With just six days until the 91st Academy Awards, the dust is still settling on the most controversial and mistake-riddled Oscar season in memory.
With over 500 actors, directors and filmmakers stepping up after the #PresentAll24 campaign caught fire, the Academy relented and will now present all 24 Oscar categories on the live broadcast, likely eliminating any chance of the trim 3-hour show that producers Glenn Weiss and Donna Gigliotti had in mind. Could a 3-hour show still happen? “The answer was no,” Gigliotti said over the weekend in a new and in-depth article from the New York Times speaking to Brook Barnes.
Weiss and Gigliotti revealed the show set design (above) from Tony-winning designer David Korins (Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen) and it looks…interesting. Not as spectacular as the Swarovski-crystal laden extravaganza of last year. I see it as a toned down version of previous sets and that may be to give the impression of closing the distance between stars and viewers. “It almost comes out and hugs you,” Gigliotti said.
One of their big plans is using people ‘outside of the film industry’ to introduce films and presenters in hopes of boosting viewership and creating moments (last year’s telecast was the lowest-rated in modern history). Tennis superstar Serena Williams is set to present A Star Is Born. Why, I’m not sure. Best Picture presentations will happen throughout the show instead of a condensed montage like last year. Recent Album of the Year Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves was announced as a presenter but no category as of this writing. Hopefully she’s not simply introducing Welch and Rawlings because she’s a country star. There will be acting starpower though: Angela Bassett, Melissa McCarthy, Jason Momoa, Chris Evans, Awkwafina, Charlize Theron, Chadwick Boseman and Daniel Craig have been lined up as presenters. But a takeaway from the NYT piece revealed a tone-deaf response that, to me, was galling. “I love everyday people,” said Gigliotti, who lives in Manhattan. “I ride the subway with them every day in New York. Everyday people don’t get me ratings.” The comment was in regards to last year’s host Jimmy Kimmel’s stunts such as bringing in busloads of ‘everyday people’ into the Dolby as an Oscar surprise. While I understand what she was implying – that big stars will bring a big audience – ‘everyday people’ are the ones that she needs to hook at home to boost that viewership so why be so dismissive of them?
They’ve committed to all five Original Song nominees being performed (although is that 90 seconds really happening?) and it was revealed that Bette Midler would be singing “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper will perform “Shallow” from A Star Is Born, Jennifer Hudson will performed “I’ll Fight” from RBG, and singer-songwriters Gillian Welch and David Rawlings will perform “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. We still have no word on if Kendrick Lamar and SZA, or who, is performing “All the Stars” from Black Panther. The pair boycotted the Grammys just last week over the lack over the music orgs lack of rap and hip-hop representation with the top tier winners (as did Childish Gambino, whose “This Is America” became the first rap song ever to win Record and Song of the Year) so it might be a stretch to imagine them showing up here.
Just this morning it was revealed (before I even finished writing this) that Queen and Adam Lambert will be performing on the show. Rumors to the effect had been circling for weeks but The Academy confirmed it today via Twitter. You can probably lock this in as the show opener.
One of the biggest controversies was the decision to ask Kevin Hart to host but he was actually the second choice. Weiss and Gigliotti confirmed that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was their first pick (and one that would have sailed through what I will call social media confirmation) but he turned them down. Not so much for not wanting the gig but because he was deep into filming the Jumanji sequel. “Ultimately we decided to try and use the host situation as an opportunity — a way to get to that three-hour mark,” Weiss said. It’s true, a hostless Oscars (despite the last time being a disaster) will streamline the event. Not to three hours but with no opening monologue or padding that should at least drop 20+ minutes.
No word on if Weiss and Gigliotti plan on sticking with the 90-second speech rule (that’s 90 seconds from winner announcement to end of speech – only seven of last year’s 24 winners hit or went under the 90-second mark. Remember, Glenn Weiss is the guy who took his Emmy speech time to propose to his girlfriend on live television. That indelible moment certainly took longer than 90 seconds (3 minutes, from announcement to finish, to be exact). It’s a strange thing when someone has something but then tells others they can’t.
The 91st Academy Awards will air live on ABC on Sunday, February 24 at 5pm PST, 8pm EST.