Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Readers say Academy Awards need some changes.

Best of 2008
Actor - Daniel day-Lewis, Supporting Actress - Tila Swinton, Actress - Marilon Cottilard, and Supporting Actor - Javier Bardem.

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I received some comments by e-mail concerning the previous two posts about the recent Academy Awards television broadcast. Perhaps, I didn't make myself as clear as I had wished, or the readers didn't find the points clear enough for them. So I shall try to explain a little better for those of you who wrote.

First of all, my point was really that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences seeks to honor its own, and that is exactly what it did for almost three decades. Then, television came along and things began to change. Now, television, a.k.a., the ABC Network at the moment, has a huge say about the Academy Awards. They want ratings because they do it for money. Rightfully so, as they are a business, and they just extended their contract with the Academy for seven years. So, they are happy.

Around the world movie fans, and those who work in the industry in foreign countries want to see the Oscars. Once the Academy starts live streaming on the Internet, the entire world will be happy, except maybe ABC.

The Academy wants everyone to be happy. The Academy today is a super big business. It is no longer that dinner at a Hollywood hotel, and awards being given out among a few invited guests. They started to allow the radio broadcast fairly early on, and the importance of the Oscars started to grow.

Next, along came television, and the Academy awards began changing radically. Now, there is the Internet and the Academy foot soldiers are fiercely trying to catch up, yet they want to hang on to televisions' coattails at the same time.

Today, the money the broadcast, and the satellite businesses that generate money for that broadcast, propel the Academy Awards. The Guilds mostly influence the actual nominations and cast the most votes within the Academy. The Guilds honor their own. The Academy is only the conduit, which has turned the Academy Award broadcast into a big, brash, glittery financially rewarding circus.

As a former part-time member of the USC faculty of Cinema, and a sometime writer and producer, I know very well what craft people do and their importance to the industry. I was not slighting them, only suggesting some logistical changes.

And, yes, I know that star power is fading, but actors are still very relevant to movies and are paid well for what they do. I still think most people see a movie, either at a theater, on DVD, Internet streaming, etc., based on three things: who is in it, who directed it, and what is it about?

Also, I constantly promote independent films here. I picked 'Hurt Locker' as an Academy Award winner and Kathryn Bigelow to win best director as soon as the movie was released. I know first hand the discrimination women have experienced in both the movie and television industries for so many years, and Bigelow's win made history.

I promoted 'Slumdog Millionair' and 'The Kite Runner,' when few had heard of them, and the same for this year's 'Winter's Bone'. I also championed 'Hustle and Flow' and the song from that movie for best song, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," and the song won. Of course, I am a little partial as I have long-standing ties with Memphis. Over the years, there have been many others I have picked to showcase here.

The big films do not need any help. They soar or crash on their own merit, but the small films suffer for lack of financial support, good publicity and distribution.

When I wanted to study the technical aspects of television in undergraduate school, a professor said, "Oh, don't bother. They will never let a woman touch the equipment in a TV studio."

A few years later, I got the FCC license required at the time, and became a broadcast engineer. In that position, I worked at the transmitter site for a small station in Corpus Christi, TX, until it went remote. Then, I ran the entire studio single handily on Sunday mornings. So, I learned, and I touched the equipment. That laid the ground work for my association with the movie industry and as a teacher of cinema.

So, what I was basically trying to say in the previous posts is, if the Academy is going to do a TV show, then do a TV show. If they want to honor their own and have a major television show, they need to stop, re-evaluate their mission statements and adopt some newer approaches.

I really think the biggest problem is that The Academy-Award industry, and it is a huge industry, has grown so large it is impossible to successfully reach their mission statement for both offering an evening of spectacular entertainment (show), and generating revue (business), while honoring their own in a dignified way all at the same time.

It is not pleasing or dignified for everything during the show to be executed in a rush, rush, manner, clip, clip, hurry, hurry. It stresses the people involved, and it stresses the viewers to watch their favorites being forced off mike by music with ever increasing in volume. It is not dignified. They may as well get a stick with a hook on the end.

This year's broadcast was full of hurry, hurry, and awkward moments. The pace of the broadcast should be varied and the show progresses, ebbing and flowing, not jerking, racing at one moment and dragging the next.

There may be a way to increase ratings, revenue, and offer the viewers a more relaxed, pleasant and entertaining broadcast. Well, not only one broadcast. Perhaps, the Academy should consider three or four. Why not? The Emmy Awards have already done that, and successfully. I can't see why ABC would not like that approach. Again, think logistics, which is the hot current business buzzword.

Also, I agree that to watch the broadcast on Sunday is really an imposition on those working during the week. I once attended when I was working, and I feel your pain. What is wrong with a Saturday night?

Thank you all for your comments and I welcome more.

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