Ken Harrison 11:30 a.m., Dec. 26
New rules for Oscar shows
A modern day Joe Barbera riding herd over a three-and-a-half hour orgy of inanimate self-veneration
Last year it was Minny's pie. This year it's Life of Pi.
We were forced to do business with Seth MacFarlane. I don't like his kind of TV people. I don't like to see him come on this clean Awards ceremony with his oily hair, dressed up in a penguin suit. He played the foulmouthed voice of a cartoon bear, yet MacFarlane tries to pass himself off as a decent movie star. I despise the masquerade, the dishonest way he poses himself... himself and his whole effing cartoon sitcom family.
Last night's show was indefensible; a modern day Joe Barbera riding herd over a three-and-a-half hour orgy of inanimate self-veneration. It's bad enough that MacFarlane turned the Academy Awards into an infomercial complete with industrial musical numbers, Seth fancies himself a song and dance man, too. At times I was not sure if I was tuned to Oscar or Tony. A tribute to big screen musicals produced over the past ten years only helped to illuminate how far the once mighty genre has fallen.
Face it: ABC could put up a test pattern for four hours, call it the Academy Awards, and we'd still watch (and likely be more entertained). Here are a few tips from a lifer when it comes to Oscar shows on how to give next year's proceedings a much needed kick in the ass.
1.) Go back and check out the list of past hosts. People like Douglas Fairbanks, Will Rogers, Agnes Moorehead, Frederic March, Thelma Ritter, Jack Lemmon, Celeste Holm, and Rosalind Russell, were all top flight movie stars.
From now a mandatory minimum of at least a ten feature filmography -- theatrical releases, none of this direct-to-DVD nonsense -- should be imposed before anyone is allowed to host the Oscars. No more late night or mid-day talk show hosts, no more Comedy Central cutups whose list of film credits include bits in Big Daddy, Half Baked, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. This should be a show made by and for industry professionals, not small screen stooges.
2.) Let Jerry Lewis host. He's done it twice in the past (1955-6). I can hear him now: "Oh, yeah! Timpani! Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen. We're kicking off hour 17 of the annual Oscar love-in..."
3.) Directors were once invited to emcee. At one point, William DeMille (1929-30), Frank Capra (1936), John Cromwell (1945), and Joe Mankiewicz (1956) all played host to the festivities. Next year Marty, David Lynch, Jane Campion, Pablo Larrain, Todd Solondz, and Arthur Hiller's hair should share anchor duties.
4.) Politics and cinema don't mix. Not since Nancy Reagan has a First Lady been so intent on becoming a celebrity. At least 'Mommy' Davis had a paltry film career to back her up. What business does Michelle Obama have handing out the best picture Oscar? Did she run out of school soda machines to drain? And a note to the White House stylist: the shaggy dog bangs were a bust.
5.) Playing off acceptance speeches in the name of moving the show along is hateful. In many cases it's an artist's one chance to bask in Oscar's limelight. To use the theme from Jaws is an insult to clients whose publicists worked hard to help them win a golden doorstop. Within reason, what's wrong with allowing winners to speak for a minute or two? I'd have gladly swapped MacFarlane's titular opening number for ten minutes of sincerely insincere gushing on the part of the winners.