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Six reasons the Oscars will probably stink - VIDEO

by Allison Waldman, posted Jan 23rd 2009 10:03AM
AMPASDo you remember what film won the Oscar for Best Picture last year? (No Country for Old Men). What about Best Actor and Actress? (Daniel Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard). If you didn't remember, don't feel bad. You're probably like most people. Most of us weren't watching in 2008. Even though they were celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Academy Awards, it was the lowest rated and least watched telecast ever.

As I perused the Academy Award nominations yesterday, I couldn't help but think that this year's broadcast is going to have a hard time drawing a huge TV audience. And considering that the only thing you can usually count on with the Oscars is that they'll run over three hours long, the show will probably leave something to be desired, too.

In fact, here's six reasons the Oscars -- which will be broadcast live on February 22 on ABC -- will probably stink.

1) Has anybody seen these movies?
Have you seen Frozen River? Do you know anybody who has? I had to look it up when I read that Melissa Leo was a Best Actress nominee from that film. Unfortunately, even the most popular films on the Oscar nomination list are only marginal box office hits. That means most TV viewers will not have seen Frost/Nixon, Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader and Milk, four of the five Best Picture nominees. Only The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the big three-hour movie with Brad Pitt, has been playing wide at the multiplexes. The really big box office films, especially a blockbuster like The Dark Knight, deserved to be nominated and would have been a ratings draw. Alas, only technical nods for The Dark Knight, Iron Man, et. al.

2) Where are the star nominees?
I loved Richard Jenkins in The Visitor. He was great. He was also the father on Six Feet Under, so I recognized him. And Sean Penn's won before, just a few years ago for Mystic River. Still, where are the big star nominations? Wasn't Clint Eastwood predicted to be a nominee for Gran Torino? What about Leonardo DiCaprio for Revolutionary Road? True, Brad Pitt is a big star, and it would be nice to see him honored, but who's Melissa Leo? Angelina Jolie is a star, but I think I'm like one of a dozen people who saw Changeling, so what chance does she have of winning?

3) That's entertainment?
You know what occurs to me when I watch the trailer for The Wrestler? How atrocious Mickey Rourke looks. This movie may be great, but geez, it looks depressing. Take a look:

On the other hand, Tropic Thunder was hilarious. Even Mamma Mia! was entertaining. There was lots of action in The Dark Knight, and I enjoyed every bit of Iron Man. This year's Oscar noms are filled with serious, mournful stories. Doubt: Catholic school drama. The Reader: Holocaust. Milk: assassination. Changeling: abducted children. Rachel Getting Married: druggie daughter ruining a wedding.

4) Why no love for the blockbusters?
There was a time when Hollywood was a lot more attuned to the population. Movies that won the Oscars for Best Picture were blockbusters. This held true through The Lord of the Rings and Titanic, but an awful lot of really popular, really great films have been snubbed by the Oscars. In 1980, for instance, Ordinary People won Best Picture, while The Empire Strikes Back -- perhaps the best of the Star Wars trilogy -- wasn't even nominated. When blockbusters are in the running for the big awards, TV viewers are more inclined to tune in.

5) Hugh Jackman as the host.
Before the new producers decided on Hugh Jackman as the host of this year's broadcast, Ricky Gervais was considered. Gervais, who was the funniest presenter at the recent Golden Globes, would have been an inspired choice. You want a funny host. Billy Crystal was quintessentially good. Johnny Carson, who did it for years, was also very good. Other possibilities include the likes of Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey, both of whom ranked high in our TV Squad poll. Instead of Ricky or Billy or Stephen or Tina, Hugh will be the man. I like Hugh Jackman. He's very, very talented, and as the host of the Tony Awards, he showed off his terrific singing and dancing. You know what's interesting about the Tony Awards? Nobody watches them. That's not what the Oscars want. Also, Hugh's last foray into TV was Viva Laughlin. 'Nuff said.

6) Will there be stars ... who knows?
In years past, you could look forward to seeing some of Hollywood's biggest stars -- past and present -- at the Oscars. You'd see Sean Connery and Tom Hanks presenting. Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford having a reunion. Halle Berry looking gorgeous. Jim Carrey talking out of his butt. This year if the stars are going to be there, it'll be a surprise. You won't know beforehand because the producers, in their infinite wisdom, are not announcing who will be presenting in advance. Therefore, that means if someone's not interested in the films that have been nominated, will he or she tune in for a chance to see Hollywood's biggest names on parade? There's a reason you publicize an all-star line up -- to make people watch.

Well, even though I'm sure to be disappointed again, I will be watching the Oscars and hoping for the best.
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1) The Oscars are irrelevant. By the time we get to them, so many other and more interesting Awards have been given out no one cares anymore.
2) The Oscars are out of touch. "No Country for Old Men" as Best Picture last year?? Give me a break...it was terrible.
3) The Oscars are antique.
4) There are no true stars anymore. It's all machinations by the PR committees. So, no one cares.

