Oscar Clips Clips; Audience Insight Dips
by: Mary Beth Haralovich / University of Arizona
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences website describes the Oscars® as the Academy’s most famous and most important activity. With its international telecast to millions, “the Academy Award presentation has enabled [AMPAS] to maintain a varied year-round calendar of programs and events and a wide-ranging educational and cultural agenda.” The famous exhibitionist event supports the less visible work of the Academy. The Oscars ceremony is the public face of the Academy, “the crescendo … when hundreds of millions of cinema lovers glue themselves to their television sets” to peer at the splendor of the movie industry.
The 2005 Oscars tried to make the show more visually interesting and to move it along more quickly (“drive-thru Oscar lane” quipped emcee Chris Rock). To diversify the ceremonial space, some of the presentations were moved off the proscenium into other spaces of the theater. Awards were presented from box seats balcony and, like David Letterman’s audience participation gags, from the aisles of the main floor. The 2005 Oscars telecast was parsimonious and visually inventive in the use of clips, resulting in lost opportunities to educate and delight. Some awards used no clips to illustrate the nominees. For other awards, clips were projected onto the floor at the feet of the nominees, gathered together on the stage. Some clips were squeezed into parabolic shapes along the sides of nominee title cards. These spatial strategies may have provided visual interest and moved the ceremony along, yet the Oscars telecast seemed to conceive of movies as Lina Lamont did in Singin’ in the Rain, bringing joy into the “hum-drum lives” of movie audiences, rather than providing a glimpse into what these film professionals consider quality production. Major exceptions were Art Direction, whose clips transitioned from a charcoal drawing or watercolor into the image’s cinematic twin CLIP – Art Direction and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which illustrated the industry’s commitments to health care and preservation.
An annual example of missed opportunity is the Scientific and Technical Awards, which continued their legendary marginalization at the Oscars. Scarlett Johansson announced the sci-tech awards from a balcony, referring to the “exclusive dinner” (held on Saturday, 12 February) where the awards were given. Although 15 sci-tech awards were presented at the banquet, the Oscars telecast focused on two achievements: the decades long development of the Louma crane and remote system; and the Gordon E. Sawyer Award presented to Takuo Miyagishima “for a lifetime of accomplishments” (of which not one was identified). There were a few shots of the Louma crane in action, but the segment barely hinted at what the Louma crane does, how it does it, why the Academy cares or why the movie-goer should care CLIP – sci-tech. The Oscars might direct interested viewers to a “read more about it” web address, like PBS does.
For the animation short award, the Oscars did not show even one frame from any of the nominated films. We are asked to merely accept the Academy’s word for it, that these films were worthy of nomination. In his winner’s speech, Chris Landruth complimented the Academy for “continuing to support short filmmaking in all its forms. I can’t tell you how cool that is.” While the Oscar categories support short films, the Oscars telecast didn’t show even a hint of why, in its wisdom and expertise, the Academy selected these films for these awards. For the documentary short award, clips were projected onto the floor of the stage, which was divided into large squares. The clips were screened on a surface with black lines drawn across it CLIP – clips on the floor. Big blocks and lines may have provided visual interest but they interfered with the presentation of the clips. Unless we attend a major film festival or have a local art house, audiences won’t have an opportunity to see the shorts. If Oscars would show clips, worldwide audiences might be drawn to the short film and encourage distributors and exhibitors to become more open to all forms of film.
It wasn’t only shorts categories and scientific-technical awards that received short shrift in the clips department. For the editing nominations, clips were positioned along the side of the screen, shaped like a twisting strip of film CLIP – editing. In these distorted images, one could divine that shots were cut together, and perhaps begin to glean the editing art of these particular films. The legible visual information in the segment was reserved for putting a face on the usually invisible editor and the title of the film.
The 2005 Oscar telecast gave some brief time to three set pieces (in memoriam, tribute to Johnny Carson, montage of movie history) and more detailed attention to the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. In the Hersholt presentation, the Academy honored film executive Roger Mayer for his work with the Motion Picture and Television Fund and with film preservation. In the process, the television audience learned that the industry provides charitable health care for film and TV workers in need. The montage illustrated nitrate film degrading into powder and showed split-screen before-and-after examples of restoration CLIP – Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The Hersholt Award segment went deeply behind the scenes and beyond production, to present an industry that cares for its people and its history, an on-going humanitarian commitment that viewers might ask organizations like Wal-Mart to emulate.
In his introduction to Visual Display: Culture Beyond Appearances, Peter Wollen writes, “an excess of display has the effect of concealing the truth of the society that produces it, providing the viewer with an unending stream of images that might be best understood, not simply as detached from a real world of things, as [Guy] Debord implied, but as working to efface any trace of the symbolic, condemning the viewer to a world in which we can see everything but understand nothing” (p. 9). The annual Oscars show could be an opportunity for film and TV audiences to participate in an enlightening celebration of cinematic arts and sciences, as co-participants in film culture. Even dressed in tux and gown, the Academy could share its professional knowledge and present its expertise rather than limiting the Oscars to the sheen of commercial cinema, glamour and TV entertainment.
Jean Hersholt Award Winners
The Motion Picture & Television Fund Homepage
Please feel free to comment.
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why do we watch??
