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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

An Oscars revamp

What if some of the Oscars handed out on TV Sunday night celebrated business achievements, technology, or movie marketing?

That's one notion that film historian David Thomson proposed in the LA Times on Sunday. He thinks the Oscars telecast is getting old and creaky. (Thanks to Cinematical for the link.)

Thomson starts off by noticing that Gary Demos, who won a Sci-Tech Award from the Academy earlier in the month, doesn't get props on the Sunday TV spectacular, despite having helped create the field of computer-generated effects. Thomson writes:

    And Gary Demos? Well, as far as I can see, he is a pioneering genius who did much of the theoretical work in computer-generated imagery, which now thrives on its ability to put a copy of life, light, etc. on our screens. I'm not knocking Demos, even if I generally dislike the victory of digital imagery over photography. He received his award on Feb. 18, but I would have handed it out on the real Oscar night, and I would have explained in detail what he has done because — for good or ill — that's where the mind of our movies is today.

    But to reform the academy, that's just a start. I'd also throw out the awards for sound, costume and art direction, the dire songs, the shorts and the documentaries and the foreign films. OK, throw your bricks this way — but I think the night of the Oscars has to restore the last few bonds of reality between film and the public. This is hard because the movies are not exactly a mass medium anymore. They belong to a few of us.

    But the academy will last only if we believe that movies can sweep us all up — movies such as "It Happened One Night," "Casablanca," "From Here to Eternity," "The Apartment." So I'd push the technical awards and the science that has already changed the movies, because I think that's what "movie" means to kids now, and I believe that's the future we're headed for. I'd treat Demos as a very important man — which he is.

    I'd also give Oscars for the best deal, the best promotion campaign, the most outrageous agent of the year. I'd give a chutzpah award — while the term chutzpah is still understood. All because people are in love with the business more than the story.

    I'd cut the show in half. I'd make it a dinner party again, instead of an awkward theatrical event.