How to Save the Oscars by Making it Longer
Why shove Hollywood’s Biggest Night into one rushed telecast? Reward more aspects of filmmaking over three glamorous nights.
There’s a scene near the end of “Cinderella” where her sisters are desperately trying to fit the famous glass slipper on their feet in hopes of being wed to Prince Charming… and living happily ever after.
As we all know, the shoe doesn’t fit them. And to no surprise, it embarrassingly slides right on dear Cinderella.
Today’s Oscars do not fit the rigid, forced, hurried, three-hour televised modern time slot. Everyone knows this. Try as they might — and very wise and experienced people have — it just cannot be done without sacrificing the elegance and honor the night was created for.
It’s almost as if Oscar itself is reminding everyone involved, the Oscars was not made for television, but can make some unforgettable TV.
So why stop at one night?
Like Coachella before it, the Oscars can, and should, expand to three nights.
And once it does, and reap the rewards, watch the Grammys and Emmys follow suit.
Night One: A Celebration of Sound & Music at the Hollywood Bowl
In an attempt to fit the 2022 Oscars ceremony into a three-hour presentation, you may have heard ABC is taping eight categories before the live broadcast and will then place those edited moments into the live show.
Naturally this has upset the affected branches who are feeling slighted.
Also a few of the “above-the-line” stars say they will skip the red carpet interviews so they can be in the less-than-full Dolby Theater to cheer on their cohorts in the Documentary Short, Film Editing, Makeup/Hairstyling, Original Score, Production Design, Animated Short, Live-Action Short and Sound categories.
A few of those categories would be best suited on Day 1 of the Oscars at the world-renowned Hollywood Bowl, which sits just one mile north of the Dolby: Original Song, Score and Sound.
Let each of those nominees work with the house band, which just happens to be the LA Philharmonic, and you’ll ask yourself, why hasn’t this happened sooner?
Mix it up with special guest performers belting out previously Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning hits, and you’ve got a show that would be a delight to the eyes and ears.
Throughout the night hand out the Oscars for these categories and you have a glorious evening.
In 2018, the Academy held an Oscar Concert at the Disney Hall a few days before the 90th Oscars. It was a tremendous event, and overwhelmingly well-received because the Los Angeles Phil performed delightful renditions (including some never- before-heard arrangements) of that year’s five Original Score Oscar nominees.
On the same stage legendary conductors John Williams and Hans Zimmer led the Phil through their pieces followed by the likes of Carter Burwell, Alexandre Desplat, and Jonny Greenwood. There is nothing like a full orchestra playing those pieces live. Air them on TV.
Likewise, present the Original Songs in all their glory too.
This year Beyoncé, Billie Eilish and Phineas, Sebastían Yatra, Reba McEntire, and Van Morrison are facing off. How is that not must-see TV on a night devoted solely to music and sound?
Bonus: The red carpet for the Music Night will set the tone for the next two nights, and probably eclipse what has been seen all Oscar Season.
Night Two: Oscars for Stunts, Comedy, Casting, Horror, Performance of a Fictional Person, and the Return of the Juvenile Award
Bring Back the Oscarette, the trophy known as the Juvenile Award
Back in 1934, the Academy realized there were some great child stars who probably wouldn’t be able to compete with adults because the voters were adults. The theory was adults wouldn’t probably give the nod to a cute kid over a seasoned veteran.
Thus the Juvenile Award was created and it debuted at the 7th Academy Awards.
Sporadically over 26 years, miniature Oscars — or “Oscarettes” — were presented to 12 child stars to honor their performances. The first Juvenile Award winner was six-year-old Shirley Temple, the last was 14-year old Hayley Mills in 1960. Some notable awardees were Judy Garland when she was 17 and Mickey Rooney when he was 18.
This year Mckenna Grace (“Ghostbusters: Afterlife”), Jude Hill (“Belfast”), and Woody Norman (“C’mon, C’mon”) shined on the screen.
13-year-old Norman damn near stole every scene he was in, which is tough when many of them were opposite Joaquin Phoenix. Just look at this:
And true to the theory, Norman was shut out of traditional award nominations by the adult voters.
Here’s a crazy idea: if you want young people to watch the Oscars, celebrate a few of them.
While the Juvenile Award was never a competitive one, it could be. Now that more child actors are performing at a higher level than adorable Shirley Temple, it could be either a winner-take all, or merely an acknowledgement of a standout performance where one or more child actors go home with the Oscarette.
Just imagine the acceptance speeches, ratings-obsessed bean counters.
Create the Robin Williams Memorial Oscar for Comedy
Comedies are not easy. Everyone knows it, especially those in the industry.