I think the interesting questions this article points to are, “Why do we watch televised awards shows?” and “What do we want those shows to be about?” As MBH demonstrates, the shows are scrambling to stop their recent audience hemorrhage by dressing up “boring” categories or doing away with them entirely. So why don’t we want to see the technical awards and learn about the careful construction and craft of filmmaking? Maybe because, for better or worse, it chips away at the “magic of movies.” We work hard throughout the year in those stadium seats with our Coke and popcorn to suspend our disbelief, and even though we *know* that Titanic was really filmed in a puddle and Spiderman can’t really fly, it hurts a little to be reminded at Oscar time…
Bring Back Billy
Coming from a little town in Texas, I was never aware of the small art house films shown around the country until Oscar night. I do wish that this years show would have made more of an effort to show clips of these films instead of focusing on time restraints and what’s “hip” in today’s society. I felt that Chris Rock and his interviews of other movie goers was a waist of time that could have gone to the people and the films that were nominated. Martin Lawrence wasn’t nominated and he got more time than most of those who were. I understand that this was part of the joke, but Chris Rock’s opening for this year’s Oscars was sophomoric and unnecessary. It is unfortunate for those of us who really do care about editing, cinematography, and other technical awards that they were shown as filler in comparison to Chris Rock’s more embarrassing than humorous look at movie audiences.
The Oscars, like it or not, are not about movies. They are about stars. Sure, it would be great to think that everyone who is watching the show are cinema enthusiasts with a thirst for knowledge on the inner workings of film. I was appalled at the mistreatment of the “unimportant” categories, but it’s a ratings game and it’s the actors whom a large portion of the audience prefer to see. If the Academy Awards were on Bravo or HBO or PBS, perhaps it would be different, but they’re not. The truth is that the Oscars are no more about film than the Miss America competition is about college scholarships.
The Chris Rock interviews with so-called “regular people”, shown during the 2004 Oscar Ceremony, were devastating, but also honest. Watching a man declare; with no hint of shame, that The Chronicles of Riddick was the best film of the year is enough to make any serious lover of film art cringe with disgust. But you can’t blame the guy, maybe The Chronicles of Riddick actually was the best thing he saw all year. He no doubt saw more marketing for that movie than say, Hotel Rwanda. And it would not be uncommon if this Diesel fan holds the view that “My life has enough troubles. I don’t want to see a depressing movie. I want to see something with action and laughs.” And who can blame him? Our biggest film societies, like the AMPAS and the American Film Society, are better suited to making lists of the 100 Best DVDs We Want To Sell To You than championing obscure or independent films. But these groups are part of the industry, and they want to make money while they’re congratulating themselves for their achievements, and this will never change.
I think that this years Oscars were definitely unique in the way the decided to show the clips, on one of the clips provided I took an interesting parallel, where the nominees stand and the clips are played at their feet, gave an illusion, of hierarchy, placing them at the top and the world at their feet. I thought that was an interesting way to display the clips, however, I did not think it was fair that on the animation short award, the Oscars did not show the frames for any of the nominated films, and how the audience was just asked to “accept the Academy’s word…. that these films were worthy of nomination”.
I couldn’t agree more with Haralovich here. It is truly a sad state of affairs we live in today where programs like the Oscars presentation are forced to “speed up” their pace in order to accomodate the millions of people out there with attention spans of nanoseconds. I’m at times ashamed to be a part of this so-called “MTV Generation” that has been defined by this deficiency of appreciation for art.
One other thing also worries me–the lack of publicity, even just on this ONE night, that is given to the nominees of the smaller awards. The fact of the matter is that many awards given out by the Academy are simply less interesting to the general public. Thus, my argument is not, by any means, that every award should be given equal screen-time, attention, and “hype”. Clearly, it has never and will never be the case that people care more about who wins Best Documentary Short than they do Best Picture. But giving all the attention to the big awards and “speeding up” everything up until the last 30 minutes of the broadcast serves no purpose other than to give more attention to the people who already have plenty. Let the lesser-known documentary filmmakers, the editors, the technical professionals and the rest have their one night in the spotlight. It’s not too much to ask. The other 364 days every year can be dedicated to the likes Nicole Kidman, Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson et all (and they’ll still have their fair share of the limelight on Oscar’s night too!)
