In another life–that is to say, back in the day–I wrote about the movies. As a critic, I had my fans and detractors. But one thing you couldn’t take away from me is that I was one hell of an Oscar picker, with a lifetime batting average way over .900. You can look it up.
I haven’t seen all of this year’s nominated pictures and performances, so I can’t speculate on who or what will win tonight. But I do have a single, dead-certain, lock of a prediction for tonight’s Oscars: The program won’t be nearly as good as it could be. And it’s for the same reason it always turns out that way: The show needs more movies in it.
The best parts of every Academy Award telecast are always the clips–scenes from the nominated performances and pictures, historical montages, tribute pieces to the great, the near-great, the camp and the cultured, and, inevitably, the recently deceased. This is a show about movies, and it’s movies that we most want to see.
Why the producers of the program get this wrong year after year is a puzzle. Think how much better it would be if a dozen or so lesser categories were dispensed with for the live program. Let the Oscars for sound mixing, make-up, set design, costuming and the like move to the off-prime-time venue where various technical awards are handed out. Ditto those categories for films that virtually no one has seen or ever will. Let’s concede that nobody knows or cares about the Documentary Short that’s going to get an Oscar tonight, other than the people who made it and their dozen or so friends who saw it. Give it the Oscar, just don’t do it on the air this evening.Take the time saved on these important, but less-than-compelling pieces of business and use them to give us a couple of minutes from each of the best film nominees. The same for the performance awards. Personally, I can always stand a little less of Daniel Day-Lewis than most people can–but it would be more captivating TV to see him go on a bit as Lincoln in Lincoln.
I’m sure none of this will happen tonight, or probably ever. We’ll wake up groggy tomorrow morning, sweep up the popcorn bits and wash out the wine glasses thinking about somebody’s barely-there dress or how Adele nailed it with “Skyfall.” And these things are intrinsic to the Oscar experience. I only wish the movies that inspire the evening were given a little more space to do just that.