Oscar needs a football helmet.
Don’t worry. I’m not predicting yet another Slap Heard ‘Round The Academy. Not unless Jimmy Kimmel sets up a gag, anyway. But now that the nominees have been announced and the countdown is under way, the Academy Awards really should have the proper gear.
After all, they’re getting more and more indistinguishable from the Super Bowl.
Yeah, I said it. Hollywood’s golden night and football’s biggest stage are separated by about four weeks, some turf and not much else. Take a look from 1,500 feet – the typical altitude of the Goodyear Blimp – and think of what we have here.
There’s weeks of hype from every conceivable angle and a few inconceivable ones. A huge splash on the day itself. A main event that goes on and on and on. (And on.)
And more often than not, regardless of who wins or loses, it’s the weirdness that steals the headlines.
To be fair, the NFL at least plans for it. It’s practically a cliché that nine times out of 10, the Big Game is less interesting than the Big Commercials. (Or occasionally the Big Power Outage or the Big Wardrobe Malfunction, but that’s another story.) But when Oscar takes the stage, the possibilities are as endless as the running time. Will the wrong winner be announced? Will angry celebrities storm the stage? It’s a night that’s seen more on-stage nightmares than a Halloween special: garbled names, awkward kisses, and even an on-camera streaker to liven up the evening.
Granted, some of that is the risk of a live performance. I get that. Things happen. But when year after year, the flubs, cringes and oddities are more interesting than the show itself, there just might be a problem.
We’ve known this for years. Heck, we’ve known it for decades. And the surface reason isn’t a secret: the show runs too dang long. Last year’s Oscars dragged out for nearly four and a half hours. The longer it goes, the more tedious it gets and the more time you have for something to go wrong.
But it goes deeper than that. If it was all about running time, people wouldn’t binge entire seasons of TV. Oscar audiences have fallen like a rock, but an “Avatar” sequel that’s more than three hours long is burning up the box office.
No, it’s something more fundamental. Something so simple, it’s Performance 101: a show isn’t about the performer. It’s about the audience.
If they don’t buy your story, you have no show.
That’s true for blockbusters. It’s true for art films. It’s true for any performing venue, from the smallest stage to the biggest stadium. The audience has to care. It can’t just be about you.
And for an awards show – a night designed for self-congratulation – there’s no easier trap to fall into.
That’s an important lesson to remember. And not just for Hollywood. Most of us will never get a multi-million dollar movie contract. (Mine just got lost in the mail, right?) But we all have the same chance to be aware of the people around us and hear what matters to them. To understand why they care and where they hurt. To connect their story with ours.
When we can do that, we can make a difference.
I hope Oscar eventually learns that. I know we can. And on a smaller budget, to boot.
Listen. Care. Come together.
And if you come together at a Super Bowl party, let me know how the commercials went, OK?