A film’s producer was asked about his DP—or “director of photography”—or “cinematographer” in case he’s nominated for anything. “He should be great,” he laughed. “But this is his first non-television gig. He might be too efficient!”
Sunday’s Emmy Awards was a perfect example of the terrible crime of being too efficient. The Oscars are notoriously always late–– a tiresome joke that probably began with “Wings” in 1929. Last February I discussed kicking Oscar out of the bingo hall (link). Not sure if anyone at ABC read it, but perhaps they noticed the show from the Fox producers of the Emmy Awards–Oscar’s “little brother on the little screen”–that now produces more quality filmmaking then any 10 hour epic created by Peter Jackson.
The big winner was once again HBO. “Olive Kitteridge,” “Veep” and “Game of Thrones” clobbered most of the competition. ”Mad Men” did get its farewell nod as Jon Hamm took his much deserved recognition in his interesting goofy style–– so contrary to Donald Draper. But Amazon did well and Netflix was once again strongly represented. (I’d love the thoughts of old studio moguls like L.B. Mayer on mail-order companies pushing them around.)
As has been noted before, the Golden Globes really has the perfect formula. They honor great filmmaking, whether it is coming from an overpriced cineplex or through a little Roku on your dresser. Really, the only difference is that no one is kicking the chair behind you and you can buy some popcorn without taking out a second mortgage.
But what really worked for the Emmys was the pace of the show–no dance numbers, no unnecessary montages, no backstage interviews. The Academy Awards may take some important lessons and finally end the show on time without its audience needing another shave.
- Featuring the Unknown. Rather than just read the names of people no one knows, the producers chose to actually spend a little time to interview and assemble (albeit sarcastically and fun) segments of the writers, directors, etc. so that the vital behind-the-scenes folks are given their due. The tongue-in-cheek style of their answers to rather cheesy questions like “How do you write comedy?” was very well done. Then, as the envelope is being opened, the viewer actually has a bit of an investment in who these people were.
- Merging Winners with Presenters. The guest appearances in series category is an interesting one. It’s like the supporting supporting actor. Each of the nominees have their clips shown in an interesting co-ed merge, then the winner is announced and out they pop from the funky backdrop to present the next category. It would have been nice to have a little bit of a pause before the winner was announced and actually allow that winner to acknowledge that they won something, but it was a refreshing start and the Oscars may try to do something similar with its many, many, many categories that have people turn the channel between 9:30 and 11 PM.
- Best Use of Jumbotron. I was wondering at the beginning of the telecast why Andy Samberg had such a giant longshot of him as a small speck on a huge stage. But then as the categories were read and you could see the nominees without the generally goofy picture-in-picture it worked out nicely—and got a nice laugh when Amy Poehler did her best impersonation of a very bored gum-chewer in hoodie and sunglasses.
- Tight Nominee Reading. Some clever editor also shaved at least 10 minutes off the show by simply squishing together the names of each of the nominees. It was just the right pace to not seem too rushed but also not have that awkward pause in between where the audience might start clapping for a favorite and not allow the next nominee’s mother to hear her daughter’s name. Granted, it would be nice to see a segment of each performance–but perhaps, as I suggested post-Oscars, that might happen in a bonus hour on another cable channel leading into the show.
- No Awkward Orchestra Bullying. Julia Roberts’ famous run-in with Rocky composer Bill Conti (“Stickman, I see you”) [link at the 4:10 mark] when she accepted her Oscar for Erin Brockovich is still one of my favorite cringe worthy moments at the Academy Awards along with Michael Moore being booed for criticizing President Bush––only to be generally recognized as correct just a year later. But Sunday, during important speeches, there was no obvious signs of “wrap it up” but instead Jeffry Tambor is allowed to share his thoughts and gratitude to the transgender community and Viola Davis calls out the triple-paned glass ceiling that African American actresses have endured—all without being pushed around by a Revlon commercial. And the actors seem to understand when to speak and when not to speak as well. Peter Dinklage and Francis McDormand Took their awards, gave a nod of thanks, and pushed all of the credit to the writers and producers.
Today there’s no shame for an Oscar-winning actor to be on television series or “limited series” as John Oliver pointed out–“Every show on television will go off the air eventually … with the sole exception of Jeopardy.” And certainly, As George Clooney or Tom Hanks can point out, television stars can move smoothly to the silver screen.
So, if the giant actors of film, such as Kevin Spacey, Michael Douglas and Viola Davis, don’t mind television––let alone Netflix or Amazon, it only makes sense that finally the brontosaurus in the room, the ponderous Oscar telecast, might take a few lessons from TV.