My Take on this Change
I believe this article does a fair job of introducing the way in which The Academy’s Oscar night is being tweaked in order to attract a large crowd. However, in the Academy’s quest to do so, it undercuts the Academy’s statement “the Academy Award presentation has enabled [AMPAS] to maintain a varied year-round calendar of programs and events and a wide-ranging educational and cultural agenda.” In its efforts to cut down the running time of the show, and attract a younger generation, it minimizes the TECHNICAL achievements and the talent of the independents. According to Nielsen Ratings, the award show’s ratings have been dropping since 1998 (the year of Titanic). By last year, 2004, I’m assuming the producers decided something had to be done to fix this declining problem. So they did what was mentioned in the article. They took out the veteran comedian hosts like Billy Crystal or Steve Martin, and added a controversial young black comedian, Chris Rock. This unexpected news stirred a bit of interest on the award show months before it was to air. The fact that Rock’s reputation paints him as a bad-movie actor and racially controversial comedian had people talking about him AND the oscars (just what the producers want). Then, as if it was pre-planned, Rock decides to take the offer he was given and make it a joke by ridiculing the Oscars AND the viewers of the show (claiming only white homosexual men watch the show). All this hits the headlines and attracts peoples attention. The oscars now have a host who doesn’t like the oscars and has no respect for filmmaking. The producers have two new audiences, Chris Rock fans, and those wanting to see what he’ll insult while hosting (or see him crash and burn). Atleast that’s the way I see it, it was all planned. In order to have people glued in for the whole show, they shortened it. How did they do that? by cutting out the unimportant parts. Just like mentioned in the article. In my opinion, this made the show seem more like the MTV awards rather than the prestigious Oscar Ceremony. All the sudden you have 50 shots of “p-diddy” a man not even remotely associated with Movies, in place of big starts like Anthony Hopkins, Spielberg, or Connery. I saw more pop stars and young stars there then the people who were in the movies. They didn’t even allow the original singers of the Oscar songs to perform (rather they put in Santana, Antonio Banderas and sadly Beyonce three times). By cutting out the importance of the ‘smaller awards’, the Academy fails in educating the world of the varied cultural arts available. They just show what everyone already knows about, the stars and big movies. This years Oscars makes it more evident that the show’s purpose is to make money while showing off Hollywood’s other money makers. If they showed all the animations and shorts and talked on about the scientific achievements, the average american would turn it off and tune into American Idol or some other dumbed down entertainment. The producers are just trying to give the majority what they want: hollywood. With all their efforts, the award show still dropped 5% of its ratings from last year (down to 41.6 million viewers. So to me it seems their attempts to ‘breath new life’ into the Oscars failed, and I hope they go back to their conventional ‘boring’ style with ‘old’ Billy Crystal (or Robin Williams!) next year.
Not quite yet
Unfortunately I was not able to watch this years Oscar ceremony but I have seen plenty in the past. I did however watch the clips provided with the examples in the article. Watching the clips I can see exactly where Haralovich was coming from and can see her point completely. Although I agree that I do not want the Oscars or the “Academy’s most famous and most important activity” to become commercial TV and completely glamorized, I don’t know if we are quite there yet. I realize that some of the nominee screens might have been difficult to see but I think that maybe they were just trying to be a little bit more creative. Maybe the academy thought it was time to try and spice up the show and get more artistic and appeal to an even broader audience then it already has. Maybe it wasn’t a huge audience hit and there are definitely some bugs they should work out before the next ceremony but I don’t think we are in dire situations of glamour or commercialization’s just yet. Yes some of the clips were not clear but if you are watching the Oscars you have some cultural knowledge of what movies are being shown because chances are that most viewers are aware and pay attention to most of the films that have come out in the last year. As far as some categories being shown more than others that just comes with the territory. There have always been more awards than they can show during the televised version of the show. It’s just a matter of what they deem the most important awards that compile most of the show. There is an obvious time constraint so some categories have to suffer; it’s the nature of the industry. I feel that this was just a failed attempt at trying to be a little bit more creative with the visual presentation of the show. Hopefully by next year they will realize what some didn’t like about their choices and fix it so that it is both clear and concise but also artistic and creative at the same time. I think we should start worrying when someone like Johnny Knoxville is hosting the show. . .
Missed Opportunity? Hmm, that does make sense.
This article makes a very interesting and valid argument of which I had never considered or much less even thought about. Referring to the Oscars as an opportunity to educate and inform really makes a lot of sense. I personally didn’t watch the Oscars this year, but having seen numerous events in the past years and reading this article it seems clear that maybe the change in pace this year was a missed opportunity. The author writes, “The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences website describes the Oscars® as the Academy’s most famous and most important activity. With its international telecast to millions, “the Academy Award presentation has enabled [AMPAS] to maintain a varied year-round calendar of programs and events and a wide-ranging educational and cultural agenda.” The famous exhibitionist event supports the less visible work of the Academy. The Oscars ceremony is the public face of the Academy, “the crescendo … when hundreds of millions of cinema lovers glue themselves to their television sets” to peer at the splendor of the movie industry.” If the academy truly does feel this passionate about its yearly event and its support for the “less visible work” then they really should rethink the presentation of its awards ceremony. First, many awards are not shown and/or barely mentioned. If it won an award it is probably worth showing a clip or giving some manner of explanation or exhibition. It is also true that many awards such as technological advances in production, for example, are mentioned but not detailed. Most viewers are left clueless to how they work. For example, most of us really wanted to know how Eddie and Roger Rabbit interacted and how The Matrix made those slow motion scenes without waiting for the DVD special features. Furthermore, if someone is getting a lifetime achievement award or something similar, then tell us about their achievements. Instead, of showing film clips, tell us what those clips meant for the industry, society, etc. I mean, if its not that important, then why is there even a category and/or award? These types of omissions are a result of time restraints of the show. The same is probably true for not showing detailed clips of short film nominees and/or detailed clips of its various awards and nominees. The quote above states that the Oscars are for cinema lovers who glue themselves to the TV. to watch the event. If that is true, then it is really hypocritical to alter the presentation and cut things out to adhere to the general public viewer’s demands who just want to look at faces in the crowd and see the best actor, actress, and film awards. Instead, it would be nice if they actually gave all the attention the “less visible work” deserved so that the true cinema lovers could see it. What’s more is that by not cutting corners and actually showing all deserving clips and awards in detail, they might actually turn a few casual “celebrity seeking” viewers into film buffs as well. It seems to me that the Oscars really is missing a huge opportunity by selectively showing clips, awards, and information based on what the casual viewer would want in an attempt to keep high ratings. The academy should be true to its core enthusiasts by showing them everything that they want to see but haven’t been able to or just don’t know about it. If deserves an award, then it deserves to be seen. Maybe spread it out into a week long event and dedicate and hour or so a night to the various categories and awards so that each one will get the attention, credit, and exposure it deserves. It really is probably a difficult issue to solve since the program even after being cut down was still really, really long. But whatever happens, the Oscars really are a great opportunity, whether missed or not, to showcase the crème of the crop (popular or not) and acknowledge everything film and cinema has to offer to everyone.
