Culture  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

83rd Oscars miss the mark with lacklustre presentation and pointless modernizing

The Academy Awards are the biggest event of the year for knowledgeable film enthusiasts and ordinary media fans alike. Smaller awards shows like the Golden Globes and the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards build months of excitement and anticipation that culminates in one evening of prestigious awards for excellence in film. February 27 marked the 83rd annual Academy Awards, hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco.

Cinéma du Parc screened the awards live and free of charge for the fourth year in a row, to a full house. During commercial breaks, the staff cut the sound and asked the audience trivia questions about past Academy Awards shows. Audience members who answered the questions correctly were awarded DVDs and movie posters. “It seems to me that it’s normal that the Academy Awards are shown on the big screen, since the films that are awarded for their excellence were made for the big screen,” said Roland Smith, the owner of Cinéma du Parc. “It’s sort of a gift for our regular clients who see films most of the year.” In preparation for the screening, the theatre shows as many of the nominated films as possible. This year, the list included blockbusters such as Black Swan, 127 Hours, and The King’s Speech.

Cinéma du Parc is the only cinema in Quebec to show all the nominated short films, which fall under three categories: animated, documentary, and live action. This is the Cinema’s second year of airing the short films. “For many years, I was looking at the ceremony and it was a wild guess to know which short you should vote for, because nobody had seen them,” said Smith. The cinema screens an eclectic mix of films each year, and is known for the attention it pays to independent features. Smith believes that the relationship between independent film and the Academy Awards is changing. “It is a mainstream ceremony, but they respect the taste of the audience in North America,” he said. However, he also noted that, “Many independent films are nominated. Sometimes they win. A film like Slumdog Millionaire is an independent production. Even though 20th Century Fox released it, it was produced by an independent company.”

This year, the Oscars tried actively to attract a younger audience, seemingly working under the assumption that the way to do this was to make the show altogether more informal. Rather than hiring one of the seasoned comedians that have traditionally hosted the event, the Academy chose Hathaway and Franco. As Anne Hathaway quipped after Franco complimented her appearance at the beginning of the show, “You look very appealing to a younger demographic as well.” The pre-filmed parodies the two performed of various nominated movies, as well as the auto-tuned music video mash-up of films such as Toy Story 3 and Inception, was artificial and unengaging. Hathaway’s seven different outfits drew attention away from her hosting abilities, transforming her from an entertainer to a one woman fashion show. Similarly, Franco did not display the dynamic, quirky humor that he is known for – it seemed that the Academy was keeping him on a tight reign in order to prevent any inappropriate slip-ups.

This style spread to some of the Oscar recipients as well. Melissa Leo delivered an inarticulate acceptance speech upon receiving the award for Best Supporting Actress, and went on to curse, shocking the audience.

In their efforts to attract a younger audience, the Academy failed to recognize the spark that has brought millions of viewers back for more than eighty Academy Awards shows: the timelessness. Watching current actors and actresses win awards that have in the past gone to legends such as Clark Gable and Ingrid Bergman makes viewers realize that the media they experience every day will one day become important history. Though a teenage audience may find pre-taped parodies amusing on a superficial level, the Academy Awards has always attracted young viewers who tune in because of the timeless glamour of the ceremony. The popularity of the Oscars lies in its being a single night in which modernity is less important than classic film and lasting excellence, something that this year’s event failed to capture.