The Academy Award of Merit - the official name for the Oscar - is a statuette of a knight standing on a reel of film gripping a crusader’s sword. Which may explain why Hollywood has been on a crusade to drive high quality films from the cinema. But that's a blog for another day. In case you're wondering where the name Oscar came from, the statue was actually nameless until 1931 when, according to Hollywood legend, an Academy secretary claimed that it looked like her uncle Oscar.
But enough about the 8.5 lb., gold plated, tin and copper statuette - Dan Kois' Slate article seeks public opinion on how to fix the Oscars - which is also the official nickname of the telecast that highlights the most prestigious awards.
I don't believe that Kois thinks there is anything fundamentally wrong with the concept of the awards themselves, it's more to do with the delivery of the telecast. He seems to be hung up on the poor hosts, dumb categories and interminable dance numbers. My take on fixing the telecast has more to do with how it used to be rather than containing anything useful for increasing the quality of this March's ceremony. So, in a sense, this blog is about as valuable as the films that will be nominated for the awards themselves.
37 million people are reported to have watched the Oscars last year. That number did not include me. I grew up watching Bob Hope then Johnny Carson host. To me, these were the halcyon days, er nights, of Oscar. I like Billy Crystal - I'll still watch City Slickers if I come across it channel surfing - but I'm not sure he exudes the appropriate gravitas to carry it off.
18-time host Bob Hope
To truly be able to host the Oscars, you need two things; the first is pure, unadulterated star power. Hope had it, Carson had it. Crystal? Eh! Not so much. I'm racking my brain trying to think of someone who might have the requisite star power and I'm failing miserably. Is there a star left in Hollywood? Clooney? Pitt? Hanks? Maybe. But then I think they would fail the second test: the ability to be funny. I don't mean insulting (Ricky, are you listening?), I mean truly, hilariously, inside-jokingly funny. Part of it involves having the stature (see #1) to not fear reprisals; part is that certain je ne c'est quoi that the greats had. Conan? Leno? Letterman? Stewart? Nope. Sorry. All of those guys are way too obvious.
Franco and Hathaway - not exactly Astair and Rogers...
Wait, you say; this is the Terrific Tens; a new century. What about having a lady host? Okay. I’m game. Take the criteria above and tell me who’s got it? Oprah? Sorry, not funny. DeGeneres? Sorry, she’s funny and can probably pull off the humor, but she doesn’t have the star power. Ellen did host one year...one year.
Think about it. The stars of the fifties, sixties, and even the seventies (with those hideous tuxedoes) were stars that didn’t have to work at being stars. They weren't movie stars because we made them stars...they just were. Lauren Bacall? Bogart? Peck? Wayne? Taylor? I could go on. They were Hollywood. Today, Hollywood is just a place in California. The iconic sign is more famous than the studios or the pictures they produce. Back in the day Hollywood was the place! Bogey would have squinted through the smoke and said, “The thing that dreams are made of.”
Then he would’ve kicked James Franco’s butt.
What do you think?