Naysayers are already predicting that this year's Oscars will be among the lowest-rated in years. The main problem is being chalked up to a rather lackluster year in film. The top films this year are all pretty good, but almost none of them is knock-you-out fabulous. Sure, the Academy could have given us an epic battle between Jesus and Michael Moore, pitting The Passion of the Christ against Fahrenheit 9/11 in the Best Picture category, but nooooo.
Believe it or not, this is the first time in 15 years without at least one $100 million blockbuster going into the top category. In fact, all five films up for Best Picture this year (The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Million Dollar Baby, Ray and Sideways) have collectively been seen by fewer moviegoers than any batch of nominees in the last 20 years. If viewers aren't excited about the movies, they aren't going to be excited about the Oscars.
Which is too bad, really. This is the Oscars. You never know what can happen. We've had streakers, award refusals, political speeches and more bad dresses than you can shake your Vera Wang at.
This year, the producers are trying their damnedest to hip up the room. Fiery comedian Chris Rock will be hosting his very first Oscar gig. The comedian started to stir up a bit of controversy earlier this month when he told Entertainment Weekly that he's never watched an entire Oscar telecast, and that “no straight black man” has ever watched the show. A few Academy members got huffy, but--in the end--nobody really cared. The show will go on with the addition of an uncharacteristic five-second delay. This has less to do with the often-profane Rock and more to do with the post-Janet paranoia of all TV Land.
Another major change this year is a more concerted effort to speed the show up. Winners in some of the smaller categories will no longer be allowed on stage to speak: They will simply be handed their statue in the audience. This is a major bummer if you're the guy who wins Best Sound Effects Editing. But, in all brutal honesty, who the hell cares what the best sound effects editor has to say? (Unless, of course, he gives his entire speech in sound effects like that guy from Police Academy.)
As always, the list of presenters reads like a “Who's Who” of Hollywood pretty people, from Drew Barrymore to Orlando Bloom to Salma Hayek to Ziyi Zhang. Musical performers include Antonio Banderas, Beyoncé, Counting Crows, Josh Groban and Carlos Santana. And, unless you're a huge fan of the overexposed Ms. Beyoncé (she'll perform three of the five nominated tunes), the “Best Original Song” medley might be your best bet for a bathroom break.
Who knows: With a little luck maybe Martin Scorsese will pull a “Joe Pesce” and stick a pen in Clint Eastwood's throat when he loses his fifth Best Director Oscar. ... Now that's good TV.