“Everybody’s private motto: It’s better to be popular than right” said Mark Twain.
IF YOU are the Academy of Arts Sciences, ABC-TV and Jimmy Kimmel these days, their motto might be, “How do we get it right, and become popular again?!”
I managed the Oscars by attempting to watch as if I were a kid, back in the day. That worked pretty well, but it was ominous indeed that I had to re-wire my head to watch the damn thing. Millions of others didn’t care to pretend.
The 90th annual Oscar ceremony—which has been telecast to TV viewers since 1953—was the lowest rated in history. I wasn’t surprised by this, despite enjoying the show reasonably well, in my little fantasy world, nursing my kidney stone attack.
Naturally, our Kidney-Stone-in-Chief in D.C. was delighted, which in itself should be enough for those who put the telecast together to think hard on how to make the show more exciting, amusing and glamorous.
I have some thoughts. First of all, and for the 100th time—get rid of the hosts! Certainly get rid of hosts who appear all week long on TV. Seeing Mr. Kimmel (or let’s say, Kelly Ripa, for diversity’s sake) change clothes and make topical witticisms for three plus hours is nobody’s idea of a good time. Bob Hope, who presided over the show 19 times—beginning in 1939, and moving on through 1977, was a big movie star. Although by the time he ended his reign, he wasn’t; his jokes and presence were less palatable. Still, he was a legend.
In recent years, hosting duties have often fallen to comics, who are then under an obligation to be amusing and do a monologue—one that invariably brings us down to earth because they will ruminate on the state of the world. I know about the state of the world—please let me forget it for one night!
Or, they will take potshots at the sacred monsters in the audience, trying to convince us that privileged movie stars can take a joke. Some can, some can’t, but I’m not interested in their sense of humor. I’m interested in their sense of glamour and what they are supposed to be representing on Oscar Night—excitement, excessive beading, too much Botox, giddy foolishness. And if you want to throw in the great art of cinema—and it is a great art—please do, but for heaven’s sake, do it with fabulous film clips. (For me, there can never be enough vintage clips.)
Think about celebrating all the great stars who never won an Oscar—Richard Burton, Garbo, Dietrich, Monroe, Edward G. Robinson, Peter Sellers. (More wonderful film clips!) I’m leaving out an array of stars who are still working, have been working for decades, but have escaped being honored. Their time may come. So I don’t want to put them out to pasture as a nostalgia act. And, of course, Doris Day has never won an Oscar!
It’s time to jettison the single host altogether. There were a few telecasts that employed a revolving number of hosts—for instance, in 1977, we had Warren Beatty, Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn and Richard Pryor. I can’t recall if they were any good—probably not, except for the brilliant Pryor—but at least there was some chance at an amusing hosty moment.
And by the way, nobody needs to be witty on Oscar night. Here’s your purpose, movie stars—look great! Announce the nominees and winners. Get off the stage. Next! (But linger long enough so we can properly critique clothes, hair, and whatever you did over the previous week to banish time and battle the cruelties of High Def.)
And who says everybody has to be a movie star? Mix it up. Reach out to Broadway, to the music industry. Sting, Tim McGraw, Nick Jonas (you knew I’d get him in!) Taylor Swift, Dolly Parton, Adele, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Beyonce, Lana Del Ray, Paul and Ringo! Throw in Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Alan Cumming, Charles Busch. (Charles could appear sporadically, channeling great ladies of the screen, upon whom he bases so many of his delicious plays.)
Mariah Carey—OMG, Mariah! The cleavage and shoes alone! (I might actually go for Mariah as the show’s solo host. I’d rather a train wreck than one stuck in the snow for three hours. Listen, “Glitter” has given many movie fans a great deal pleasure, especially with a few drinks.)
Round up Tom Cruise, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daniel Craig, Ryan Gosling, Mila Kunis, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Chris, Luke and Liam Hemsworth, James and Dave Franco, Emma Watson, Jamie Dornan, Charlize Theron.
And, forgive me; maybe even throw in a Kardashian or two. (Not the mother, Kris Jenner. Hers is one rendition of “Rose’s Turn” I can’t get into at all.) I know, I know—but social media would love/hate it, and whether we want to accept our new cultural standards or not, stars are made, records become hits, and faster than you can say, “will ABC-TV abandon Oscar?” millions of people can be alerted to something amusing, amazing or offensive within seconds, and tune in.
Don’t write “funny” patter. It’s never is. On, off, in, out. Move it along. And at the end, put all the stars on stage together, the winners, those who didn’t win, all the presenters, and have them sing “That’s Entertainment!” Pan the camera slowly, so we can get another good look at so-and-so’s awful (or beautiful) dress, and nudge our friends about the star who is most definitely stoned.
Oh, and for the “boring” awards, which we can’t jettison, no matter how much we’d like to, use the most sexy, glamorous star. Distract! In fact, get Mariah Carey—if she opts out of hosting the entire show–to come out for every short subject, documentary, technical whatever—in a different modesty-challenged gown and increasingly high, treacherous heels. Or, Nick Jonas in tighty whities.
Now, I want to hear from you if you care enough to offer suggestions. All will be considered, because all of you are much smarter than I am.
MAIL: LOTS of outrage over the Oscar’s botched In Memoriam segment. Along with those I mentioned on Wednesday, Oscar slighted John Gavin, Dina Merrill and the wonderful Bill Paxton. (Gavin and Dina were wonderful too, but I interviewed Paxton on a number of occasions and he really was a living doll.) Anne Jeffreys and Lola Albright were also dismissed. What a disgrace.
As my friend Hal Wingo remarked: “I fear the pressure to include so many behind-the-camera types has twisted this whole thing away from remembering the faces we actually will miss on the screen.”
A fair number—including women–wrote in saying they didn’t watch the show because: “I support the efforts of MeToo and TimesUp, but I just didn’t feel like hearing about sexual harassment on Oscar night. It’s in the news every day now. We’re all ‘woke.’ I want an escape.”
And here’s this from somebody who must remain anonymous: “While I genuinely admire Frances McDormand, I think she’s suffering from the same syndrome that happens to all outrageous show biz personalities: she has to keep topping herself. The hair must be more unkempt, the dress dowdier, the persona more eccentric, frenetic and impassioned. She’s the A-list Indie Sofia Vergara.”
“Peanuts! Through every city, town, and country lane
You’ll hear him sing his plaintive little strain, And as he goes by to you he’ll say…sing ‘Melancholy Baby!”
Okay, every movie fan knows that moment from “A Star Is Born” (the Judy version, the “Born in a Trunk” number) when Vicki Lester is singing/telling of her long struggle to the top, and how at one point, a drunk will never let her get through “The Peanut Vendor” song. He wants “Melancholy Baby.”
Well, that movie moment has been on my mind a lot because I’ve found out I pretty much have to give up nuts and peanut butter. And make a couple of other dietary adjustments–the better not to have another kidney stone episode. I am a little bummed, but in all my online reading, nowhere did I find the words, “margaritas are out.” So, life is still worth living.
And I want to thank everyone who wrote in expressing concern, and passing on various solutions, including holistic remedies.
I love you guys.