For years, we’ve been looking forward to Oscar night in our household. The dresses, the snarky tweets, the suspense. All of it.
Yesterday wasn’t much different. My wife made a special meal (delicious, deep-fried homemade wantons), got the one-year-old in bed and gathered with our six-year-old in the TV room.
We munched on the wantons as the red carpet action unfolded, and by “action” I mean stunning dresses, stunning tuxes and stunningly banal interviews with their wearers. As the red carpet action passed an hour, our daughter started to fiddle with mom’s phone.
Then Chris Rock came on. It was the real cultural moment we were all expecting from the Oscars and it didn’t disappoint. Rock skewered the Academy and the Hollywood machine with devastating force. I can only assume the Academy knew what he was going to say and, I would also assume, hoped it would provide headwinds in their push to make Hollywood more diverse.
But then the presenters started. Those wooden, long, uncomfortable presenters. I began to visualize their endless parade, the impending thank-you speeches. Then a commercial. Then a song. Then an award. Commercial. Award. Commercial. Something kind of funny. Commercial. Song. Commercial. For the next 3 1/2 hours.
At that point, I looked at our 6 year old and realized that we were almost to the end of the Harry Potter book “Goblet of Fire.” You’ve probably read it but, in case you haven’t, I’ll just say this: Harry was in the middle of a dramatic battle in a graveyard. Quite possibly some of the most tense writing I’d seen so far in the franchise and I was itching to get back to it.
At this point, too, our daughter was about ready to crash. Slumped over on the couch, she was idly playing some game and appearing extremely bored. So, we went upstairs and read, then she went to bed.
As I read to her, cuddled up in our down comforter, this taut drama unfolding before us, I thought of the many ironies of the Oscars. Here’s the most talented group of our generation’s storytellers and, when they gather in a room, it becomes one of the most torturous things to witness. Rock’s incendiary intro dominated water cooler chatter this morning, as I knew it would, and while reading with my daughter I knew it was about to be subsumed by hours of fluff plus about three things I’d really care about (one of them, coincidentally, is editing).
So I decided to tune out. I wasn’t alone. This year’s broadcast was the least-watched in the last eight years. I kept reading and eventually fell asleep around 9.
The compelling story lines that entwine around the Oscars—and film and culture in general as embodied by the Oscars this year—weren’t enough to set the hook. Maybe next year, Oscars. In the meantime, keep working on making the Oscars relevant and enjoyable to watch.