The night before the Academy Awards, IFC broadcasts the Independent Spirit Awards—a celebration of indie film by Film Independent. We shoot the show on the beach in Santa Monica. We wear whatever the heck we want—even flip-flops—and we all have a few drinks while the awards are given out. It is the opposite of stuffy, and it is a BLAST.
Does this make me an expert on awards shows? Certainly not. But each year, those of us who go to the Sprits and are not invited to the Oscars the next night watch the Oscars from home and note how less fun they seem—even (or maybe especially) for those who are actually there.
So, as the Oscars and Spirit Awards approach, I was asked by The Daily Beast to come up with some suggestions for making the Academy Awards a bit more fun to watch. It’s likely they asked a dozen or so people and I’m the only one stupid enough to accept [Editor’s note: Not true! He was the only one we asked!] and it’s highly doubtful that the Academy will give a hoot what I think. But I decided to take up the challenge.
Here, then, are 21 WAYS TO MAKE THE OSCARS MORE ENJOYABLE:
1. ONE WORD: LIQUOR
I am NOT saying that you have to drink to have a good time—do you hear that, kids? BUT the Golden Globes and the Spirit Awards do seem to move faster and offer a bit more joie de vivre. Certainly many of us at home are imbibing, so perhaps in-seat service for those in the theater is worth trying. They do it at Rock of Ages, plus, no one is driving home—that’s what all those limos are for. Drink responsibly.
2. SIX MORE WORDS: TWO AND A HALF HOURS ONLY
There is absolutely NO reason this show cannot be done in 150 minutes. The Golden Globes finishes in 3 hours, but covers BOTH TV AND FILM—with two different categories in film for Drama and Musical/Comedy. The Oscars should not be longer than the longest nominated film.
3. MOVE THE SHOW TO SATURDAY NIGHT
Why Sunday? Don’t they know that the rest of us have to get up for work the next day? Like the Super Bowl, everyone would have a better time if the Oscars were on Saturday instead of Sunday. We could all drink at our Oscar parties, we could spend all day Sunday debating the results over lox and bagels–we’d even be more willing to watch a longer show (but don’t forget No. 2).
4. DON’T TELL ME, SHOW ME
We all know what films are nominated for Best Picture don’t we? If not, here’s a list. Now, please don’t spend time on those elaborate and superfluous intros and set-ups for the nominated films… “A father of two deals with the loss of his wife, even as he finds out… she’s been less than faithful…” It doesn’t help sell tickets and it’s just so boring. Just wait until the end, read the nominees, and let us know who wins.
5. ACCEPTANCE SPEECHES
OK, this is a tough one. I do not want to kill the dream of anyone who wins an award. And, I must admit, my favorite moments from the Oscars are the long, crazy acceptance speeches (Cuba Gooding hasn’t been as good in anything since). But there has to be a way to rein in these hot messes. My suggestion is preparation. Whether or not you think they might win, force every single nominee to write their speech down! Even if it’s just a list of everyone they need to thank. This will eliminate the inevitable “uh, I know I am forgetting someone” stretches that are both time consuming and painful. It will also prevent a winner from forgetting to thank their spouse or director, which happens at least once every year.
6. NOTHING BUT HOST AND AWARDS
We don’t need much—just the dresses, the cleavage, the glamour, and the awards. We don’t need or want the long bits and clever sketches. We certainly don’t need to see anyone sing and dance—for every “Blame Canada” (great!) we get a Rob Lowe singing with Snow White. Have Billy Crystal do some comedy, show us lots of pictures of Clooney, Pitt, Aniston, Streep, and that French Guy from The Artist, announce the winners; and LET US GO TO SLEEP.
7. BAN BANTER
I don’t know who writes the presenter banter, and I don’t care. Fire them. We don’t like it. It’s rarely funny—unless they write it themselves like Ben Stiller or Will Arnett—and it adds at least a half an hour to the show.
8. LET WOODY WIN
I am not 100 percent sure he will even show up (even when nominated, he usually doesn’t). But maybe, if you let him know in advance, that, you know, there’s something in it for him if he does (wink, wink), he’ll come. No offense to other nominees, but I am willing to bet a hundred bucks it would be the funniest acceptance speech we’ll see this, or any, year.
9. NO MONTAGES (except for the dead)
One of the most useful moments of any Oscars show is watching the “In Memoriam” montage and realizing that all the people you thought were already dead, just died this year. Other than that, no one really enjoys the endless montages we’re subjected to. The best reaction an Oscar montage ever gets at home is “that wasn’t so bad.” Let us see dead people, then stop.
10. THREE MORE WORDS: NEIL PATRICK HARRIS
Can we just agree that no one else should be hosting awards shows? OK, maybe Hugh Jackman—but he’s far too threatening to my masculinity to watch for three hours. I’m sorry Mr. Crystal, but, c’mon, you had your time. Pass the torch. Let’s make it law—for three years, NPH hosts every awards show.
11. THE ACADEMY PRESIDENT SPEECH: PUT. IT. ONLINE.
We don’t need it in the show. At the beginning of the show, run a 30-second spot, promoting the Academy (heck, put Will Ferrell in it; look at what he did for Old Milwaukee!) and point to a website for more information. Call it a day and move on with the show.
12. THE SHORTS
Again, I don’t want to deny anyone their moment in the sun, BUT, other than those of us vying for the top spot in our Oscar pools and the parents of those nominated, no one really cares about this category. For shorts categories, adopt the Webby Awards rules for acceptance speeches—five words only. This is the Shorts category, after all. Plus, they will be far more likely to be remembered for it.
13. SEE No. 1
14. SEE No. 13
15. SEE No. 14
16. TECHNICAL AWARDS
These are tough. The work of these nominees is so pivotal to the success of their films, but to be honest, for those watching at home, Film Editing, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing are simply tie breakers in the Oscar pool. Again, I lean toward the Webby Awards rules, though I’d allow 10 words instead of five. After all, these are editors, right?
17. BEST SONG
Clearly the Academy was underwhelmed by the eligible songs this year. So were we. Give it out in advance and save the time.
18. BEST SCORE
Make the winner sing their speech to the soundtrack they created. It won’t save time, but it would be AWE-SOME.
19. BEST MAKEUP
Voldemort versus Albert Nobbs and Margaret Thatcher? This is why the phrase "apples and oranges" was created. There is one group of makeup artists whose talent is creating alternative universes (Lord of the Rings), and another who excel at scoring an actress an Oscar nomination (The Hours, Monster). My suggestion is to split this category into two awards: “Best Makeup for Space Aliens and/or Fantasy Creatures” and “Best Makeup to Make Actors Ugly.”
20. VISUAL EFFECTS
Cool award, but isn’t this really just a way to get blockbusters in the show? (Nominees: Transformers, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Harry Potter and—gulp—Real Steel.) Again, institute a 10-word limit for acceptance speeches. Perhaps they can simply repeat the tag line of the film they worked on (“Courage is stronger than Steel—thank you and good night!” Ten words).
21. 150 MINUTES
I would once again like to reiterate my belief that 150 minutes is MORE THAN ENOUGH TIME to finish this show. What about a $10,000 fine for all attendees if they fail to keep the show under this limit? That would keep the speeches short OR raise a lot of money for AMPAS—either way, everyone wins. And isn’t that what the Oscars are really all about?