monday morning.
This isn’t a case for eliminating any categories.
And it certainly isn’t about demeaning anyone’s Oscar.
The fact that Roberto Benigni has one already took care of that.
How to freshen up the Oscars
There’s no telling if any of these ideas were considered as ways to shorten the Academy Awards, increase their entertainment factor or attract new viewers — but they should have been:
Booze. People don’t need to see Glenn Close doing a kegstand, but that open bar sure seems to loosen up the Golden Globes.
Penalties. Nobody cares about your agents, managers or publicists. Rattle off three consecutive names in your acceptance speech, and you’re barred from working again until you make a movie with Rob Schneider.
Better seating. If producers really want to tighten up the ceremony, maybe they shouldn’t stash the more obscure nominees so far away they’d might as well be inside the Hooters across the street. Barring that …
Zip lines. Get the winners to the stage faster than ever before.
Do-overs. Convene a panel to rectify some of the Oscars’ biggest travesties — “Citizen Kane” losing out to “How Green Was My Valley,” “Pulp Fiction” being denied by “Forrest Gump,” “Brokeback Mountain” being passed over in favor of “Crash,” etc. — with a special Academy Award each year.
Lean into the Netflix thing. “Roma” is the streaming giant’s first best picture nominee, and it surely won’t be the last. Celebrate that achievement with tie-ins to Netflix’s “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” by letting viewers choose their own winners and see the resulting acceptance speeches, or “Bird Box,” by blindfolding the nominees in each category and letting the first one to grab the Oscar keep it.
The “Black Panther” Rule. Much like the ability to battle in a shallow lagoon for the right to reign over Wakanda, allow any losing nominee to challenge that category’s winner.