More appreciation from the Academy
Receiving an Oscar from the Academy is the biggest honor for any filmmaker and actor. So I was a little surprised that the Academy shortened the most important part of the Oscars: showing the clips from the films that were nominated, more specifically the animation and documentary shorts. The cast and crew work hard to finally get a submission into the Oscars which in itself is a grand achievement, but then to minimize or not show the clips at all is hard to believe. Through these clips we get a glimpse into some of the work we as an audience may not have been able to see on our own and maybe grow an appreciation for. As it was mentioned by Haralovich the visual interest of showing the clips disrupted our firsthand viewing experience of certain films that we may not have seen otherwise. The Oscars serve not only as an acknowledgment of outstanding films, but also as a publicity tool. It provides name recognition for these films when they are shown in other cities because people will remember that it was nominated for an Oscar. However, if the clips were reduced to nothing then how will the viewers remember which one it was? Furthermore the Oscars fail to recognize other areas of filmmaking. There is a lot more than the acting or name power that goes into these films, but we really don’t get a chance to see that. Although there may be other awards shows for those aspects nobody really hears about them unless you probe to find out more information. So instead of reading more about other aspects of filmmaking such as the technical part I would like to see the appreciation for that as well. Even then the question of airtime will be raised along with many other things, but perhaps in the coming years there will be a move to change what is shown on the Oscars. Perhaps adding a ten minute segment that was a montage of the other aspects of filmmaking like technical work and publicity that is essential to the films success would at the very least serve as a tribute to these lesser known areas. It does not have to be a physical award or anything, but just some screen time. In the end I think there would be a greater awareness and appreciation of all the hard work that goes into making a film.
Having watched the Academy Awards practically every year for the past decade, as it has generally been a tradition in my family, and usually trying to watch as many of the nominated movies as possible, it is undeniable that the quality of the presentation has been seriously declining in the past few years. In my opinion, and what Haralovich doesn’t seem to touch on much, is that the Oscars are used very much as a publicity event, while the idea of educating the public is placed on the backburner. Nominations rarely seem to even attempt to cover the wide array of films made during the year, only focusing on those produced and distributed by the major studios, or their “independent” subsidiaries. Several major discrepancies are very apparent when looking at the nominee lists, one of which being the fact that foreign movies, which have little or no financial interest to those deciding the nominations, are practically excluded from all categories except for the foreign film category, despite the fact that they may in fact be well qualified. I find it hard to believe that the best movie made in the world for the entire history of the awards has always been from the United States and never a documentary. This is no coincidence, since these are not in the financial interests of the Academy. Also of note is the fact that the Academy regularly is unable to even find more than 3 films that they consider to have good make-up effects, despite the fact that thousands of films are made every year and all of them use make-up. The Academy seems very blatant in its attempts to use the awards show as a promotional tool, with winning films frequently coming out only in select cities a week or two before the deadline for entry, therefore when they are nominated the films will generate a “buzz” that will propel them into box office success (eg Million Dollar Baby). As far as the presentation itself goes, I feel like Haralovich was dead on in her examination of the visual style used to try to entertain the audience as opposed to inform. This business of trying to get the ratings and keep viewer interest (obvious in the choice of Chris Rock as host, what movies has he been in recently?), along with the emphasis on promotion, leaves informing the audience virtually out of the picture, and I don’t see this trend changing any time in the near future.
Louma Crane? Never heard of him.
As mentioned before, the Awards show, of course, is money-driven. They have to get people to watch. And If people are more interested in Scarlett Johanssen’s new haircut, or who made Naomi Watts’s dress, then they’ll show that 50 times instead on focusing on what we as Film enthusiasts think is important. It was sad that so many got short-sided, but, as Brennan Bloom posted earlier, the Oscars are about the stars. In the little clip “detailing” the SciTech awards, there were no details. What did we get out of that segment? -Some crane got invented by some guy, lots of old people said some funny things, and Scarlett Johansen laughed a lot (and had weird hair). Who were all those people? Why did they get awards? Not important, says the Academy (or at least the viewers). Not enough people care enough to include them in the giant spectacle that is the Oscars ceremony. The Short Subject Doc category was ridiculous– I was squinting my eyes trying to see what they were showing on the checkerboard floor, whereas the average viewer was probably up getting icecream during this “boring category” break. It’s sad though, to think that one day, these categories might not be included at all. I can totally see a scrolling list of names coming up at the end of the broadcast saying “Other Oscar-Winners We Didn’t Really Have Time To Show You (…But You Don’t Really Care Anyway).” I was thinking a solution that might sort of balance it out, would be to air a seperate awards show for these “lesser” categories, including the SciTech Awards, maybe even on cable? That way those of us who do care would be able to see the stuff we’re really interested in and in detail, whereas those who don’t care could just watch the 5 hour carnival on the big Oscar Night. I don’t know if I’d be happy with the seperation, but at least each side would have their own time devoted to them. There needs to be a solution. Otherwise, the Academy is definitely failing to live up to its mission. They’re leaving people out, and overshadowing what so many do, in order to show a Rock/Penn debate on the status of Jude Law’s career. What about the careers of those editors, or short animators, whose work will go unnoticed, thanks to the neglect of the Academy? Does anyone care? I hope so.
