Oscars this Sunday: a 7-step survival guide
Suddenly, the Oscars are interesting.
After a series of public pratfalls in its planning stages, I'm genuinely curious about how this Sunday's host-free Academy Awards ceremony turns out. I'm not kidding. I'm interested.
This is what comes from months of format decisions announced, then rescinded. And this is what happens, happily, when even the oddsmakers' front-runner in the best picture category doesn't feel like a sure thing.
These last few months have reminded us of the necessity of institutional change — constant, sloppy, ill-considered institutional change. It's the national mantra, certainly in politics. And it's a show business law. "That's the way we do things around here!" the studio mogul bellows in the 1930 Kaufman & Hart comedy "Once in a Lifetime." "No time wasted on thinking!"
Last August, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences floated the announcement that it's time to add a second best picture category, something like best popular movie or best popcorn movie. (This was ABC-TV muscling a decision, by all reports — an attempt to reverse the ratings slide.) Then came the blowback, and the sarcastic mirth was limitless throughout the land. Academy president John Bailey said never mind. Let's wait a year on that.
Then Kevin Hart came on board to host the Oscars, before objections to his arguably homophobic stand-up routines of yore gathered momentum. Upshot: No host this year. Another walk-back.
The season's reversed Oscar decisions also include the announcement of four awards, including cinematography and editing, being confined to their moment in the spotlight during commercial breaks, with edited highlights interpolated later into the broadcast.
Bailey, himself a cinematographer, announced the change, made to help keep the telecast under three hours. Then he heard from his constituents, among them many of this year's nominees. And now it's back to the way it was. And, as many have cracked on Twitter, if "Green Book" ends up winning Sunday, no worries: The correction will be issued by Monday.
Let's be frank: It's all guesswork and frippery and, at least in New Jersey, as of this year, a chance to bet on the outcome legally. As of Valentine's Day, "Roma" was the favorite to win best picture, with "Green Book" estimated by various bookmakers to be the second-most-likely winner.
With that heartening reminder that the 2018 movie year truly did offer something for everyone, and with apologies to the late Stephen Covey: Here are the seven habits of highly effective Oscar pundits, good through Sunday.
1. BE PROACTIVE
Know the results so far. The Producers Guild of America voted for "Green Book." The Directors Guild of America voted for "Roma." The Screen Actors Guild voted "Black Panther" for best ensemble. The Writers Guild of America went for "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" in the adapted screenplay category, a terrific choice. And the WGA opted for Bo Burnham's "Eighth Grade," stupidly overlooked by the Oscars this year, for original screenplay. The Golden Globes favored "Green Book" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" in its top categories. So while "Roma" may be the favorite, it's not a sure thing.
2. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
If important people at work want to discuss your hearty recommendation of "The Favourite" and why you misled the public into thinking it was a comedy or a tragicomedy or worth seeing in the first place, engage them only if you have prearranged a meeting to postpone the discussion at the 12-second mark.
3. PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
If you're watching the Oscars at home, the correct way to make popcorn is on the stove, a little canola oil in a saucepan, one kernel as the signal. Wait for the pop, then add the rest so that it covers the bottom of the pan evenly. Melt the butter in a separate pan, pour over popped corn, add salt. This is far more important than anything on the show itself.
4. THINK WIN-WIN
Every best picture nominee has its champions. So whichever film wins Sunday, it's good news for somebody. Unless it's "Green Book" or "Bohemian Rhapsody."
5. SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD
Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" urges empathetic listening to genuinely understand a person. You can practice this next time you're talking to someone who hated "The Favourite."
If "Black Panther" wins Sunday, it'll be fantastic for ABC, owned by Disney, which owns Marvel, which made "Black Panther."
7. SHARPEN THE SAW
Your personal saw can be used to make mental edits to Sunday's Oscars, should they run into Monday.
The 91st Academy Awards air 8 p.m. Sunday on ABC. For more viewing and background information, go to oscar.go.com.