Oscar Winners Be Thankful: As Long As It Is Quick
As an award show lover, there is something that has bothered me for years and now that I am part of the Red Room Podcast, I can finally get it off my chest. Thank you...That was it. Thank you. "Thank You" is what has been bothering me for years. Every year as we approach award season critics talk about the length of award shows. And they always come back to ways to minimize the thank you's of the winners. That is exactly backwards. The reason that award shows are so long is all the other things: the awful banter before the awards, the side clips of things that don't matter, hosts trying to make fun of the very thing they are hosting. The winners are why we are there. And most of my argument goes to The Oscars. The Oscars are the pinnacle of an artists career. In Randy Newman's Oscar Speech in 2011 (click here to watch: start at 1:08 to get to his speech) He mentioned that the nominees were told not to read a list of people to thank because "it wasn't good television." When did saying Thank You become boring? Every time one of my children thank me for anything, I am amazed. If my boss at work thanked me for anything ever, I promise you, it would be more than good television. No one gets anywhere on their own, let alone someone in the entertainment business. As some of you may know I am a bit of a filmmaker/writer myself. If I ever won anything for my art, I would have so many people to thank and I am not even famous yet. Someone who has gone from amateur to professional would have scores of people to thank. On one hand we condemn stars like Lindsay Lohan for believing the hype that she is the greatest thing ever; therefore a Diva, and then we get annoyed when they have a moment of sincerity and have real people to thank. We should be willing to listen to those "thanks" and be interested in them. And these are artists we are talking about, they should feel the responsibility to make it entertaining and interesting and be given as much time as necessary to do that. This is the moment to learn something, share something and inspire. They should feel the pressure of knowing we are all listening and waiting. That someone like me, who has dreamed of succeeding and making a living through art is listening and living through that person at that exact moment.
The person that I blame the most for this non-thank you attitude is 14 time producer of The Oscar telecast, Gil Cates. He passed away in 2011 and I would thank him for that, but it would be against his legacy. For the 2000 Oscar telecast, Gil Cates promised a HD television set for the shortest acceptance speech. In the year 2000 that was an expensive item. So he had the winners of the highest honor in their collective profession try to hawk that moment for a materialistic item. Anyone still wondering why celebrities behave so badly? What if Gil would have instead inspired them to say something to the artist at home that is struggling? The way Tom Hanks did when he won for Philadelphia. His speech inspired someone to write In and Out with Kevin Kline. What if it became a time to really motivate and speak from the heart? We are going to give you the time you need to say something. If you are tuning in to an award show and you are not interested in how a writer, director or editor created their art, then you shouldn't be watching the award show. Even worse, while the person is being gracious we play music over them to tell them they are done; which is probably the rudest thing you can do to someone who is having their life moment on live television. Basically saying that you aren't as interesting as the banter that James Franco and Anne Hathaway are gonna have. That is pretty rude. The thank you should be appreciative, inspirational and a moment to remember. And Gil's idea of being grateful in 45 seconds without mentioning a list of names continues as we can tell from Randy's acceptance speech last year.
The best speech that I remember watching was Cuba Good Jr. (Click here to watch.) He brought his character from the movie right to the speech and made the producer who decided to play music over him look a fool. Now let me be clear, I do not mean they should just talk for ever and read a list of names, although I wouldn't stop them. I am saying they should be aware that everyone from the Best Actress to the Live Action Short Film should feel obligated to be prepared to say something from the heart and not fear that someone in a booth is going to decide if who they chose to thank is worthy of being good TV. If I don't tear up at someone's acceptance speech, then what was the point? Let's say that someone like Melissa McCarthy wins for Best Supporting Actress this year. It would be an amazing moment. And I would want to hear and experience her win through her. I don't want her counting the seconds, I want her living the minutes. I want to know the people that supported her. That is why I watch. And its why you should too. And with all due respect to the Oscar producers who hate hearing this: thank you for reading.
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