At this time last year, the Academy Awards were just days away and an undeniable buzz was swirling about the proceedings, an anticipatory energy activated in part by the tweets issued frequently from Oscar host-to-be James Franco. The 2011 Big Movie Night: It was going to be a social media-savvy, younger, hipper Academy Awards!
Except it turned out that it wasn’t. An overextended Franco fizzled as Anne Hathaway’s co-host, the best picture statuette went to a film about an old English king instead of the one about the hot shot who invented Facebook, and nearly every Oscar watcher in America declared the telecast a miss.
Now, in 2012, the Oscars are again just days away. And the buzz right now is ... curiously quiet. Everyone has pretty much assumed “The Artist” will win best picture, because it will. And there is little nervous energy swirling around Oscar host veteran Billy Crystal. I mean, we pretty much know how he’ll handle the gig. We don’t need his Twitter feed to tell us.
(For the record, Crystal has issued exactly seven tweets since he was announced as host, and one of them was about the Super Bowl. His latest:)
First rehearsal: They said keep it “fresh and new.” This from an industry that just brought us Fast & Furious 5 and Harry Potter 7, part 2.— Billy Crystal (@BillyCrystal) February 22, 2012
By all appearances, this year’s Oscar organizers have decided to keep their heads down, do their traditional thing and not fret too much about appealing to a younger demographic or beating the ratings for the Super Bowl (111.3 million viewers) or the Grammy Awards, which attracted a larger audience (39.9 million) than it has since the “Thriller” era. It may be the wisest approach the Academy Award producers can take and, in its way, a fresh one. Showing some restraint while hyping an awards show in the information-avalanche, spoiler-filled digital era? That’s simply revolutionary.
While some details have been kept hush-hush, we do know a few things about what will happen at the Oscars this year. Here’s our take on how some of the potentially major moments and developments may play out.
This could work because ... Many people miss Crystal as host. When he walked onstage last year, he got a standing ovation for doing essentially nothing. If he does his affable and occasionally cheesy shtick properly, it will play as a piece of delightful nostalgia and a relief after last year’s debacle.
This may not work because ... It could feel cheesy and dated instead of warmly sentimental. It all depends on the execution.
The winners, with the exception of the two lead acting races, may be too predictable.
This could work because ... Hey, at least you can feel confident in some of the winners you marked in your office pool.
This may not work because ... Predictable is boring, unless the winners say something phenomenal in their acceptance speeches. Here’s hoping Christopher Plummer drops some unexpected bombs about life on the set of “The Sound of Music.”
Some of the biggest stars in Hollywood have been recruited to present the Oscars.
This could work because ... It’s why we watch the Oscars: to see Toms Hanks and Cruise in tuxedos and Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry in striking gowns.
This may not work because ... Invariably our esteemed presenters have to read from a teleprompter that doesn’t always provide the most engaging pieces of dialogue. And that is why the Academy has also invited ad-libbers like Tina Fey, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis to find the humor in all of this (hopefully).
The Oscar set has been designed to look like a grand old movie house, in keeping with the telecast’s theme of falling in love with the cinema again.
This could work because ... It will remind us of the value of the communal experience of watching a movie, prompting people to make plans to head to the multiplex the following weekend,
This may not work because ... It will remind us of the movies we love, so much so that we turn off the Oscars and immediately start watching old Alfred Hitchcock films on Netflix.
The Oscars will feature a performance by Cirque du Soleil
This could work because ... A potentially stunning and acrobatic stage show that pays tribute to cinema may have everyone still marveling the morning after, as many did when Cirque du Soleil performed in 2002.
This may not work because ... It could unnecessarily suck up time in the telecast that could be reserved for other things. Other things like ...
The performances of Oscar’s two best song nominations have been left out of the program.
This could work because ... It may save the telecast from running over by a few minutes. Otherwise, it’s the worst idea ever. There are only two songs nominated this year — two. And one of them is “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets,” which explores the human vs. puppet identity crisis that so many young people are struggling with right now. (That’s right, I watch “Glee.”) So it would be relevant, as well as inspirational and just an all-around delight. For God’s sake, let Jason Segel and the Muppets sing.
This won’t work because ... Hello? Because it prevents the Muppets from singing. Even though Kermit and Miss Piggy have been invited to present an award, I still think the FCC can issue some sort of fine for muppet-music-blocking. Surely there’s a Jim Henson Law that was crafted for this very purpose.