It is often difficult for film enthusiasts—-that is, true enthusiasts who are interested not only in the end product but also in the process—-to understand how the Oscars can be so limited and overlook the important work of those behind the scenes. This is because we are the very people who aspire to be in those parts some day, and it is hard to accept that should we take on those roles, our work would not be appreciated at a level that is appropriate and deserved. Nevertheless, this is a common occurrence at the Oscars and an expected one at that.
What is the real focus of these awards shows? Numerous channels cover the red carpet so viewers can catch a glimpse of their favorite actors and actresses presumably playing only themselves rather than any assigned character. The awards shows themselves are like a game in which we root for our favorites—or at least this is what the telecast of the awards show is. As much as the Academy may hope to make the awards show a time to commemorate the beauty of the industry, it is the beauty of the people that viewers are most interested in.
Sadly, the 2005 Oscars show was merely addressing these desires of the audience by playing to their interests. The visually attractive effects employed at the show were simply a continuation of the televisual movement created largely in part by the audience. Because the awards are televised, in order to keep the viewers’ attention, these types of tactics must be used on the modern-day audience.
Ad Time isn’t Good Times for Artists
I totally agree with Haralovich in her response to the Academy’s overcommericialization of the 2005 Oscars. Sadly, I watched the Academy Awards as it failed to provide proper clips to validate its winners. I was most appalled by the lack of respect given to some entertainment industry professionals who were forced to give their speeches from their seats. I tagged this lack of respect to the Academy’s programmers who probably wanted to squeeze in more commercial time than allow the smaller award winners to have the extra time it takes to walk up the stairs to the stage. The program almost seemed to lack the proper amount of rehearsals needed to pull of such a bold move away from the traditional manner of presenting awards. Everyone seemed awkward, especially those who had to go on stage with all the other nominees before the winner was announced only to walk back off stage when they didn’t win. To me, it seemed as if the producers were hoping to cut back on time by cutting out the time it takes getting to the stage’s microphone and forgoing clips for most of the smaller awards. But by neglecting the smaller awards, the Academy became discriminatory and elitist. Hopefully, next year there will be less money spent on fancy video effects to allow less commercials in the programming and more allotted time to the artists who deserve better representation than an isle side microhone.
I have watched the Oscars every year since I was about 10 years old. I had always enjoyed and delighted in seeing what Julia Roderts or Nichole Kidman would show up wearing. But now that I have grown up, I realize that there is more to what makes a movie than the beautiful faces seen on screen.
I watched the oscars this year, and I was very upset with the “hurry up” tactics. I felt that what the Academy would consider the “little people” did not get the time they deserved on stage. Its funny how many times the music plays to rush an actor or actress, but yet they still get all the time they need to thank everyone they know. Maybe the time alloted for them could be shared with the technical awards. And I agree that allowing the viewers to see some shorts or animation is important.
But, I am afraid the Oscars will not change. Although, such technical awards SHOULD be given more credit, I just don’t think it is going to happen. This is not what the Oscars is about. When People magazine showcases the Oscar magazine the next day, people buy it to see the glitz and glamour, not to hear about the awards given out.
I haven’t seen the Oscars every year, but I do my best to catch it when it airs. Fortunately, I caught this years Oscars to see Jaime Foxx win the best actor award. Although I don’t commit myself to see the Academy Awards every year but… there were things amiss this year. As Mary Beth Haralovich pointed out, the Academy Awards did tried to make the show more aesthetically and visually pleasing with the “drive-thru Oscar lane.” Though, I think the Academy tried too hard to do something different or innovative. Moving the proscenium space out to the audience to present an award was kind of creative but awkward. The projection of the clips on the stage floor was cool but the Academy Awards is not a disco dance floor. I remember years ago when Whoopi Goldberg hosted the Academy Awards, dressed as the Queen Elizabeth from the film Elizabeth, the entire show had an artistic theme with Cirque du Soliel performers hanging from the ceiling as they did crazy acrobatics. I remember last year’s award show was more humorous than the others I remember when Robin Williams improving with Billy Crystal at a random moment and Jim Carrey presenting the life time achievement award to Blake Edwards (I think…director of Pink Panther and others) as he drove into a wall in a wheelchair.In addition, the little people are still not being recognized. This is the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. The audience and the television viewers should be seeing a glimpse or clips of well respected, hard working artisans editing incredible moments of scenes, amazing beautiful shots taken, gorgeous make-up applied, and etc. If only the Academy Awards was back to being creative without neglecting the little people and the little things.
Entertaining the Audience
I agree with the quote stated by Peter Wollen describing that an “excess of display has the effect of concealing the truth of the society that produces it…” This statement is true because although the Academy Awards are set up to show the awards given anywhere from Best Actor and Actress to Sound Mixing, the Academy Awards are solely focused on the stars instead of the films. I do not think that the awards are solely focused on this, only the awards show. The awards include Directing, Costume Design, Art Direction, and Best Actor. It seems as although the actors and actresses are a part of the awards, they are the ones who are focused on the most at the awards shows. The show in itself is a cinematic experience where the audience wants to be entertained not only by the emcee, but by the actors and actresses themselves.
