Oscar Rubber-Necking: Some Favorite Head-Shakers (with New Podcast)


We ran this post last year, but it still holds true today–unfortunately.  Take a listen to a 2014 Podcast with Oscar expert and contributor, Sheri Horwitz.

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It’s like a family reunion, where the drunk uncle always shows up and upsets everyone’s big plans.  You all look forward to the event, then drive home wondering what happened.  

And somehow, you can’t imagine having a reunion without that drunk uncle. Here’s my list of favorite Oscar night annoyances.

1. Red Carpet Silly Questions:  Beyond the usual “Who are you wearing?” this slow train-wreck involving screaming bleachers and limousines moving at 3 miles per week is spear-headed by pretty people who seem so over-the-top enthused to be talking to the celebrities that if Robert Downey, Jr. would actually do what his eye-rolling indicates and invoke Bobby Knight’s “Any more stupid questions?” I’d consider the evening a triumph, even before we get to…

2. Cheesy-Announcer-Guy (C.A.G.):  The clock ticking away the seconds as the camera rolls through the lobby of the Kodak Theatre is heralded by “And now” in the best Guy Smiley game-show host voice imaginable.  The drum roll takes us down the aisle and if we’re really lucky, if this year’s producers have decided to have C.A.G. offer some important snippets of information as the camera shoves itself into the front three rows and Meryl Streep acts like she’s enjoying it:  “Ms. Streep is nominated for her 73rd Oscar and says that every time she wins it’s special,” C.A.G. may inform us.

3.  Vanishing Host Syndrome:  I have high hopes that Seth MacFarlane will be the next Billy Crystal and breathe some new life into Oscar’s old bones.  Even Billy Crystal’s re-emergence offers a shadow of himself–like one of his beloved Yankees staying in the majors a few years longer and dropping his lifetime batting average.  But the poor host traditionally gets a long opening, then vanishes into the shadows only to pop out at the end to say, “Good night everyone.”  Billy Crystal and Steve Martin’s “ad-lib” comments after long-speeches or strange outfits usually works and MacFarlane should do fine.  This year, there’s a musical number to end it all–we shall see.  I’m hoping that it’s as irreverent as most “Family Guy” musical numbers are and not a Rob Lowe/Snow White awkward 10 minute/8 hour moment.

4.  Musical Speech Cut-Offs:  It’s always amazed me that the Oscars complains about its own length of time (insert tired joke about finishing next year) but doesn’t really address the quick solution.  Don’t have a set-ending.  Treat it like a football game that might go into overtime.  Why cut the speeches for the two fellows who wrote the entire film (and probably wrote good speeches) but keep the over-the-top rendition of “Ghostbusters” with Dom Deluise singing lead?  (Yes, it really happened.)  Julia Roberts caught some flack for yelling at the conductor for starting his song during her speech, but come on–are we all in that big of a hurry to see our local news?

5.  Bring Out Your Dead:  My first Oscars-viewing was in 1976 as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” swept the awards.  I tuned in because I had seen my first PG film, “Jaws” and figured it was going to win.  I didn’t know what all the fuss was about that evening over a mental ward.  It was also my first exposure to the “In Memoriam” aspect of the Oscars.  In 1976, many of Hollywood’s biggest stars were still around (Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn, John Wayne) and some even presented that night (William Wyler, Audrey Hepburn, Charlton Heston).  And that’s when they honor their own who passed over the last year.  Every year they do a different sort of montage.  Recently, James Taylor sang funeral services as a montage of faces played behind him.  My favorite technique is for them to show, along with their faces, clips from their films and their title.  (I still find it strange to honor publicists and agents during this bit–perhaps it’s now part of the contract for stars:  “If I die before you, I must be in the montage.”  There’s always a polite fade to black at the end where we cut to a Revlon commercial.

6.  The Politically Correct Cut-Away:  Since all the speeches by the presenters, along with the host’s monologue, is rehearsed with camera men 80 or so times, there’s always the cut-aways as someone on stage refers to a particular star.  One of the more awkward reaction-shots is if a speech is dealing with a particular culture (ethnicity, gender, etc.) and the director chooses to cut to the representatives of that subject matter in a heavy-handed edit.

7.  The Unimportant Second Hour:  For some reason, as the show plods along, the producers can’t figure out what to do between 9:30 and 10:30.  It’s usually when the costume and makeup Oscars get handed out and when the clips of the Best Pictures get played.  Then there’s the musical number–or worse, the combination of two songs accompanied by interpretive dancers or the cast of “Stomp.”  Very weird.

8.  No Clips or Weird Clips:  When Matt Dillon was nominated for “Crash,” the clip I was waiting to see of his excellent performance was the look on his face when he realized that the woman he had molested would rather die in a burning vehicle than touch him.  Instead, we see him in the parking lot telling Ryan Phillipe, the trite, “You think you know;  you have no idea.”  Some performances become Hollywood legend based upon one scene, and quite often the editors miss that scene when they’re picking their highlights.

9.  Montage-arama:  I used to like the montages.  You could always count on Cary Grant running from a plane, Charlton Heston holding chariot reigns, Judy Garland clicking her heels.  Even Billy Crystal’s lampooning of the montage as he was inserted and raced through classic scenes to get to the ceremony was fun.  Then someone discovered that the montages were a favorite part, and suddenly there were “Oscar’s tribute to silent films, animation, slasher films, musicals, musical animated silent slasher films, etc.  After the third one, I always want to hear the conductor tap his baton and cut them short.

In a few hours, we’ll hear C.A.G. and I can’t wait, just like we all look forward to seeing that uncle!

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About Kevin Walsh

Kevin began MyMediaDiary.com in 2013 as an experiment that was as simple as "What's a blog?" and ended up becoming a forum for fellow writers. He's been a high school teacher for 28 years and worked as an administrator and instructor in colleges for 10 years since then. Contact him at: kevin@mymediadiary.com He is also the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at www.mmdphotovideo.com which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His high school media production text, "Video Direct," has been used in 40 states--and he occasionally still sells a few. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two kids Aidan and Abby who have all graciously allowed him to write about them on occasion.

One Response to Oscar Rubber-Necking: Some Favorite Head-Shakers (with New Podcast)

  1. Joe M says:

    When I was growing up, Oscar night was the most exciting night of the year. It used to be on a Monday night at 8:00. Mom wouldn’t let me watch until the begging was to much even for her. I think I was about 10 when I was finally allowed to watch. Back then the Oscars was the only chance to see the stars live. No daily dose of celebrity gossip back then. Photoplay Magazine and the Oscars was about it. How times have changed. I still get excited.