February 14 2009 at 3:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Matthew Golem

Wait - did you actually write "Who's Melissa Leo?"

Do you expect to ever be taken seriously as a TV journalist after a question like that?

February 13 2009 at 11:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So.. The Oscars shouldn't be about Merit? They should be about ratings? Bullshit.

February 13 2009 at 8:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mickey Rourke is the next Marlon Brando.
It's a shame that the masses are fed Hollywood Blockbuster Crap. Brad SUCKS and so... does Angelina!!

February 11 2009 at 2:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yeah, that's funny. They should be more focused on the now (ratings) instead of the long-term (historical value) with Oscar noms. Think about it, have you ever checked an older movie because it either won or was nominated for awards? Many of the most outstanding cinematical works (see what I did there?) of our history carry that pedigree and it often bears out pretty well? Should TDK or WALL-E have been nominated? Yes, both were so far above and beyond their progenitors, it's hard to not consider them best in their respective classes. But I'm not too worried about that.

By the way, how does Heath Ledger getting nominated for Best Supporting Actor NOT count as a major nod? Cause it is one of the big awards there. And one I think will be won in this case, between the memorial opportunity and the fact that he delivered the kind of performance that tends to win in the supporting categories, disappearing so completely into his role like that. I think people will be attracted by the chance to see that scenario play out.

Ok, remember, this isn't a "mainstream"-oriented recognition. They choose the best of the best, not just the best of what a lot of people saw in 2008. I mean, you seem to have pretty good taste in television; your best-of list for '08 included Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Pushing Daisies. But what do they have in common? Nobody watches them. I think Breaking Bad barely had a million viewers per episode, Mad Men went from about that in season 1 to almost 2 million this season, and Pushing Daisies, well 4-5 million isn't going to cut it for a broadcast network show on that kind of budget. What else do they have in common? They were big winners at the Emmys this past fall. BB got Best Actor, Mad Men got a whole slew including Best Drama Series, and Daisies got 3 (directing, editing, original music).

My point should be obvious by now. Awards like Emmys and Oscars aren't necessarily about what's popular, they're about what is truly memorable, important, and capable of having a long-term impact on viewers and filmmakers alike. Look through past Oscar fields and you'll generally see the same trends most years. Including a lot of serious dramas getting recognized. Because they may not be much "fun", but they are superior creations. Tropic Thunder was (surprisingly) fantastic, biting satire, not just "hilarious". TDK was a lot more than just "lots of action" if you paid some attention. That's what makes those films worthy of more serious attention, not just their popularity. Blockbusters can stand a better chance at competing if the studios would stop rewriting so many of these things by committee and focus on letting great filmmakers demonstrate their talents on a broader canvas a big budget can provide. And if we the people all took some time to check out these nominees, most of us would realize that, like the best in current TV shows, it can be hard to sell to a mainstream audience and get them to care at all. When film or TV series win (or get nominated for) awards, they tend to garner more mainstream exposure and will gain new viewers as a result. Nobody will care in 10 years whether the awards show had 10 million viewers or 40 mil. But they will definitely remember the winners and their competitors when they look for something to new to check out on movie night. And that's how it should be.

January 24 2009 at 9:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I should have stopped reading after Allison suggested that No Country For Old Men and Daniel Day-Lewis weren't memorable. Day-Lewis' performance was one of the best of all time -- perhaps that is lost on someone who writes reviews of "Swingtown."

Two suggestions:

1. Don't write about movies on a TV blog.
2. If you insist on writing about movies in such a juvenile way -- Tropic Thunder? Really? -- stick to the People's Choice Awards.

January 24 2009 at 7:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Apparently I must be the only person who watches the Tony's (except wait, no I'm not - I even know of people who have had Tony award parties!) The Tony's is the only award show I watch some years (and certainly the only one for which I will set a recording if I'm going to be out of town). Yes I know. Musical theatre folk are a rare breed. But we get excited about the Tony's so no dissing the Tony's, especially when we're talking Hugh Jackman here, LOL =) Seriously though - even though the Oscars never have anything interesting to me on there, I'm actually kind of excited just because Hugh is hosting...

January 24 2009 at 1:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Of the biggest 5 awards (Picture, Actor/Actress, Supp Actor/Actress) I've seen all the movies except The Reader and Revolutionary Road, so I'll exclude those from my picks. Picture - Milk; Actor - Mikey Rourke; Actress - Melissa Leo; Supp Actor - Heath Ledger; Supp Actress - Viola Davis.

January 23 2009 at 8:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If the Academy only start giving awards and nominations to popular movies, then you'd start to see movies like Mean Girls and American Pie win best picture. And Best Actor and Best Actress are exactly that. Not "Best Actor from very good movies." The movie can be unbelievably bad, but the acting performance by someone might be superb. Extremely bad movies won't be watched by many people at all, but the acting performance still deserves to be rewarded if it's deserved.

January 23 2009 at 8:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


I saw Frozen River. Melissa Leo is definitely deserving of a nomination.

January 23 2009 at 6:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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