I find that the techniques used to quicken the pace of the 2005 Academy Awards to be extremely impersonal when compared to past traditions. I think that it is probably a big deal to walk up from your seat to the stage to accept your Oscar, and when this is changed so that you only walk to the aisle, or the Oscar is brought to your seat, this lessens the experience. I remember in 1998 when Roberto Benigni won an Academy Award and could not contain his excitement when making his way to the stage to receive the statuette. I understand that the techniques were used to quicken the pace of the awards show, because as an American audience we are becoming more and more impatient, but the use of these techniques also deviate from the traditions of receiving the award on stage.
Other aspects of the award show that were added this year that differed from previous years included using Chris Rock as an emcee. I would have much rather have Steve Martin or Billy Crystal return as the announcer for the Academy Awards because they have a humor that is accepted by the majority of the audience. Also, Haralovich makes a good point in describing that the Oscars did not show a single frame of some of the nominated categories. I think that each of the categories should have clips of the films shown to at least present the material to the audience and show the reason why the work was nominated. I also think that the presentation of the clips for the Editing nominees was not presented well, especially for this category, which largely depends on the visual.
To be honest, I sort of liked this year’s Oscars. Don’t get me wrong, I really felt bad that what are considered the “lesser” awards got ripped off in terms of showing clips, full recognition, etc. But, I liked that it was shorter. I pretty much just wanted to know what won what. I wish there were a way to shorten the Oscars without ripping off all of the other awards (hmm, maybe taking out all of the *real* filler, i.e. the stand up/”joke” segments). The Oscars should be about the awards and why those who win receive those awards. However, the audience will forever be about the stars, and not the people who work behind the scenes. The audience will always want to see the beautiful faces, and since this is a business, we need to please our customers. Therefore, we take out all the “boring” stuff and put in what the average joes of the world will enjoy.
I agree with the fact that it is unfortunate that the ‘lesser nominees’ do not get an equal treatment at the Oscars, but that is the way that television works. In today’s society, the majority of the people want to see the big name stars, while only a small minority want to see the lesser categories. I remember when I was young and simply watched the Oscars to see the big names get their awards, and during the lesser nominations I was bored out of my mind. Even though the winners in the small categories do not get the recognition from the public, they get the approval from their peers, which should mean more to them anyway. They may be rushed out the door, but they will always have the Oscar reminding them of their acheivements.
If the Oscar’s had any real integrity to begin with to determine the year’s actual best films, then a much bigger outcry might be made against this year’s “hurry-up” tactics. But unfortunately the Oscars have always been and will always serve as the industry’s inadequate representative of filmmaking. Time is money in Hollywood and the analysts have seen the show drag on for far too long, so the next logical step is to “turn the wheel,” revealing a bit more of its hallow heart. Perhaps it will reach a breaking point, an excess of images and sounds working to alienate the audience, and perhaps then the audience will cry for something else, the reason why we all watch the Oscars, what should be the focal point of the entire production, seeing the truly deserving win awards.The argument that the audience only wants to see stars is pure rubbish. Since no one has ever seen a “real” awards show in America how can anyone know what we’re missing.
Why wouldn’t American’s want a shortened and more visual version of the Academy Awards when children are being diagnosed by the thousands (if not millions) with ADD and ADHD? America does not have a big enough attention span to sit and watch any more than is already shown (if that). America has lost its appreciation for the arts. That is why public school districts are reducing their art programs and budgets (i.e. choir, art, band) drastically. We, like the viewing audience for the Academy Awards were forced to do, have to trust the decision makers that this is what is best for us. We don’t need the arts in schools like we don’t need to see ten- or twenty-second clips of the nominated films. We take what they say for granted without making any informed decisions for ourselves. Only then, after the winners have been announced, do audiences go out and make an attempt to see films outside of the cheesy box office thrillers and love stories. Soon, with increasing technology, I fear that award shows that celebrate filmmakers will disappear all together. There is hardly any reason for viewers to even watch an entire two or three hour long show such as the Academy Awards when they can look on the Internet and see who has won (along with clips of their speeches) within thirty minutes of its ending. Americans want the short and sweet version. They don’t have enough time, patience, or attention span to give back to the people who live to entertain and inform them. Producers’ attempts to visually stimulate audiences (i.e. showing clips on the floor) took away from what filmmakers worked so hard to showcase. If awards shows are reduced to much more, I would go out on a limb to say that it’s hardly worth having a one at all.
Every year, I always make an attempt to watch the Oscars in its entirety, from the opening monologues to the presentation of the Best Picture. This year, I stopped watching after one-third of the show and went bowling instead. I turned the TV off right after Cate Blanchett presented the nominees for Best Makeup in an aisle of the audience seats. The winner made the speech from there, instead of traditionally on the stage, directly in front of everyone. Haralovich is right that the Academy Awards has succumbed to time restraints and celebrating glamour, rather than of cinema itself. No longer are the nominees for Best Makeup or Best Animation Shorts important as the nominees for Best Actor are. I don’t think this is a reflection of the Academy Awards, but rather of Gil Cates’ clumsy decision-making, who has been hired as the show’s producer twelve times in the past fifteen years. Cates chooses the host and looks for new ways to shorten the show’s duration. I admire Cates’ experiments catered to increasing ratings, adhering to the hard-line motto that, “business is business.” However, there’s no business like show business and I hope Cates (or the AMPAS, if they want a new producer) learned from his mistakes and take advantage of his annual duty to retreat to celebrating the marvel of show business itself.
