It seems that no one could stand the show's vulgar bloat which grew bigger year after year after year - and yet no one approves of any attempts to remove the unsightly girth either. In fact, one self-appointed "Oscar analyst" (a breed of nobodies who are multiplying faster than rodents) has categorically declared that "the Oscars cannot be fixed."
The people who run The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (essentially the stage mother behind the Oscarcast) made a smart movie when they eliminated the gratuitous, Vegas-style "Hurray for Hollywood" production numbers. And despite an embarrassing plea from a staff writer for The Los Angeles Times, I like the idea of going host-less this year.
Do we really need one of ABC's late-night hosts or some stand-up comic wasting precious time with pathetic jokes at the expense of all the attention addicts in the audience? For years, the Golden Globes got along just fine without a host, only an unseen announcer introducing each pair of presenters. But then, The Hollywood Foreign felt the need to bring on Ricky Gervais to host (memorably), followed by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (also excellent) and suddenly, it was in the host-hunting mode, too.
An awards show should exist for only one reason - to dole out awards. All that's needed are for fabulous movie stars to come on stage to announce the winners who, in turn, are given ample (read: reasonable) time to thank people who have no real connection to their achievement (wives, mothers, kids, analysts, managers, press agents and workout gurus).
No frills. If done correctly, the ordeal could be done in two hours, tops.
But forget about the highs and lows of the show. What none of the show-biz pundits bother to examine is the relevance of these awards in general, particularly the Oscars (formerly known as the Academy Awards).
OK, someone has to say it: They're ultimately meaningless, all of them - and, surprisingly, most of all the Oscar. Quick! Who and what won the top Oscars last year? Boing! Time's up! I've a hunch that you couldn't answer that question without doing a hasty Google search. The winners always fade from memory - and much more quickly than they did in the past.
These days, the Oscars (both the nominations and the ultimate winners) mean only one thing to the studios: $$$$$$$$$$ - increased revenues for the type of movies that they make grudgingly, only because they win awards. And awards = money. As for the actors who win, for a few years after, they get Big Deals to star in Big Movies (the kind that don't win awards). Case in point: Brie Larson. And another: Eddie Redmayne.
I like Brie Larson but it's difficult to remember that she has an Oscar.
Glenn Close is a safe bet to win the Best Actress award Sunday night (for "The Wife") but, at age 71, it's doubtful if she'll suddenly be in demand as much as Larson and Redmayne were after their wins. Close, a seven-time loser, will win but, a few months from now, will anyone remember?
That's the way it with the Oscar these days. The sense of achievement is fleeting. It goes away. And it's good to remember that, even in its earliest incarnation, dating back to 1928, the Oscar was not about achievement.
Far from it. In fact, there are two reasons why Hollywood invented the Oscar - and neither was about art or real achievement.
One was all about, for lack of a better word, "appearances" - the desperate need to appear respectable. And the second reason involved the one element that has always driven the movie industry - power.
The industry had a rather sullied reputation back in the 1920s, seemingly promoting sex and violence and threatening to corrupt children and destroy the family unit and, by extension, the country. There was a serious threat of government censorship that could stymie the industry.
So what better damage control than to champion all the wonderful, uplifting and artistic accomplishments of movies? By giving awards to itself, the industry somehow would acquire "class." True, that doesn't make any sense at all but, if you think about it, the ploy worked.
The second, more pressing reason for the creation of the Oscars had to do with union-busting, which had become difficult on a studio-by-studio basis. But, as the saying goes, United We Stand. By banding together as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the studios became one powerful monolithic structure and the awards themselves personified this.
The Oscar became a symbol. And the less-than-subtle implication was that, if someone was a member of a union, that person would be ineligible to vie for an award. The Academy originally consisted almost solely of studio executives who selected the nominees and winners, rewarding those who played along. It was not uncommon for the wives, mistresses and girlfriends of the executives to win the top acting awards.
One of the unexpected bonuses of all this was increased box office - money again. Big Money. An Oscar-winning film or performance proved Hollywood had "class" and, in turn, impressed the paying public. All of this has contributed to the movie industry's preening, overbearing self-regard.
The Oscar - a shrewd idea that's been a win-win situation for the movie industry for 90 years now, making the award bigger with each decade, but as we've learned, not necessarily better. Its history has been conveniently eradicated by Hollywood and kept from those fans still in the thrall of it.
But the thrill is gone.
Note in Passing: Curiously, the various movie unions never went away - and actors, long under the thumbs of the studios, eventually unionized themselves, forming The Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Which now gives out its own awards! More is not enough in Hollywood. Anyway, the studios may have lost their union-busting fight but they won the respectability - and the respect - that they so desperately coveted, thanks to the Oscars.
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~A winner seemingly pleasuring his Oscar
~A winner seemingly pleasuring his Oscar