Thursday, September 15, 2011


Last week, new Oscar telecast producer Brett Ratner, announced that Eddie Murphy has signed on as the host of this year's Oscars. This is certainly exciting news on multiple fronts. For one thing, it brings the Oscars back to the more traditional, and typically more successful, one-host format of the show, second, and probably more to-the-point, it's in all likelyhood a drastic improvement from last year's disastrous pairing of Anne Hathaway and James Franco as co-hosts, whose performance was both unfunny and uninspired. This I blame more on the writers of the show than I do there actual performances, 'cause while regular Oscar telecast writer Bruce Vilanch had been incredibly funny in the past, he has in recent years, his work in recent years and especially last year was incredibly lazy, but the blame went first to Franco and Hathaway, who, especially Hathaway, did the best with the material they were given. Third, and the most interesting part for me, is that Eddie Murphy, while arguably the most talented actor in Hollywood, and while I didn't like the movie "Dreamgirls," I do believe his Oscar-nominated performance should've won that year (Not to mention, the times he wasn't even nominated for his work in "The Nutty Professor," and also, the underappreciated, "Bowfinger".), he's also one of the greatest stand-up comedians of all-time (Ranked #10 on a Comedy Central poll a few years back), but he hasn't done stand-up in about two decades. There's been many rumors and questions he's been asked about it. Sometimes saying that he wouldn't do it again, other times saying that he's starting to seriously think about going back into it, and other variations and answers to that question have surrounded him for years. In fact, he's probably been one of the most reclusive Hollywood Stars and Stand-ups ever. Only recently has he begun doing talk show interviews on a regular basis to promote his latest projects, something that he was previously reknowned for rejecting for many years, and that includes "Saturday Night Live," the show which launched his career. (I think only Woody Allen is more well-known for not doing late-night shows.) Frankly, his Oscar monologue is going to be one of the first examples of Eddie Murphy doing any form of stand-up comedy, possibly since "Delirious," his last stand-up movie. (Before they were completely relegated to HBO, stand-up performances on film were often shown in movie theatres, Eddie Murphy's films "Raw," and "Delirious," are probably the most notable of these films, that weren't performances of Richard Pryor.) I am certainly curious as to what Murphy will do, what his jokes will be like, how he performs them, will he be offensive, and if so, how offensive... as well as other natural questions involving his performance. So far, this year's Oscars Broadcast, at least in the eye of the Public, is off to a strong and interesting start with this choice for host.

This leads me to something else and more important that has been incorrectly concieved about the coverage of the Oscars, and the standards of the Oscars. For the last several years particularly, the Oscars has been trying hard to retain it's position as one of the important must-see events on TV. Ratings while always erratic, have been in a steady and sharp decline for last decade or so, reaching a record low in 2008, which just an 18 share in the ratings, and only 31million viewers. Far and away, however, the most glaringly obvious statistic that determines the ratings for a particular Oscar broadcast is whether a major Hollywood blockbuster film is nominated and has a legitimate chance at winning most of the Awards, particularly Best Picture. The biggest by far, among recent years is 1998, when "Titanic," won and the Oscar pulled in a 35 share, and 57 million people watched. In the last decade, while no year approached that number, 2001, which had "Gladiator," win, and 2004, where "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," won, were the highest-rated broadcasts. In recent years, they've done many things to try and boost ratings over the years, Hollywood production numbers, younger hosts, even two years ago, extending the Best Picture category to ten films, in an attempt to hopefully include film that are big budget Hollywood blockbusters, this after the year before "The Dark Knight," didn't get nomination to the chagrin of both the public, and the critics. They've now switched the Best Picture rules again, this time have a varied number of nominess in the category, ranging anywhere from 5-9, in order to make sure that only films with a legitimate shot at winning get nominated. This is all, well, it's not well and good, but much has been good. From when the only people trusted to host the show were Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, just ten years ago, wonderful emcee performances have been given from Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Ellen DeGenerous, Hugh Jackman and Jon Stewart in the past decade. All of them different, and but all very good, and sometimes great. Yet, no matter what the Academy seems to do, the audience just doesn't watch in the numbers it used to.