I cannot express enough how saddened I was by this year’s Oscars. In addition to shortening the few moments so many hardworking and dedicated people who devoted their lives for the chance to be honored with the most pretigious of awards, the Academy also decided to widen their audience. In an attempt to appeal hip to today’s youth market, producers of the Oscars this yr seemingly decided to make it a hiphop showcaseas well, with presenters such as Jay Z, Beyonce,and Puff Daddy. It is understandable to recognize contributions made to the film industry, but when I think of these names, cinematic achievement is not what comes to mind. Beyonce was chosen to sing the song from The Phantom of the Opera, when the actual singer was still standing on the stage silent the entire time!?The Acadeny needs to recall what it was founded on, Cinematic excellence according to the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, not what is considered cool and time efficient.
This year’s awards presentation seemed like a hopeless mishmash of disparate elements in a desperate attempt to satisfy too many different types of people. To start with, having Chris Rock host but limiting him to the safe, boring humor is like having Tiger Woods play baseball. Just because Woods is an athlete doesn’t mean he will excel at baseball, and just because Chris Rock is a standup comic who has hosted the MTV Video Awards doesn’t mean he will be a hit at the Oscars. Rock is great when it comes to vulgar, controversial, and scathing humor, but he was taken out of his element at the Oscars, and the “friendly network TV” Rock was a comedic flop. Second, I agree with Haralovich about the inappropriateness of the presentation of most of the movie clips. When an award is given to an actor/actress for best performance, a clip is usually shown from their film that briefly showcases the talent that got them nominated. Shouldn’t it make sense to also show brief evidence of the achievements of editors, cinematographers, sound editors, make up artists, etc.? The visual gimmicks used in this year’s ceremony did nothing of the sort, and only provided a base visual connection with the film in question, if at all, as Haralovich points out that no clips from the short films were shown. Finally, not to hate on the late great Johnny Carson, but he was a TV star, and according to allmovie.com, his only major role in a motion picture was in 1964’s Looking for Love. His life was sufficiently memorialized by other network TV programs, so couldn’t the time spend on him at the Oscars be spent better by going into greater depth with the items that Haralovich pointed out that were shirked?
Response on the Oscars demise…
It’s quite a pity now that the Oscars seem to only be about the glitz and the glamor of Hollywood lifestyles. Receiving an Academy Award just doesn’t seem all that fulfilling anymore when the pre- and post-award shows are all about who and what the stars were wearing. Whatever happened to intellectual analysis of the the film and art form itself? Instead of discussing the ground-breaking cinematography, we talk about the “ground-breaking” dress and “bling bling” of the red carpet. It’s sad to see the overzealous emphasis on the aesthetics of the wardrobes and not the films being recognized. Why is that? How have we become a society full of appearance-obsessive fans? And now, the Oscar ceremony itself is being shafted with shortcuts here and there so that they can hurry up and end the show ASAP to attend P.Diddy’s after-party. They won’t even show the actual 10 second clips of the movies being recognized? Might as well not even have an awards show in the first place. Just lay down a train of red carpets and watch the celebrities and cameras flock. If they’re going to be cutting off intro clips to the films, don’t have an awards show at all, send them the gold-plated man with a gift basket.
Awards in the Audience.
While I do consider myself a moviegoer and television buff, I’ve never been particularly glued to the Oscars. I do tune in however if I remember. This year, I remember flipping on the Oscars, seeing an actress receive an award in the audience, and changing the channel in disgust. My roommate and I discussed how ‘bad’ this was. I would pretty much agree with everything Haralovich had to say. The awards were not about the films, but rather flash in the pan visual eye candy. I would also argue that even those tuning in to just see the stars themselves would be disappointed. There is something most unglamorous about a starlet receiving her award a foot from her seet, with other stars, but even more uknown faces around her. It was cluttered and confusing, and in the end, I was too busy being boggled as to why the’d do it than to pay attention to the person receiving the award. In the end, what was the award show even about? If you asked me, it would seem like it was just tooting its own horn as an awards show, a highly regarded one in any case. It wasn’t about the films, when clips were even shown, they were barely discernable, it wasn’t about the stars, their stardom was mingled with the common audience instead of being placed on a glowing, well lit pedestal, and it wasn’t about the technological advancements, as Haralovich said, the audience wasn’t even given a reason as to why they should care. It was an awards show that was about giving awards, and I think it’s lack of any substantial showcasing of anything other than giving away awards and visual eye candy reflects that.
The Oscar = The Stars
The Oscar is entrenched in popular culture. This is the main reason why the more popular movies and actors get the most attention during any Oscar event. A lot of hard work, ideas, people, technology, and talent go into making movies but the audience only pays attention to what they see on the screen and not behind the scene. Sometimes knowing too much about something may actually take away from the enjoyment of it. The Oscar wants to appeal to a wide demographic and get the most audience in front of the TV sets any time it comes on, so by making it short, and only focusing on what majority of their audience are interested in, they can achieve that goal. It is sad that they didn’t give much attention to the awards mentioned in this article but from a business point of view, it was the right thing to do. You have to think about advertisers and sponsors of the show, they need to sell their products to the viewers. If the Oscar give more attention to pop culture, it is easier for the advertisers and if I must say, the viewers, because it is easily recognizable; that is, you know all the actors and directors that were nominated because that is the kind of information you are most accessible to. I didn’t get to see the 2005 Oscar awards but judging from previous telecasts, I can firmly say that The Oscar is a night for the stars. More time is spent on the red carpet that showing clips, not because they like to show the red carpet, but because that is what the people watching want to see. They want to know what designer their favorite actress or actor is wearing; they want to know where the after party would be at and who will be hosting it. Information like these are what majority of the viewers care about and not because they are going to go to the store the next day but the fact that they are now knowledgeable gives them power.
