Now we know what’s been wrong with the Oscars for years. All it needed was to become the Darlene Love Show. The great singer blew the doors off the Dolby Theatre on Sunday with an impromptu “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” In tribute, Bono turned the last line of U2’s song “Ordinary Love” into her name.
With Ellen DeGeneres as the delightful emcee (and pizza waitress), it was not only the Oscars that made up for Seth MacFarlane’s juvenile befoulments; it was a lesson to all future awards shows how to handle music, i.e., maximize the music, minimize the production hoo-ha. They even found a decent place for Bette Midler to sing “The Wind Beneath My Wings.”
The show was so good in its insistence about being about movies (and movie music) that it almost overcame the very basic Motion Picture Academy problems with numbers and identity.
What are those, you ask? Here are the numbers, as reported recently: Forty million people were expected to watch the bloody thing. Five billion movie tickets were sold worldwide, they told us on the show.
There were a potential 6,000-plus voters in the Motion Picture Academy. But of those, 94 percent are white, 77 percent are male, 54 percent are older than 60. The median age is, in fact, 63.
So let me tally that up. The average Oscar voter is: a white male California resident in showbiz whose median age is 63. In other words, he’s Jay Leno.
Let’s by all means give the great collective Leno credit for not fouling up the actual awards as badly as they did the nominations. But that’s a little like saying at the moment that the Sabres front office could be in worse shape.
But the success of the show indicates the time has come to say some things and say them hard. Like:
1. I know that the advertising revenue dictates them, but there are too many award shows. Every single network executive and even investor in a company that owns a network needs to start thinking seriously about the moment when the very idea of an award show is so trashed no one will want to watch, let alone have parties to watch.
2. The Oscar bestowals are now a fraction of the Oscarthon orgy. Subtract the fashion show and red carpet strut and the music and you could fit the rest into a time slot for “The Mentalist.”
3. Demographic pandering has to stop. A society whose first cultural question is always, “Yes, yes, but will the 18-45 demo like it?” is a society that is mired in fear and subject to the ruling ignorance of those who haven’t lived long enough to know much except how to deal with changing technology.
There is something ridiculous about TV awards where the awards themselves are the bastions of an aging white male elite in a demographic panic every year because its younger “demos” keep slipping.
We knew they were jettisoning that idea in one of DeGeneres’ first jokes, a snide reference to those who think “the most important thing in life is youth.”
What someone somewhere obviously faced is that the Oscars aren’t an intrinsically youth-friendly event. They’re mostly for people with memories and active ideas about what’s Shinola and what’s something else. Grown-ups, you know?
What’s fun are the accidents, the things that no one can predict – the crazy ways some choose to dress for the world, the beautiful ways others do, the idiotic ways some think the world needs to be thanked – and the eloquent ones. (Thank you, Darlene and Jared Leto, too.)
It seems to me the time has long since come for the Jay Leno Motion Picture Academy to do the obvious things: 1. take permanent primary possession of the Oscars away from money hungry TV, music and fashion businesses as they seemed to do on Sunday and 2., loosen up their own organization so that its membership is vaguely reminiscent of the world we live in rather than the congregation at the next funeral they’ll attend.
In “Hollywood Ending,” a bad film by Woody Allen, the dedicated 78-year-old filmmaker whose personal history befouled the run-up to the event in a historic way, Woody played a blind filmmaker. He’s told that in his film, he has to pay attention to “demographics.”
“You mean why this country got so stupid, suddenly?” he asks.
Nobody ever said you’d want your life to be anything like his. But then everybody knows that when he says things, even people like Jay Leno listen.