I’ve been watching the Academy Awards since Bob Hope was a baby. Back then, they didn’t have a different host each year; it was always Bob Hope. Then Johnny Carson took over for a while. Now they audition someone new every few years, but it’s such a no-win gig, you wonder why anyone wants it. Jon Stewart did an admirable job a few years ago, yet his movie career is still in the toilet. Waiters at trendy L.A. restaurants get more acting offers.
The Academy Awards show has a long tradition – of train wrecks. Every year there is an endless parade of presenters who forget to bring their reading glasses, presenters who mangle the simplest names, presenters who are so improbably mismatched that you wonder if the producer just puts together the last two people he met at some other awards show -- “Please welcome Dame Judi Dench and Adam Sandler ...” – presenters who stumble over the easiest of cue cards. Considering that the presenters are usually actors who have already won an Academy Award, you’d think they’d be able to at least act as if they were not reading from a teleprompter. You’d think at least one of their personal assistants could have remembered to bring their reading glasses.
Then there are the awards for things that are so trivial, even by Hollywood standards, that you wonder if anyone on the board has actually been in a movie theater since 1928. My local theater has yet to show some of the films nominated for Best Picture, so when do you think they’re going to show the nominees for Short Film (animated) and Short Film (live action)? Oh, yeah, that would be never. The Oscars don’t have enough time to let the winners say “I’d like to thank my mother,” but they have plenty of time for these two awards? I’m sure all the nominated short films are award-worthy, but to the world at large, short films are like drum solos -- even if they’re good, we don’t like them. Best Documentary Short could be dumped, too. Not because people won’t watch them: There is always a new freshman class at Angst University that will sit through anything, the more depressing the better. The real reason the award should be canned is that the people who make documentaries rarely wear the best gowns or the most fashionable tuxedos when they attend the Oscars. Joan Rivers doesn’t even bother to ask them who designed their clothes. If you can’t pass that tiny awards hurdle, should you really be there?
They say a billion people watch the Academy Awards each year, but those billion people aren’t here in North America; they are in Europe, India, Indonesia and scattered all around the world. But that audience could easily be doubled if they cut out the deadly musical numbers. I know there have been a lot of memorable musical numbers on the Oscars over the last 80 years. Whoops, no, wait -- there has been one memorable musical number over the last 80 years: Isaac Hayes performing “Shaft.” That is it. The music you heard on the other 79 shows was just the sound of a billion toilets flushing at the same time. I’ll bet if you run down to the beach during the musical numbers, you could watch the ocean rise a few inches in three minutes.
But for all my whining, I will always watch the Oscars and the red carpet walk of fame. It’s like going to a big wedding where you finally meet the parents of the bride and groom, and all their crazy brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles, and you say to yourself, “That explains so much.” Yes, the band was too loud and the best man gave a painfully awkward speech, and you wonder what the bride was thinking when she picked out that ridiculous dress. But you still come. You even bring a present.
Jim Mullen is the author of “How to Lose Money in Your Spare Time at Home.” Contact him at jimmullenbooks.com.