By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
THIS WAS THE MOST INCOHERENT, inchoate and just plain stinko Oscar telecast in recent memory. Nothing flowed; everything jarred, cut-ins and cut-outs lacked necessary segues. It was as if a bunch of tweakers had put the show together, then seized the control room and forced meth on everyone. Jon Stewart bombed. Tom Hanks had an expletive-filled snit when he was introduced to the music of Forrest Gump. George Clooney was laid on- and offstage all night. And still it all added up to a butt-ugly broadcast that even the biggest film buff had to gag through.
Those among the 42-member board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who made it to the Oscar-party circuit Sunday night amply demonstrated just how clueless they were about that broadcast. To them, it went great, Jon Stewart proved a terrific host, and the hours flew by. Unfortunately, they were sitting in the audience instead of watching on the tube. So it shocked them when Industryites with proven track records for pleasing audiences, like Jerry Bruckheimer and Joel Silver, approached them at Vanity Fair’s shindig and gave the thumbs-down. If the board needed more proof, the show’s ratings tanked 10 percent from last year’s, making it the second-least watched since 1987. (No. 1 was the Iraq War Academy Awards of 2003, like you had to be told that.)
So the time has come to stop the misery and end this hell on earth while there’s still time to prevent next year’s torture. Oscar’s got a hangover, and only a self-help five-step program’s gonna fix that.
1. No more uncomfortable opening monologue. Show Us Your Tits! It wasn’t Jon Stewart’s fault that he bombed. At least he himself admitted he was a poor choice to host the Oscars, given that his film experience amounted to little more than “the fourth male lead from Death to Smoochy.” (I was on the radio that morning with Australian Broadcasting Corp. and they said they’ve never heard of Jon Stewart and asked me to explain who he is. Great host choice for international audiences, right?) That filmed bit of shtick at the start of the telecast underscored how hard it is to get a decent host for this nightmare of a show. So it was inevitable that he’d bomb. And, yes, bomb he did. He looked nervous and edgy, his timing was way off, his standup ran in super slo-mo, and his jokes flat-lined. What’s more, he didn’t even try to make excuses for the movie industry; instead, he acknowledged, “Let’s face the fact that this has not been the best year for Hollywood.” Especially when they can’t get a better host than you, Jon-boy.
Even his signature sharp political humor was dulled. He slammed the Democrats twice, and told only one Cheney joke. (That got his biggest laugh.) He didn’t lay a glove on Bush, and what was up with that? That’s why we tuned in, to see Mr. Liberal get himself in trouble with the Red State Right. Only something massively unscripted, like AMPAS prez Sid Ganis wrestling Jon to the ground for offending the White House, was gonna save this milquetoast monologue. Even Jon told the audience he’s a “loser.” Well put, at least for that night.
So don’t make the hosts do that monologue. The actors can’t do standup, and the comedians can’t act comfortable in front of Jack Nicholson and all that actress boobage. Speaking of breasts, why not just start the show with a well-edited comedy reel, then let Scarlett Johansson or Jessica Alba or any Us Weekly magazine ingénue with a great rack come onstage and welcome the Kodak Theater audience and TV viewers while oozing sex appeal? Enough with the troglodyte funny men, and Whoopi. Give the public some eye candy.
2. Don’t let one man, or one joke, hijack the entire broadcast.Jews were a running joke. Three 6 Mafia were a running joke. But anti-Semitism and racism don’t add up to humor. And then there was that incessant slobbering over George Clooney. Let’s face it, no career can withstand the excessive gushery that Clooney received during these Academy Awards. Hope you enjoyed those hours, George, because the inevitable backlash began that night.
I have two words for you: Kevin Costner.
Clooney, Shmooney. Clooney could have won Best Supporting Actor for simply gaining weight and spitting up spinal fluid for Syriana. That’s a time-honored Oscar tradition: I-sacrificed-myself-for-my-art. But he bagged it instead because this town wants to be him, earn his money, date his women, live his Lake Como palazzo life. And, yes, they gave Golden Boy to him because they see him as the movie biz’s golden boy. Just one problem: The only pictures he’s starred in that have been successful at the box office were ensemble pieces (Ocean’s Eleven and its sequel, Ocean’s Twelve). The bucks total from his Oscar films barely equals what he spends on tooth floss. Good Night, and Good Luck was historically inaccurate. And he’s not aging gracefully, to put it mildly. (He hasn’t lost that baby weight yet.) He doesn’t sell movie tickets, he sells magazine covers. Keep this up, and the next Academy Award winner will be Brangelina.