Well, frankly, it's not the Academy's fault for the bad ratings. It's not, it's not, it's not. If it was, they wouldn't be trying so hard to change the format and in some other way get better ratings, yet, they are getting all the criticisms for trying anything and everything to rejuvenate a show, that doesn't need rejuvenating. Even last year's Oscars had memorable moments, and even though much of it did tank, at least it was trying something. Trying something to grab a bigger audience. The real problem with the Oscars, is the American Public that isn't watching. Yep, this has nothing to do with the Oscars, this has everything to do with a movie-going public that doesn't trust Award shows, and is for some reason disturbed with the choices the Oscars have made in recent years. No, disturbed isn't the right word, "lazy" is the correct word. The American filmgoing public is lazy, and because of their laziness, anytime there's a list of films nominated, and they don't recognize most of the titles, they tune out. Why? First of all, there's no possible excuse anymore for not knowing about a movie, unless you live in some bizarre piece of Appalachia that still behind on Rural Electrification, the internet is widely available, as well as numerous critics review, both local and national on TV and print (internet), not-to-mention those entertainment shows, that yes, focus bizarrely too much of their energy on box office, but they do make note of things that aren't, and besides, you've got a list of the Academy Award nominees! These are the people who make movies, and are subsequent experts of film, think are the best films of the year, go watch them. Netflix them, Redbox them, many are still in theatres, and many get a wider release after the get nominated, go see them! Are they always right, no! In fact, the years they've been the wrongest have been the years they vote for the big blockbuster hit film that because everybody has seen. However, we're diluded by the entertainment media, and yes, "Entertainment Tonight," "Access Hollywood," "Extra," I'm pointing right at you, here, as well as most of the entertainment coverage on the legitimate news sources, and the fact that the people in Peoria, can't be bothered to watch anything that's remotely different from superhero action movies or mindless romantic-comedies, or dead teenager slasher horror films, or whatever-the-hell the studios tent pole projects are this year. Maybe in years past, audiences could be excused for not being knowledgable of certain films. The only actual standard for Award eligibility at the Oscar is that the film has to open in Los Angeles County within a calendar year, and if, especially foreign films, didn't want to open in smaller midwestern towns that weren't going to enjoy them, they didn't have to. But now, you don't have that excuse, and the Academy is getting blamed for not nominated more popular movies, when the fact is that most of the time, those movies aren't the best films released that year. Last year, of the ten Best Picture nominees, six made my Top ten list, and nine, I gave 5 STARS to. (Only "The Fighter," which I gave 3 STARS too, didn't.) The year before, eight of the top ten were films that, even if I didn't think they were in the Top Ten, were clearly worthy of the nomination, and while I gave "Avatar," a negative review, I can understand nominating it for it's technical achievements alone and, for at least an hour an a half, it was the best film that year. (I don't know what-the-hell they were thinking nominating "The Blind Side".) In fact, for the most part, the Academy has in recent years done particularly well nominating films. Sure, they miss a film occasionally, and they can completely baffle us, but that's the same with every awards show, and most of the time, at least with nominations, they usually get enough were if they're not right, you can at least look at them and say, "Well, I can understand that." At least you can, if you go and see the films! We pander to the public a lot. Policitians, companies, news organizations, tv networks, and you know what, they have to, if they don't, then nobody's there to listen at all, but that doesn't mean the Public is right. I don't think the Public is right on many things. Most of them can't tell the difference between Democrats and Republicans, and hell, frankly, they haven't even gotten "American Idol," right in about four years. So, I'm calling out the Public, you're the ones ruining the Oscars for everyone else, who actually recognizes the cultural importance in following them. So, Congratulations Eddie Murphy, and good luck at the Oscars, I hope everybody comes to watch you, and for the public, we're not accepting ignorance as an excuse anymore, so when you see the nominees list come out next January, instead of bitching about how you haven't seen any of the films, GO SEE THE FUCKING FILMS! If you still want to bitch about it after seeing them, then go right ahead. At least then, you've at least got a reason to.

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