The Award Show Nobody Wants
Too serious, too boring, too pretentious, too long. These were the criticisms I heard into my adulthood as a longtime Academy Award Viewer since I was a kid. A loyal viewer since the fifth grade. I loved the Oscars, I watched it every year. Relentlessly made fun of by family and friends for doing so. I did not care I wanted to be a filmmaker and The Oscars was my thing. There was validity to all of these criticisms as the Oscars never pulled in record breaking ratings, but they never needed to. They always won Sunday nights in their time slot. That is all they had to do. For years, the people who ran the ceremony heard these complaints about the Oscars and tried to correct them. But with that would come a price. They did not have a huge audience, but The Academy Awards had a built-in and loyal audience that took the Awards seriously and watched it every year and felt very much like it was their awards show and were happy with it in their niche. However, in a yearly effort to chase bigger ratings little by little the format of the awards and the telecast was altered by producers and hosts in an attempt to bring in new viewers. Phantom viewers that never really showed up. More relaxed, less serious but still the ratings were unchanged. Trying to be something that they just were not in a sad and now regretful attempt to please everyone the Oscars began to seriously chase away completely it’s loyal audience and its phantom audience and went from a show that at least somebody wanted to see to a show nobody wants to see. The focus of the shows started to center in on the presenters instead of the nominees in an effort to pitch to a younger demographic they started to preference hosts that were thought of as hipper and edgier, but these hosts did not fit what the show was originally about. As hip and edgy as they were they weren’t good hosts for the kinds of Oscar Awards that Oscar Award fans liked. Oscar Hosts were show business veterans like Bob Hope and Jack Benny. They were both comedians, but their jokes were quite tame, and they did not zone in on any one person directly in a mean or unpleasant way and try to chew them up until they destroyed them in front of the audience. Like their predecessor Johnny Carson Hope and Benny knew how to keep the focus on the nominees and keep the show moving. Which was Carson’s greatest contribution to the show. Outside of the monologues on the tonight show Johnny was not necessarily a comedian, he was funny and could make jokes especially on the fly, but he was a host and a great host who had a knack for that particular Job. Not keeping the focus on the awards and the nominees is what cost the Oscars. Bringing in hosts like David Letterman, Chris Rock, Steve Martin, Ellen DeGeneres, Jon Stewart. For some reason it is automatic that if someone is a comedian, they will make a good host. But these comics do not host and the one is that do are not good at hosting an Awards show. The best hosts in academy history were not comedians but people like Jack Lemmon an actor who hosted the show three times. Will Rogers, Frank Capra. The Oscars through the years has been no stranger to imploring comics and stars of course that’s Hollywood but when the Academy has strayed from the Solid hosts, they’ve mostly failed to deliver what the Awards are supposed to be about. In an absolute disaster of a move The Oscars in 1987 gave the co-hosting nod to actors Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan. The results were so bad the show didn’t have multiple hosts again for another twenty three years when in 2010 Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin the next year the academy had one of it’s biggest host disasters when they put two people together again in Anne Hathaway and James Franco The show was so bad the following year The Oscars seeming to be shell shocked from the negative criticism brought back Billy Crystal for his ninth time to host the show. Hitting the reset button in a way Crystal brought back a familiar tradition and order to a show that lost its way badly the year prior. This was the same strategy after the Chase, Hawn, Hogan fiasco. The Oscars went with Chevy Chase solo the next year and then in 1989 they did not have a host. In 1990 they tapped Billy Crystal who went on to do it four years in a row. As bad as the Chase, Hawn, Hogan night was, or Hathaway and Franco Multiple hosts have been employed and has worked in the past.
Alan Alda, Jane Fonda and Robin Williams
Liza Minnelli, Dudley Moore, Richard Pryor, Walter Matthau
Warren Beatty, Ellen Burstyn, Jane Fonda, Richard Pryor
Goldie Hawn, Gene Kelly, Walter Matthau, George Segal, Robert Shaw
Sammy Davis Jr, Bob Hope, Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra
John Huston, Burt Reynolds, David Niven, Diana Ross
Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson
Helen Hayes, Alan King, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Lemmon
Bob Hope, David Niven, Tony Randall, Mort Sahl, Laurence Olivier, Jerry Lewis
Bob Hope, David Niven, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Rosalind Russell and Donald Duck
Jerry Lewis, Claudette Colbert, Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Three straight years from 1969–71 The Oscars had no host.
