About that Oscar set design

You may recall Oscar host Hugh Jackmen remarking that this year’s Academy Awards ceremony is going to resemble “a nightclub of your dreams.  It’s very intimate.”   I’m sure the way he said it with his Australian accent had most people assuming sexy and not gaudy. 

Now, however, we get an unfortunate idea of what he’s talking about.  According to Rex Reed in the NY Observer, “the grim previews of the 81st Academy Awards show on Feb. 22 at the Kodak Theatre, designed by David Rockwell—the modern-day Rube Goldberg responsible for the Mohegan Sun Indian casino, the ugly sets for Hairspray and the Jet Blue terminal at J.F.K.—are already being described as ‘community theater on steroids.'”  

Community theater on steroids, is not flattering, but Rockwell has always been a take him or leave him designer.  What really worries me is the actual description of the set design. 

A curtain made of 92,000 crystals, a thrust stage requiring an orthopedic surgeon in residence for presenters in stiletto heels, 20 monumental Art Deco arches, the removal of the traditional orchestra pit, lights filtered through silver-rope curtains and strands of silver-leaf balls, 19 screens flying through space and fluted chandeliers floating above the audience, all dominated by the color blue.

Gulp.  I can appreciate trying something different for sure.  And I’m still holding out hope that the risks they’ve taken this year continue each year to keep the ceremony interesting and fresh.  But I’m scared at the magnitude of suck involved. 

“It sounds like a vulgar stage show in Atlantic City starring Siegfried and Roy, designed to turn passionate movie lovers into dyspeptic movie critics—only a handful of whom will still be awake by the time the five final (and only important) prizes of the night are announced,” concludes Reed. 

The Academy needs to understand first and foremost that for television audiences, people only care about a small handful of awards.  If they work out from there, then the rest of the ceremony will take care of itself.  For whatever reason, they’ve never understood this. 

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