The most annoying part of sitting through a three-and-a-half hour awards ceremony is not, as most people would have it seem, the winners’ speeches. At best, they’re inspirational, witty, or just goshdarn poetic. At worst, they’re dry and cliche. But we the audience are gracious enough to give the winners their chance to speak because we know that the road to success can be a long one and these folks deserve half-a-minute to spill their hearts to us.
No, the worst part of it all is the clips and montages we’ve already see a thousand times this awards season. Why, in introducing the best picture nominees, does the Academy insist on showing us the same basic advertisements that flooded our televisions, theaters, and devices? I mean, I’ve basically memorized every shot in that Wolf of Wall Street trailer! And then, you’ve got some weird superhero theme going on, which gives some fanboy with final cut pro in the backroom a chance to mash up clips from all the superhero movies from the last fifteen years and make it look like Man of Steel was actually a good movie. This is the most self-congratulatory the Academy can get: Let’s honor In the Heat of the Night in the same category as The Amazing Spiderman, because everything Hollywood makes is ah-mazing, especially if there’s a hero, which is basically every movie you guys! How conveniently marketable!
Here are five things the Academy (and other awards-giving organizations) can do instead of these ridiculous montages to make their show more meaningful.
1) Ally themselves with relevant charities and organizations
This years best picture nominees touched on a whole lot of societal issues that could use some attention. Dallas Buyer’s Club discussed LGBT issues, as well as corruption in big pharmaceuticals and government administrations. 12 Years a Slave presented a snippet of America’s long racial history. Philomena looked at the oppressive practices against single mothers. Why not make film-to-real life connections more clear? Celebrating these films’ successes is great, but we are at risk of forgetting their eye-opening messages and depictions of suffering amidst the glitz and glamor of Oscar night. As Lupita Nyong’o said so fricking eloquently “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s.” Have a representative from the film (any one of the cast or crew) team up with an organization that aims to solve one of the issues presented in the film, and document some of what they do in a short feature. Put a website at the bottom of the screen, and voila! you’re putting art into action!
2) Show behind-the-scenes footage
How about instead of the same old trailers and montages, we show something new. Maybe the directors/writers talking about how they approached the film? How about footage showing JLaw goofing off on set or explaining how Christian Bale’s hair did…that? Maybe some background information with the real-life Captain Phillips or Philomena? You know, cool stuff!
3) Expose some emerging new artists
Remember these folks? They’re Team Oscar, students who plan on becoming future filmmakers. Judging from the contest applications (write an essay and create a short video about how you plan to contribute to the film industry), these aren’t active filmmakers with an existing repertoire. But hey, how about we see clips of those videos they sent? How about we invite writers to submit short screenplays and the winners’ screenplays will be filmed using other emerging actors, directors, and film crew? Then, we don’t have to feel so guilty about idolizing Meryl Streep every year or giving Cate Blanchett another Oscar because we’re simultaneously exposing new faces and talents. It’s a good way for those at the top of the Hollywood community to give back to those still climbing up the ladder.
4) Something educational?
Okay, we get it. Sidney Poitier is awesome. But average non-film buff of my generation might know the name but not the significance. We know the “Mr. Tibbs” line, but not why it plays in these montages every year. How about a featurette on Sidney Poitier’s significance to the film industry? Which does NOT mean another montage! It means asking experts and other filmmakers to provide a sentence or two on camera about why Poitier’s such a badass. Or asking Poitier himself why he still bothers coming to these things even though the man is 87 years old!
Or who is this scary Kim Novak lady and why is Matthew McConnaughey flirting with her in front of his wife? Give us a little background info please. Or instead of a Wizard of Oz montage, show us footage from the film’s 1939 premiere. Tell us about why it was technically and creatively so groundbreaking.
How about what a film editor or a sound designer or any of those techie people actually do? Find the most charismatic or socially-adept nominees, and give them some screen time.
5) Play the animated shorts
They’re short. They’re cute. They’re rousing. Who doesn’t love an animated short from time to time. Get the rights, you guys!
Get it, Academy.