Monday, February 23, 2009
Why the Academy Awards Shouldn't Be Televised, or Why Daniel Craig Isn't That Hot When He's Reading From a Teleprompter
About a hundred years ago, I worked in the tech services department for a company that did huge corporate events. Mostly we served the Mega Beer Company, but we did our thing for a few other corporations as well.
Here's the scene: Slightly nervous men in suits standing on stages, reading bad speeches and even worse jokes about beer from a teleprompter. Often they had elaborate videos playing behind them. Sometimes they would be forced to do skits in which they were the--hahaha!--butts of more bad jokes. Occasionally, if it was a convention for, say, beer wholesalers, someone who had been famous in 1970 would come onstage and sing short versions of their semi-famous songs, and then speak briefly about how wonderful they all were to be so wonderfully loyal to Mega Beer, and, by the way--"Let's all adjourn to the patio and have a Mega Beer!" At which point the singer would slip away and board his plane back to Vegas or Sacramento or whatever, leaving the beer sellers to party the night away at Hawaiian, Oktoberfest, or Cajun-themed food kiosks in the adjoining ballroom.
Sound familiar? I know that there probably weren't themed food kiosks in the vestibule of the Kodak Theater (or wherever the show takes place these days), but I expect you get the idea.
No one wants to see the lame awards program for a private organization. Really. I think there must be some confusion because the Academy Awards involves Beautiful People who are paid to be In Front of Cameras. Here are these actors--the vast percentage of whom work in a highly-edited, recorded form--forced to stand on a stage wearing beautiful (or ridiculous clothes) to parrot lines from a teleprompter about films they care nothing about and weren't actually in. That's almost a cruelty, don't you think? And they're supposed to be funny? I couldn't bear to watch most of last night's telecast because it was so, as my daughter says, "Awkward Turtle!" (She actually does this little turtle hand motion--hard to describe, I'm afraid.)
I have had the privilege to hang around some in-the-regional-trenches theater folk and have seen them do a much better job of things.
Greenbrier Valley Theatre is the small regional theater in Lewisburg, WV. Years ago, when their fancy in-town theater was still in the construction stages, they performed in a converted barn. At the end of each season, they would do an end-of-year awards show--but it was private, for cast, crew and friends only. These events were some of the funniest, bawdiest things I've ever seen. Actors are fun! Actors are a little weird! Actors, when they're playing, are wildly uninhibited! The GVT actors and crew were deliciously snarky, they mocked one another and mocked themselves, they teased the anal-retentive propmaster, they ribbed the lighting director, they dressed up in bizarre costumes and did skits that had only fifteen minutes of rehearsal (if that), yet had people rolling in the aisles. It was delightful!
I suspect that Ben Stiller would be hysterically funny behind closed doors. Can you imagine what Jennifer Aniston might have said about Brangelina if there were no cameras rolling?
Here's what I would prefer: Do the red carpet thing. Watch the stars file into the theater all prettied up. Get lots of photos and lame replies about whose designs they're wearing. Then let them lock the doors behind them for two or three hours. Let one of them blog the awards so we know who wins as each award is presented. Stream the announcements at the bottom of the screen during reruns of The Office or Seinfeld or a showing of All About Eve. Give us something fun to watch. Then, when it's all over, film the actors coming out of the theater.
Let us be amazed, asking, "Hey, isn't that Naomi Watts in that chicken suit? Is that mustard all over the back of Nicole Kidman's dress? What in the world is Robert deNiro wearing on his head, and why is Charlize Theron being helped into an ambulance?!"
I'm dreaming, I know. Next year, it's going to be the same, dull dog and pony show, isn't it? Thank goodness for beer. And the DVR. Oh, and E! and similar websites where I can see the dresses the next day. Small comforts.