Essays · Movies

Field Notes from a Universe Where the Oscars are Fun

A report from a parallel universe where the Oscars are actually entertaining.
Oscars Alternative Universe
By  · Published on February 22nd, 2019

This article was co-authored with Meg Shields.

Hope y’all bought stock in the “Oscars are Broken” take because boy oh boy has it been a boom year. They’re everywhere. Like stray Legos. And the Academy has only encouraged things by having less tact than a bull in a “not televising the Best Cinematography award” shop.

But listen, here’s the thing about making the Academy Awards more interesting (dare we say, watchable): they are not bad because they’re too long. Don’t you dare sit there smugly and tell us that you are a paragon of virtue who didn’t marathon all four hours of Russian Doll in one sitting. You abso-fucking-lutely did. We all did. The human body is a natural binge-watching machine. We’re all garbage people with calloused butts and long-suffering couches. Length ain’t no thing.

The problem with the Oscars is not runtime, it’s content. See, the Oscars ceremony is intentionally designed to minimize conflict and drama. Every effort is put into making sure everything runs as friction-free as a maglev train. They put more time and energy into strategizing those seating arrangements than your type A cousin did for her wedding reception. Exes and big-name enemies are carefully separated, nominees from the same film are seated along trajectories curated for maximum back-patting. The Moonlight / La La Land whoopsie doodle was a system shock because mistakes that big just don’t happen at the Oscars. Every goof, gag, and gaffe is scripted. Notice how Jennifer Lawrence tripped charmingly on her way up the stairs and not the exponentially messier situation that would have been falling on the way down. Coincidence? Hardly! We’re dealing with a well-oiled machine here.    

In other words, it’s boooor-ing. Conflict equals drama and drama equals good television, which is what we want to watch. Survivor has been on the air since the year 2000 for a reason. So tl;dr—award shows in general, but especially the Oscars (a.k.a. the awardiest award show) are meticulously designed to be as dull and uneventful as possible. ZZzzzzzz.

So, sure, we can debate potential hosts that might liven things up a little, but ultimately, even hiring Steve Martin for the fourth time would be like putting Sriracha on a saltine cracker. The foundations are boring no matter how you spin it.

Fortunately, we live in a multiverse and anyone who says otherwise is a coward. So, without further ado, we come to you with the following report from our far more fun and colorful counterpart — the Sex on the Beach to our Rum and Coke — where the Oscars actually prioritize viewer entertainment.

The Red Carpet

It all starts here, with Ryan Seacrest pestering A-listers with inane small talk for like an hour and a half. What are you wearing? The answer for 98% of the male population is “this boring-ass tux and bowtie combo.” It’s like someone figured out how to televise Ambien. Here’s how our better half keeps things lively:

The Audience

Congrats, you made it inside! Remember how we mentioned all that meticulous seat strategizing that makes the Traveling Salesman Problem look like 2+2? Yeah, that’s not a thing in this universe. Instead:

The Host

Ah yes, the host. In our universe: a Virgil to guide us through weak comedy bits and 20-minute montages of “Some Scenes From Some Movies, Remember Movies? That Thing We All Love? Did You Know Movies Are Good?” But you may have noticed that the Academy has been having a time finding a squeaky Oscar host this year. So much of a time in fact that they outright threw in the towel. In this alternate universe, the Academy has fully accepted that such decision-making is beyond them:

The Ceremony

You gotta have something to break up the drumrolls and passing of tiny gold effigies. That’s just basic showbiz math, baby. But bits cannot exist for bit’s sake. They must have purpose — move things forward rather than guck up the engine (jet ski gags are strictly verboten):

Acceptance Speeches

Oh, the acceptance speeches. They may only be 45 seconds long, but collectively that adds up to like half an hour of listening to “I’d like to thank the Academy” on a loop. We geddit. You have manners or whatever. Yawn. Here’s how things work in a far more entertaining world:

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Ciara Wardlow is a human being who writes about movies and other things. Sometimes she tries to be funny on Twitter.