Were last night’s Academy Awards the worst in the history of the ceremonies? Well, probably not—they are all kind of bad, aren’t they? But host Seth MacFarlane immediately set the tone with a bit calling his Oscars the worst, and I’m not surprised that by the end of the ceremony most people I know weren’t too pleased with the broadcast. Full of misplaced musical numbers, an awkward appreciation for the film Chicago, a too-long montage of James Bond films (to coincide nicely with the 50th Anniversary box set currently on sale), and a general disgust for itself and its audience, last night’s ceremony proves again that the Oscars need a major overhaul. Here are four ways the producers can avoid these embarrassing and awkward mistakes.
Give more time to speeches. I get that celebrities can be long-winded when receiving awards. Look at Ben Affleck, for example. Sure, he had the last speech of the night for the top award, but it was blatantly longer than 45 seconds. Meanwhile, those winners in the technical categories looked terrified that they may thank too many people and be publicly shamed in front of an international audience for talking too much. Sure, these people might not be the most recognizable, but their wins show how receiving an Oscar can truly impact a career. Not only is playing them off the stage blatantly rude (underscored with the theme from Jaws, which I'm sure seemed hilarious during the planning stages in light of Seth MacFarlane's brand of offensive humor), it shows how irrationally we place an importance on fame and money and treat them as the most important artistic merits.
Skip the singing. I love musicals as much as the next guy (hell, probably a lot more than the next guy), but the musical performances last night were atrocious. First of all, it's quite telling that the medly of songs from the last decade's movie musicals only included one song that was written for a film; the rest were modern Broadway classics, better fit for the Tony Awards. And given the show's nearly four-hour running time, cutting the unnecessary musical numbers (such as any of those involving Seth MacFarlane) should be the first thing anyone with a rational mind would accomplish. On top of their awkward nature, they didn't even sound good. It's telling when someone like Adele sounds like she's lost in a sea of pitches and keys.
Figure out the mood. Is this going to a light-hearted, irreverent awards show, or the same old thing we’ve been used to for as far back as we remember? They’ve never really figured out a good balance. But this isn’t the Golden Globes, the awards show “where anything can happen” (read: the one where everyone is drunk by the end of the night). It’s a pretty by-the-book, solemn awards show; that is, of course, why they always manage to get overblown musical numbers in there. And really, we’re giving awards to celebrities. I know how trite that is already, but let’s at least not invite some “edgy” comedian to come onstage and insult them. It’s not a good look.
Avoid trying to be edgy. The Oscars are a marketing tool. It’s a four-hour commercial for serious movies (and the occasional blockbuster, depending on the year) and the people who make them. And then there are actual commercials on top of that. The awards are basically serving as a way to tell Middle America what to see and what to buy. And that’s precisely why the host is so important: he or she should be catering to those people—the majority. Seth MacFarlane seems like an obvious choice; after all, Family Guy and his other animated projects are huge hits, primarily because the comedy is so middle-of-the-road. So what happened last night? Well, for one, Seth MacFarlane isn’t as charming as a human. He was self-deprecating and ridiculed his own jokes after reading them, which only reiterated how terrible they were in the first place. And they were all based on racist, misogynistic, and homophobic tropes. That’s not edgy. That’s just bad comedy. Go for someone who shares that mediocre sense of comedy, but at least keep it positive. I mean, what was Billy Crystal up to last night, anyway?
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