Change for the Worse
I was excited to watch this years Oscars with Chris Rock as the Host. All night I was rooting for Jamie Foxx for best actor. Unfortunately his award was the only thing I liked about the entire show. Chris Rock wasn’t as funny as I remembered him to be and I was shocked with the new layout and design of the show. It just wasn’t what it used to be. It wasn’t the formal old fashioned Academy Award show that I watch every year on my couch in a formal dress. It didn’t even seem worthy of that. First of all, some of the clips for the less popular films were not shown at all. I remember being especially upset when clips from the nominees for animation short were not shown. As a viewer I’d like to know why the academy chooses its winners, not just take their word for it. Also the clips could be used as a sort of advertisement for the medium, but this year it seems they only advertised the major blockbuster movies. The new layout was outrageous. The balcony presentations were alright, but presenting an award from the back of the theater was just strange and disrespectful to the nominees and winners. I really hope that next years awards do not follow this example. I was most upset with Beyonce’s performance of three of the five nominated songs. She did not deserve to sing the songs she had absolutely nothing to do with. I love Beyonce as a performer, but three performances of songs she doesn’t even know is overkill and just ridiculous. Josh Groban should have sung HIS nominated song solo, without the “help” of Beyonce. All of this years changes were for the worse. The academy is not going to win young audiences with Chris Rock and Beyonce. That kind of audience doesn’t even watch the movies that are good enough to win Academy Awards. Maybe next year they’ll get a clue.
Haralovich makes interesting points about the formal and aesthetic differences present in this year’s Oscar’s ceremony. I agree with her; the lesser known Oscar recipients should receive as much credit and recognition as any other recipients on the show. I must ask, though, at what cost? The Oscar’s ceremony remains the Academy’s most profitable endeavor and allows the institution to “maintain a . . . wide-ranging cultural agenda.” (Haralovich) If every recipient received the same attention the show would run for hours and the audience would get fatigued. Consequently, the producers must look to structural changes and efficiency. I’ve often slept through the last half of the late running show, and I think a shorter ceremony will appeal to more viewers. Most viewers aren’t film students or media critics, they’re average Americans with an eye for celebrities and high production value. This year’s ceremony was a little overblown, and I think the Academy should make a stronger attempt at compromise in next year’s show.
Haralovich has a definite point: the 2005 Oscars did indeed overlook an opportunity to educate an audience that they hold captive almost every year in favor of spectacle and excitement. That is not to say that the telecast does not at the same time have an obligation to “entertain,” but should all other things be cast aside in the pursuit of that aim? I, myself, am an avid viewer of the Oscar telecast and have been for years, but the presentations this year were slightly “off-color,” to say the least, and no doubt scandalizing to anyone who operated under the notion that they could once again glean some information or an understanding about what the Academy deems “excellence.” The producers of the show have consistently been looking for ways to shorten the traditionally-telecast (which has been lightly ridiculed by every host for as long as I can remember) and thus we received the sterilized inane production of 2005. In the aim of shortening the show and speeding things along for the sake of ratings and entertainment, we were, as Haralovich states, not shown even a single frame of animation from any of the nominated shorts. How is one to know what made those pieces so deserving of nomination? Overall, Haralovich hints at the sad truth that the telecast was not at all about “[maintaining] a wide-ranging educational and cultural agenda” but rather about self-congratulation and fueling the fires of Hollywood glamor.
This last Oscar’s show really does show how little education is emphasized. Without showing clips of the winners how is one to know what exactly to look for? Isn’t this ceremony not only to give out awards but to make the public aware of what has been going on in the film community? The sci-tech awards are really a shame though, given a completely separate day for their achievements without which films would still be using black and white without sound. Excitement over education, is this a product of budgeting time? Making sure that the microphone slumps down into the floor so that the ceremony doesn’t go over their allotted time. This has been coming for a while though because the ceremonies, back as far as I can remember, always seemed to have another award before “Best Picture” and always an hour over on time.
Mary Beth Haralovich’s article presents a coherant and thorough argument in what is a valid critique of the modern day Oscar Ceremony. I believe that her concerns regarding the seemingly apparent rejection of educational, intellectual and industry relavent content in the Oscar Ceremony are well founded and certainly worth addressing. Obviously the Academy and the network has an obligation to draw in viewers and to entertain the masses, as is true with all television programming, however, one must ask whether or not this level of oversimplication of ideas and truncating of presentations is really necessary. Perhaps it is a childish perspective – but I have always viewed the Oscar’s as a celebration of a quality of art that somehow transcends the competition driven, business-minded rat race of the entertainment world. Nowadays, the Oscar’s gives off the feeling that it was created by People magazine or the E! Television Network rather than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; the event seems to target teenybopper girls wondering how Johnny Depp will make himself unconventially beautiful once again rather than genuine movie lovers across the globe. Although many may contend that this is an unavoidable development in a world that does not have time for anything but economics and marketing, I shall cling resolutely to my romanticized dream of a glorious comeback of unabridged quality in network programming.