1. Arts & Entertainment

Here's why the Oscars ceremony is so boring

Published Feb. 27, 2012

Every year, the criticism is the same: The Academy Awards ceremony is dull. The montages are yawn-inducing. The presentations are groaningly awful. Tinseltown really should give up on this charade.

The lion's share of media outlets all hold this view. The blogosphere bemoans a 31⁄2-hour love-in hosted by a washed-up comedian. Traditional media gripe about an utter lack of relevance to today's audiences. Even tbt*'s Oscars coverage year after year points out the ever-worsening telecast, a trend that is supported by popular opinion and, since I write about it for this very newspaper, my own general disinterest in the self-importance of Hollywood.

But what critics don't do is explain why it's so boring, so allow me to break it down into eight simple words:

No one is allowed to have any fun.

In a less media-saturated age — say a decade or so ago — the Oscars ceremony was the one big chance the nation had to see their favorite stars on the small screen. We could all sit around the giant 19-inch Magnavox and see who got older, who looked like they'd perhaps dusted their noses a bit too much in the bathroom or drank too much, who wore the best designer clothes. And every once in a while, you'd see a rare glimpse of an actor or actress not acting, taking off their public faces and showing true joy, or disappointment, or elation, or resentment. Not anymore.

The annual Oscars ceremony is selling a product, and that product is Hollywood. And like the sellers of most products aimed at mass consumption, the Academy is very brand-conscious. They dare not show any of their precious commodities doing something untoward, like making an unscripted comment or revealing some closely guarded secret onstage. Not in an age when any mook with a Twitter account could (gasp!) poke fun at The Industry!

This is perhaps why news from the evening's after-parties, when winners and losers alike are well-lubed with $1,000-per-bottle Champagne, is so much more engaging for movie fans. There's the outside hope that an actor may drink too much and say something that may be construed as impolitic. What fun! In fact, The Juice* contains a couple of such moments right now over on Page 36.

So why are these moments not allowed at the erstwhile Kodak Theatre? Stop and think to yourself about your favorite Oscar moments from the past couple of decades. Roberto Benigni standing on his seat and cheering. Adrien Brody kissing Halle Berry. Sally Field's insistence the Academy really likes her. Even nine-time host Billy Crystal once upon a time coming on stage strapped to a gurney a la Hannibal Lecter. These moments all had passion, wit, verve, a sense of humor — dare I say, they had humanity about them.

I understand nowadays that's considered the Golden Globes' job. The actors are allowed drinks and dinner tables instead of auditorium seats. The entire mood is much more collegial and friendly, not staid and self-congratulatory. But when's the last time you were invited to a Golden Globes party?

What Hollywood in general, and the Academy specifically, has forgotten is that it's not the nameless magic of old Hollywood that engages us, but the idea that the human avatars who stand in for us pretending to have adventures of which we can only dream are, in truth, actual people. There's got to be something to the fact that the current falling trend in box-office receipts is running concurrently with a drop in overall satisfaction with the Oscars ceremony.

Then again, trotting out Billy Crystal as the host yet again may have helped ratings spike slightly this year — Nielsen says Sunday's show enjoyed the second-largest TV audience in five years. In a broadcast designed to pay homage to the past, maybe some of those 39 million or so people were hoping Billy would bring some of the funny back with him, to get Hollywood royalty to loosen up, to make the show watchable again. Sadly, it's hard for one man to bail out a sinking ship.

Instead, the most watchable part of the night was the dry humor of Ellen DeGeneres' JCPenney ads. They were droll, thoughful, and not the least bit self-conscious. They made me want to go to JCPenney.

If only the Oscars could do the same for the movies.


  1. On Saturday, Disturbed will perform at Amalie Arena in Tampa. TRAVIS SHINN  |  Warner Records
    The Bucs Beach Bash goes down in St. Pete Beach, Disturbed plays Amalie Arena and the Dance Hall Festival continues at the Studio@620.
  2. Visitor Sara Crigger of Nashville views the Dali masterwork painting "The Hallucinogenic Toreador" (1969-1970) this month with the aid of the the Dali app on her smartphone. "Using this is like holding an art history class in your hand," Crigger said. The "Visual Magic: Masterworks in Augmented Reality" exhibit runs through Nov. 3 at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    With augmented reality, 19th century prints, bronzes and food photography, a well-rounded experience awaits.
  3. Salman Rushdie is the author of "Quichotte." Rachel Eliza Griffiths
    The acclaimed author will talk about the book at Tampa Theatre on Sept. 25. | Review
  4. Aaron Shulman is the author of "The Age of Disenchantments." Ecco Books
    The author is reading ‘City of Quartz,’ a history of Los Angeles.
  5. A man takes a picture of a sign at the Little A'Le'Inn during an event inspired by the "Storm Area 51" internet hoax, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Rachel, Nev. Hundreds have arrived in the desert after a Facebook post inviting people to "see them aliens" got widespread attention and gave rise to festivals this week. JOHN LOCHER  |  AP
    The Air Force has issued stern warnings for people not to try to enter the Nevada Test and Training Range, where Area 51 is located.
  6. A scene from a balcony cabin on a 2017 Alaskan cruise. BOYZELL HOSEY  |  Tampa Bay Times
    You can have the trip of a lifetime without paying for it for the rest of your life.
  7. Evander Preston inside his gallery Evander Preston Contemporary Jewelry Design in Pass-a-Grille. The portrait of Preston (left, top) was done by Adam Turkel. The carved wooden sculpture of a white dinner jacket to Preston's right was done by Tampa artist Fraser Smith. Preston died on Sept. 14. Times (2007)
    His gallery and his eccentric presence have been a constant in the St. Pete Beach area for decades.
  8. Celebrity chef and restaurateur Fabio Viviani inside Osteria in downtown Tampa. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Tampa Bay Times (2018)
    The high-end spot is called La Pergola, and it’s set to launch next year.
  9. Rapper NF will perform at the Yuengling Center in Tampa on May 1, 2020. John Taylor Sweet
    The two rappers have announced shows in the coming months, including one for USF’s Homecoming week.
  10. Margaret Loflin leads Maggie on the Move, one of the local food trucks set to serve at Flavors of Asia. Tampa Bay Times (2012)
    Food trucks offer Flavors of Asia in St. Petersburg, plus the Palladium presents ‘Crossing the Bay’ and Howl-O-Scream invades Busch Gardens.