Here we go again: Academy tries to streamline the Oscars

Oscars logo

If at first you don’t succeed…

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is — again — trying to streamline its Oscar telecast and find a place for more popular movies.

The academy sent a written message to members (this Hollywood Reporter story has the full text). Among the changes: 1) Keeping the telecast to three hours (honest!). 2) Adding a category for “outstanding achievement in popular film.”

To stick to the new time limit, the TV broadcast will show some of the 24 Oscar winners on an edited, tape-delayed basis. Which ones are seen live by the TV audience and which get the edited treatment are to be determined.

Lots of luck, academy.

The Oscars have already stripped away honorary Oscar awards and the Thalberg career award for producers from the main broadcast.

Examples of honorary Oscar moments: The dying Gary Cooper receiving an honorary award, with James Stewart accepting it on his behalf; Charlie Chaplin receiving a standing ovation while receiving his honorary award; Barbara Stanwyck likewise getting big applause when she got her honorary award.

Albert R. Broccoli , Thalberg award winner (Illustration by Paul Baack)

As for the Thalberg award, 007 fans remember Roger Moore presenting the award to Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. Related to that award, that Oscars show included a big James Bond musical number.

Today, however, honorary Oscars and the Thalberg (when it’s given; the last time was 2010) are now part of a separate event. Taped highlights from that are briefly shown during the main Oscars telecast. That’s show biz.

Those moves were done in the name of making the Oscars telecast shorter. Well, the telecast still goes past midnight. Various skits and such take up the time that supposedly was freed up.

Meanwhile, the academy expanded the number of best picture nominees to as many as 10. The idea was to get more popular movies into the show. It hasn’t worked out that way.

So now, potential future Oscar winners are wondering if they’ll be on TV live or an afterthought on tape delay. Will a winning cinematographer be live or taped delay? Composer? Best original screenplay? Best adapted screenplay? No way to know right now.

As for the new popular film category (or whatever it’s eventually called), it’s being criticized.

For example, here’s the take from Todd VanDerWerff of Vox: The new category “feels like a panicked move by an Academy that’s worried Black Panther won’t be nominated for Best Picture, an echo of when they expanded the Best Picture category to 10 nominees in 2009 in response to The Dark Knight and Wall-E being snubbed in that category.”

007 things best to overlook while viewing Skyfall

Skyfall's poster image

“Don’t bother me with details, Bert!”

Skyfall is now out on home video on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and will be available soon worldwide after a Bond record-breaking run of $1.1 billion in worldwide ticket sales.

What does that mean? An opportunity for obsessive 007 fans to pause and check out the 23rd James Bond movie in even more detail. Most movies, even classic ones, have elements that are best to overlook.

For example, in 1952’s High Noon, embattled sheriff Gary Cooper spends an hour of screen time begging for people to help him. After his unsuccessful efforts, he then demonstrates he was so capable his time would have been better spent getting ready for the gang swearing revenge. But, if he had done that, there wouldn’t have been much of a movie, would there?

So in that spirit, here are some elements of Skyfall that are perhaps best overlooked while enjoying the hugely successfully 007 film:

001. Bond’s long fall near the end of the pre-credits sequence: Bond (Daniel Craig), shot by agent Eve (Naomie Harris) falls a looooong way from a bridge in Turkey. In fact, it’s at least as long, if not longer, that the fatal fall Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) took off the Golden Gate Bridge in A View To a Kill. On top of that, Bond then goes over a waterfall. Yet, he survives. Then again, it’d be a short movie if he didn’t, wouldn’t it?

002. M’s insubordination: After the main titles, M (Judi Dench), has a meeting with Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who helps oversee MI6 for the British government. Mallory says M is being eased out while having “a great run.” M spouts off that she’s not going to leave until she’s good and ready. In real life, Mallory would respond, “Then, you’re fired.” Then again, it’d be a short movie if that happened, wouldn’t it?

003. Bond’s culpability in Rapace’s killing spree in Shanghai:: Bond follows assassin Patrice (Ola Rapace) in Shanghai. Patrice kills a number of security guards and an art collector before Bond lifts a finger to stop him. Is the blood of those victims on Bond’s hands? That’s not really examined.

004. Bond’s lack of remorse when Severine is killed: Over the years, a number of women who allied themselves with Bond ended up dead. Jill and Tilly in Goldfinger come to mind. However, when they died, Bond registered a reaction. Ditto when fellow agent Paula was captured and took a poison capsule in Thunderball, and when Japanese agent Aki was poisoned by SPECTRE in You Only Live Twice.

Severine (Berenice Marlohe)? No reaction, although Bond gloats to Silva when the villain appears to be captured. One of Severine’s last lines is, “I’m sorry.” That takes on a whole new meaning in the Skyfall context.

005. M’s culpability in Silva’s killing spree in London: Tanner informs M, in the middle of a parliamentary hearing about MI6’s recent performance, that Silva has escaped. Does M let anybody know a terrorist with a group of trained killers is on the way? No. Instead, she reads a poem. That gives Silva and his men enough time to kill about a half-dozen police officers. Whether it’s five, six or seven is immaterial. You could argue that M’s ego resulted in multiple deaths.

006. The Aston Martin DB5: Bond drives M to a garage, where the Goldfinger-Thunderball, gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 awaits. This, in theory, undermines the whole “the series rebooted itself with Casino Royale” thing. Yet, based on our viewing with real theater audiences, this scene was one of the best received in the film. Clearly, audiences were more than willing to overlook the continuity problems introduced.

007. Was Bond’s mission a success or failure? If the mission was to kill (eventually) Silva, Bond’s mission was a success. If it was to protect M, it was a failure. At best, it’s a 50 percent success. M had agreed to be the Judas Goat in Bond’s plan, but did she really think she was going to be killed?