OSCAR SEASON IS UPON US and it’s time to look at a few popular fallacies about such handouts, and to correct these misconceptions, hopefully forever.
There are so many people to thank: Why do award winners think an acceptance speech requires lots of acknowledgements to others? It’s a terrible idea: Not only is it boring, but inevitably someone is forgotten and feelings are hurt. The most memorable Oscar speeches have been the funny ones, or the heartfelt ones that went beyond thanks. Forget the thanks; comment on your art, on the nature of winning, or on the state of the nation, and write thank-you notes the next day.
Thanking God: In Christopher Durang’s play “Laughing Wild,” one character observes, “I remember when everybody won Tonys for ‘Dreamgirls,’ and they all got up there thanking God for letting them win this award, and I was thinking to myself: God is silent on the Holocaust but He involves Himself in the Tony Awards?” Even if you really believe that God wanted you to win and the other nominees to lose, it seems bad sportsmanship to bring it up at this moment.
Political ad-libs: Last year, some critics said presenters Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins ruined the dignity of the Academy Awards by making comments about human rights in China, HIV-positive Haitians and political prisoners being held in unsanitary conditions. Maybe these remarks seem odd on an Oscarcast, but it’s also possible they have more global relevance than Nell Carter dancing around in harem pants to a song from “Aladdin.” Rather than discourage this spontaneous show of spirit, it should be encouraged: As an alternative to thank-yous and “cute” presenter quips, every presenter and winner on every awards show should be allowed to spout off for 23 seconds on any subject they want, turning the evening into a verbal free-for-all. It would be guaranteed fun, and undoubtedly ratings would rise.
OSCAR SNUBS: Every year, the biggest surprises are those front-runners who weren’t nominated, and every year, huffy media members trot out the cliches that these people were “snubbed” or “shut out” of the voting — apparently on the assumption Academy members called each other and said, “Don’t vote for Pat this year, pass it on.” And these snubbed souls give sad interviews, ascribing it to political/racist/sexist/anti-comedy sentiments. Maybe these also-rans came in sixth, maybe 16th. Who cares? Tell them to stop feeling sorry for themselves and accept the fact that there are only five nominees.
Director snubs: When a pic is nominated (or saluted by a critics group) but the director wasn’t, can we put a moratorium on the notion: “How could this happen? The film didn’t direct itself.” This is like wondering why a presidential candidate can carry Massachusetts but not New Hampshire: There are different groups of voters. So calm down already. Given the number of possibilities, it’s amazing there’s as much overlap as there is. This attitude also smacks of auteur propaganda: No one seems to care if a film is nominated but the screenplay isn’t. (Apparently everyone accepts the fact that films write themselves.) And the women who protested that it was sexist when Penny Marshall and Barbra Streisand weren’t nominated though their films were seem strangely silent this year, when Andrew Davis wasn’t nominated.
TAKE A TIP FROM THE NAACP: In handing out its Image Awards, the NAACP will cancel a given category in any year that there are not enough eligible nominees. This eliminates giving an award to the undeserving, and helps call attention to some shameful industry shortcomings (as has happened several times with the NAACP leading actress category). By following this lead, the Tonys — which used to have the reputation as the classiest awards show — could save a lot of embarrassment: Maybe “Kiss of the Spider Woman” deserved all of its seven Tonys (the same number as “My Fair Lady”), but it’s hard to escape the feeling that the landslide was from lack of competition.
The Oscar voters are stuffy. True, there’s an odd predilection for voting for “cute” songs, and a tendency to vote for Important Stuff rather than fun stuff. But anybody who gives song nominations to Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Janet Jackson can’t be all bad. God knows, it goes against the grain to defend such an established group as the Academy, but when the org gives awards to Marisa Tomei and Neil Jordan, it’s time to upgrade the image of the group.
This is an evening for the winners: Wrong. Once it goes on TV, it’s for the viewers; if you want to focus on the winners, have a private ceremony. Therefore , if nothing else, all awards shows should please eliminate all production numbers, which may be fun for the few thousand in the auditorium but ain’t so hot for the rest of us at home, who got tired of that sort of thing around 1965. Instead, show film clips or montages. Or anything else. Case closed.