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Does Oscar Need A Makeover?

With Mike Pesca in for Tom Ashbrook

It’s time for the Academy Awards. We’ll talk winners and losers and ask whether it’s time for an Oscar revamp.

With B.J. Nicodemus driving the golf cart, Shawn Schull hangs onto a large Oscar statue outside the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009. (AP)

With B.J. Nicodemus driving the golf cart, Shawn Schull hangs onto a large Oscar statue outside the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009. (AP)

The lead up to the Oscars is extremely loud, what with the ceremony being incredibly close.  Wooing voters is a war, tracking it all is like a horse race, money’s on the line, because it pays well to be the belle of this ball.

It seems like the Oscar goes to the huckster as often as the artist.  The ceremony itself goes well past midnight; in Paris they call that matraquage excessif. Hugo to the movies to see the descendents of Hitchcock and Wilder ply their trade. But a tweaking, if not an overhaul, of the awards is in order. We’re here to provide the help.

This hour, On Point: comprehensive Oscar reform.

-Mike Pesca


Anne Thomson, writes the film column “Thompson on Hollywood” at Indiewire.

Peter Bart, vice president and editorial director of Variety, where he writes a weekly column.

Manohla Dargis, co-chief film critic for The New York Times.

From The Reading List

Variety “The nation’s ideological temperature is already soaring and the head-to-head presidential campaign hasn’t even started yet. Even a political junkie like George Clooney admits he could not have created anything as off the wall as the Newt-Mitt-and-Rick show for one of his films.”

Slate “We at Slate want to fix the Oscars, but we need your help. Read the introduction and submit your brilliant, offbeat, or outrageous idea for how to make the voting process and the Oscar telecast better.”

Time “The list of movie greats who never won an Academy Award is long and sad, but there are significant artists and pictures eliminated from contention before Oscar races even begin.”


Paka Ua by Ozzie Kotani & Daniel Ho

Man or Muppet  by The Muppets

George Valentin by The Artist


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  • RolloMartins

    It’s that time of year again. You know, when you turn on the Telly for the first ten minutes to watch the comic schtick, turn it off, and go to bed.

    • SteveV

      IF you can take 10 minutes of this tripe.

  • Anonymous

    Too many BEST PICTURE nominations… what happened to choosing just 5? 

  • Anonymous

    I think the expansion to ten best picture nominees was a mistake.  They should have added best comedy instead as they rarely win against dramas for best picture.  Most years the songs are awful so eliminating their performances could be a good idea, but this year I would have liked to have seen the Muppets perform.  They should have Ricky Gervais host.

  • Quadraticus

    I really don’t understand why people care so much what accolades film industry insiders award to each other. The only thing that matters is what *you* like to watch: if you aren’t a sheep, what does a popularity contest have to do with this?

  • Elainego

    Shorten the show — too much boring filler. Don’t try so hard to be entertaining.  Give out the awards and leave some room for spontaneity — like the Golden Globes.

  • jim

    Yes definitely. the main one is how they distribute awards. the oscar is NOT a legit award for whatever it intends to do. why? the committee is completely politically charged. the best actor, actress, and film are NOT usually awarded each year. i wish the committee is objective, because people’s career is on the line, especially underpaid screen writers.

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    In 2010, I saw three movies that I thought were instant classics – Inception, Social Network and The King’s Speech.  They were very different (well, all male-dominated), but they were excellent movies and I think they’ll all stand the test of time.  For 2011, there were some very good movies, like The Artist, The Descendents, My Week with Marilyn, Hugo, Albert Nobbs, A Dangerous Method, The Help, but each of them had some problems.  None of them grabbed me as much as I’d like a potential Best Picture Oscar-winner to grab me. There were some outstanding performances this year, especially by Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs, but I wouldn’t be unhappy if any of the nominated actresses won Best Actress.

    • Anonymous

      I thought the Albert Nobbs performance was creepy.  The supporting actress in that film did a great job though.

      • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

        Janet McTeer.  Close and McTeer are the people I’d like to see win the acting awards this year.  The Albert Nobbs character was in a weird situation, and I thought Close’s performance was spot-on given what we learn about the character’s past.  But the housepainter was a completely different character, and a very different physical size, so her very different take on “how to be a man” was completely appropriate.  However, I expect Octavia Spencer, who was very, very good in The Help, will be the one to take home the Best Supporting Actress Award.

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    As for the Oscar Show, it was really pretty bad last year, and I look forward to seeing Billy Crystal MC it again this year.  I’m sorry they’ve decided to drop the song performances, particularly since there were only two songs nominated, and the “Man or Muppet” song is brilliant.