It is understandable and going with tradition that the Academy would want to try different things and different hosts and bringing in star wattage to sell the movies is nothing new. However, their strategy after the early 1990’s always seems to be bring in whoever’s career is hot at the time to host. Not necessarily the best decision for the show. Once again taking the attention off of the point and aiming at a tabloid strategy for ratings. The comics they brought in also were focused their attention in on certain celebrities in attendance for distasteful and even mean-spirited jokes. Chris Rock making fun of Jude Law saying, “All they could get was Jude Law” What’s the point of attacking nominees especially personally? Also, every single year for the Academy Awards writers are hired to write jokes for presenters so everyone who does the Oscars is cracking jokes anyway. Professional comedians just overload the show with too many jokes to where the humor is out crowding everything else and many of these jokes just fall flat and plain do not work. David Letterman’s obsession with Oprah Winfrey when he hosted the show in 1995 cost him future hosting gigs for the show as he curiously zoned in on Oprah Winfrey who was in the audience repeating her name following Uma as in Uma Thurman who was nominated that night. Letterman seemed to be in some kind of bizarre trance where couldn’t stop repeating their names “Uma this is Oprah, Oprah this is Uma, Uma, Oprah, Uma Oprah.” Letterman went on an on as the audience sat bewildered. It was an uncomfortable moment that seemed to go on forever bringing the show to a screeching halt. Also proving that Letterman didn’t prepare enough for the hosting job and didn’t take it seriously enough. But I guess that was the point and supposed to be a good thing. It wasn’t. Watching producers and the hosts they hired try to make the show more hip, edgy, and outrageous just seemed strained, pained. Increasingly the focus of the show became the hosts and the presenters and whatever moments they could turn into fodder for the press the next day for instance Billy Crystal’s 1991 Jack Palance run. After winning his award for Best Supporting Actor for City Slickers a movie he made with the host Crystal Jack Palance began doing on armed pushups. Billy Crystal used this moment for the rest of his jokes the entire evening. Every time Crystal came back out on stage there was a Palance joke. This may have seemed like a clever idea at the time, but it got quite boring and made it quite obvious that Crystal also did not line up any better jokes for the evening. He should have. Now at The Oscars nobody can distinguish the nominees from the celebrities in attendance who are never nominated. More weird and outrageous moment from winners started to dominate the winners’ podium. Sally Field “You love me! You really love me!” Roberto Benigni crowd surfing on his feet to the stage to accept his award for Life Is Beautiful. Cuba Gooding Jr. Screaming and jumping up and down. Adrian Brody randomly grabbing presenter Halle Berry and kissing her. Jack Palance doing one arm pushups. These moments are memorable now but weren’t necessarily great moments for the Awards. Billy Crystal opened the 1990 Oscar telecast by riding in on a horse as tribute of sorts or acknowledgment to that year’s big Oscar Winner Dances With Wolves. The next year Crystal came out like Hannibal Lechner for Silence of The Lambs being pushed on a gurney by medics wearing the famous Hannibal mouth guard. Crystal developed a tradition of doing a song medley of all the best picture nominees. These medleys were big and fun an entertaining for many people, but they also pulled a ton of the attention from the awards to the host. A lot of movie buffs and people who took cinema very seriously hated those medleys and were annoyed by Crystal and the attention Increasingly being on Crystal. The Oscars also damaged its credibility with its loyal fan base with increasingly controversial nominations and Best Picture Winners. Dances With Wolves besting what the majority of movie goers and critics considered by far the best film of the year Goodfellas. Driving Miss Daisy beating Born On The Fourth Of July, Hoop Dreams not even being nominated for best documentary. Increasingly the award for best picture seemed to go to a movie that was clearly not the best picture. The Oscars also started awarding one movie over and over every award show. This was no better encapsulated in the 2003 show when Lord of The Rings kept winning and winning and winning. Making for an incredibly boring show. And signaling that the Oscars intended to stiff arm the independent film fair for more big budget studio films. Hearing the same movie called every time in every category and the awards and the ceremony were becoming predictable. Many of the longtime fans started to very be turned off and fully abandoned the show somewhere between the 2004–2010 Ceremonies. By 2013 the Awards seemed to completely go off the rails. Extending the best picture category to ten nominated films instead of five and presenting the best acting categories by bringing out an actor for each nominee and giving their own isolated speech about the nominee. This was of course all supposedly to speed the show up and yet it completely accomplished the opposite. Letting presenters and hosts attack nominees with cheap shots about their personal lives and their spouse’s health problems was not keeping the loyal Oscar audience around nor was in pulling in any new viewers. Instead of edgy what was changed to avoid taking itself too seriously was becoming much more pretentious Now the Oscars is taking their fast food, tabloid approach even further by cutting out certain awards because they are supposedly too boring. During the 2022 telecast Oscar Producers and writers for some reason that still remains unclear that it would be a clever idea for a presenter to make a random joke about the wife of Will Smith who has a disease called alopecia which causes her hair to fall out. (Hardy, fucking Har.) Are you kidding? After this joke came out of Presenter Chris Rock’s mouth nominee and winner for best actor later that evening Will Smith promptly got up out of his chair and proceeded to slap Rock in that mouth for offending his wife. Creating the most shocking and certainly most talked about moment in Oscar Award Show History. There is no excuse for Will Smith or even Chris Rock’s behavior that night. But the real blame should be on the Oscar producers, directors, and writers. It is unfathomable why they should have allowed something like that to happen. It has never happened before why should it happen now? It boggles the mind. Will Smith was banned from anything to do with the Oscars for ten years for his slap on Chris Rock. Considering Roman Polanski and Woody Allen and a multitude of actors who have been arrested for worse assaults are still Academy Members and always invited to the party seems pretty excessive under the circumstances. It continues to be the story of The Oscars getting it wrong. The Oscars has always been the end of the year Celebration for the previous movie season for people who work in the industry and create the art of film in individual phases. The Oscars were supposed to make you want to see movies that you had not heard of until Oscar night and be excited about the art of film. The Oscars were supposed to be celebration of film and the art of filmmaking. They were for a while. I’m not convinced they’ll be around in ten years. There were people that wanted the Academy Awards but now they are just the awards show that nobody seems to want.