Meanwhile many people’s favorite films are comedic.
The Oscars needs to get off its high horse and honor this incredibly difficult art form.
And if the theory is true that some studios make indie-ish dramas as “Oscar Bait,” maybe they would make more innovative comedies if they could earn an Oscar for the effort.
The fact that Steve Martin starred in his first film (“The Jerk”) 42 years ago and never received even one Oscar nomination during his entire career, should be reason enough for the Academy to stop the madness and begin rewarding the next wave of actors, writers and films who OMG make us laugh.
Give Oscars for Action, Horror, and Stunts
Speaking of incredibly difficult genres that bring people to the cinemas and rarely receive Oscar love: Action and Horror.
The great Martin Scorsese may not have a warm spot for Marvel movies but the madding crowds braved COVID and sat in theaters wearing masks to watch “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in record numbers.
Lines were out the door for popcorn and Peter Parker saved the year for cinema owners and chains. That should be applauded. Every year.
Superhero movies, which I would include in this newly formed Action category, employ thousands of filmmakers around the globe and account for a huge portion of the box office. No one can deny the mastery and craftsmanship of today’s action films be they Bond, DC or Marvel and that is new and overdue category that will get some people to watch the award show whose ratings last year were “staggeringly low.”
Similarly horror films made up six of the top 25 box office hits of 2021.
Honor them, cowards.
Cinefiles often acknowledge horror as their favorite genre, so shouldn’t the Academy mirror that? Being scared in the dark go hand in hand with the glorious history of film dating back to “Nosferatu” which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
Don’t be scurred, Academy. It won’t bite.
Should Stunts Get Oscars?
Good question. Should the most thrilling action scene to hit the screen all year be rewarded?
Is flying off a bridge, or riding a speeding motorcycle up ancient stairs and soaring in the air any easier than delivering a two-minute monologue on a soundstage?
Most would say it’s harder. And because most actors don’t do their own stunts, that’s a mighty good hint at how dangerous they are and the amount of skill that’s required.
Name it after Buster Keaton, watch the ratings spike, and call it a day.
Casting, too, is an art… and a branch.
In 2013 the Academy added a Casting Director branch to its membership, but they are not given statuettes, probably because the Oscars is tied to the broadcast, which some say “is too long.”
But why should a TV show dictate whether a film (or a person) deserved to be honored for what they did on a movie?
With the addition of Night Two of the Oscars, Casting Directors like Cassandra Kulukundis who put together the actors of “Licorice Pizza” should be pitted against those who cast “Don’t Look Up,” “King Richard,” “CODA,” and “The Power of the Dog,” all films that wouldn’t have been the same if different actors appeared in them.
Performance of a Fictional Person
Studies have shown that an actor portraying a real person increases their chance of winning an Oscar. So let’s even the playing field and give love to those who had less to work with.
Who wouldn’t want to see Florence Pugh be rewarded for her performance in “Black Widow?” Why shouldn’t Simon Rex eye-opening job on “Red Rocket” receive national recognition? As is, neither have a chance of getting an Oscar because of how narrow the imaginary rules of an Oscar nom for acting are.
Change that. And put it on Oscar Saturday.
Move Shorts to Saturday too
ABC or the Academy or both, played their hand when they relegated the shorts (Animated, Documentary, and Live-Action) and others to the pre-show kid’s table. They will fit just fine on Oscar Saturday and receive the love they deserve.
The shortest Oscar short to be nominated took four months, $50,000 and a team of experts to put together a creative film with a running time of less than two minutes. Give shorts their just due.
Saturday should also include Film Editing and Production Design because they too are underrated art forms.
While being shown on Saturday might not be considered the highest honor, but don’t be surprised if the more populist Night Two eclipses Oscar Sunday with these new categories and more time being given to the categories that have been moved from the original show.
Oscar Saturday would be shot at the Dolby, whose streets are already closed, whose stage is already set up, and who is already ready for its close-up. Perhaps in the future it could move to a different part of LA or even across the country to NYC, but at first two nights at the Dolby should not be difficult to do.
Night Three: That under-Three-Hour Oscar Show People Swear They Wanted
With eight of the 24 categories finding a new, more welcoming home on Friday and Saturday, the Oscars can now stop rushing through its remaining 16 awards.
Not only that, but they could give even more time the recipients of the Honorary Awards and the always-controversial In Memoriam segment.
Makeup & Hairstyling, will return to Oscar Sunday if my plan is miraculously adopted. Why? Because now there’s all this precious time freed up.
If producers want to bloat the night with more comedic bits from the host(s), dance routines, and nods to film anniversaries… now there’s time.