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    I agree with the host’s comments on The Artist.  The movie had its moments, but, in many ways, it’s a more solemn remake of Singing in the Rain (which is still fun after 60 years).  I’d much rather see George Clooney win Best Actor this year than Jean Dujardin

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    The thing I hate most about the Oscars is the over-emphasis on fashion (“Who are you wearing?” *Groan*).  I watched Groundhog Day instead of any Oscar pre-show last year, which seemed more appropriate.

  • Susan

    Did I really hear “Not sure why the accents or why set in Paris?” Does she not know from where George Melies worked?

    • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

      Most of the people in Hugo spoke using English accents, which seemed weird for a movie set in Paris about Parisians.  Have to agree with that, but, otherwise, the movie is delightful.

      • Susan

        Agreed. I loved the movie. Just couldn’t believe there was a question of why it was set in Paris? Isn’t the book set in Paris?

        • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

          Yes - http://www.theinventionofhugocabret.com/about_hugo_intro.htm

  • Rex

    Who the hell is Jimmy Franco? I mean, come on. I’ve never heard James Franco called Jimmy.

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    What do you mean there’s no favorite for Best Actor?  Jean Dujardin has swept almost every Best Actor award leading up to the Oscars.  I would prefer Clooney to win, but Dujardin was very good.

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    Absolutely agree with Anne on Hugh Jackman.  He was great.  Tina Fey and Ellen Degeneres would also be very good.  Frankly, George Clooney would be a great host.

  • Barry

    Thank you, Manohla, for that intervention into this ignorant dissing of The Artist.  Jean Dujardin’s craft is superlative, and anyone who knows anything about acting will recognize it.  Similarly, The Artist matches the level of craftsmanship, and is good enough to be mentioned in comparison with, the sublime artistry of Chaplin, Keaton, Tati.  The fact that some people like Mike Pesca no longer even recognize the level of artistic achievement here says a lot about how degraded our sensibilities have become.

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    Agree that the IMDB readers often pick better “movies of the year” than Oscar voters do.   Of course, I’ve been active on IMDB for a very long time…

  • Ehdoss

    Tighten it up?   You mean dumb it down to fit the American intellect people.
    It should be a half-hour show with one  super-starto match our attention span.

    • Ruens

      Do you watch the Oscars? Four hours is too long. Nothing to do w/poor attention spans or stupidity. It’s entertainment, and it would benefit from some careful editing. Like most things.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Some people are paid MANY MULTIPLES of what I make, to present the Oscar show!   Why are you asking me, and others, to do their job for them, for free?
       Like other grossly-over-paid CEOs, they demand the pay, without the competence to do the job?

    • Modavations

      What a truly miserable life you must lead.Always put upon,always a gripe

  • Modavations

    In my opinion best pic is Midnite in Paris,with Descendents a close second.I loved the Artist,but only the last 5 minutes when they danced.To all you poofs,I dance equally well.

  • Bea

    My modest suggestions:
    1.  Start it at 8pm.
    2.  Have each nominee record their thank you speech at the nominees luncheon.  They can then play that pre-recorded video on a split screen while the winner makes his or her way to the stage during the live show to pick up the statue and just wave.
    3.  Get over the idea that every single category must be awarded during the telecast.  Just tell us who won on the way to the commercial breaks and skip the stupid speeches.

  • Teomanto

    Yes; maybe reform is needed. But we’re trashing the aged 62+ people here; yet we should remember, we would never have TREE OF LIFE / MALICK in the list of nominees if it weren’t for them.

  • Teomanto

    We should never talk about how to make Oscars more relevant, by the way. Relevant to who? The audiences? Well, we have people’s choice awards for that. We should first change our mindset. These are a collection of 6000 some people and they pick their favorite films. So instead of labeling something as ‘Best Picture’, maybe we should label them as ‘favorite picture of the academy’. Also, I suggest that we get rid of this 5% first place vote. We saw the result of that this year. Their 1st place choices are pretty weak. Let’s go back to 5 PICTURES; and also the old voting system

  • Disappointed

    I was disappointed to hear Mike call the Oscars the “gay superbowl”. This implies that they are not as valid as the real superbowl, and that gays are not as valid as real people. Mike, you are straight. There is context as to who is making the joke, and that is not one that you can make without more or less perpetuating a cultural norm that justifies inequality. I know you probably don’t see it, and I’m not going to post a sociological thesis on here because it would be too long and you probably wouldn’t understand it anyway. Next time you might as well just use the word faggot. 

  • Anonymous

    I’ve watched 7 of the 9 nominated films this year; when there was 5 nominations I made it a point to watch everyone. Now, I watch every film nominated for director and picture(no picture not nominated for director has won picture since 89). 

    I’ve never watched more than 20 minutes of the telecast and have no plans to watch it tonight. I’ll instead sit down on my computer around 10:15 or so and listen to this show while eyeing imdb for the results. I’ve always wondered if they can’t get me to watch who can they get.  

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