Producing the annual Academy Awards ceremony is a minefield under the best of circumstances, and this year’s producers — Steven Soderbergh, Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins — face an even more formidable challenge in mounting the 93rd Oscars under pandemic protocols on April 25. Not that they need any more unsolicited suggestions, but still, here are a few modest proposals.
KISS KISS In lieu of the red carpet in front of Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, this year the producers are inviting nominees to mingle for 90 minutes in the courtyard of Los Angeles’ iconic Union Station. They’ve said, “We really hope to create a show that feels like the movies we all love.” So instead of the usual forced interviews with various ABC hosts, why not film it all like a Robert Altman movie with a camera wandering around, sneaking up on the participants and picking up stray bits of incriminating conversation? Perhaps they could even convince Geraldine Chaplin to reprise Opal, the clueless BBC reporter she played in Nashville.
CURTAIN UP This one’s a no-brainer. The reality of the looming COVID-19 pandemic hit home on March 11, 2020, when Oscar winner Tom Hanks announced that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, had contracted the virus. Now that they’ve both recovered, who better to welcome everyone to the show with reassuring words that there’s light at the end of the tunnel than Hanks himself?
CHOO CHOO Since the ceremony has been relocated to L.A.’s vintage 1939 train station, there really should be a train montage, beginning with the 1903 silent The Great Train Robbery and continuing through Carole Lombard and John Barrymore mixing it up on the Twentieth Century Limited; Judy Garland singing the praises of “The Acheson, Topeka and the Sante Fe”; Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe sharing an upper bunk in Some Like It Hot; Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in a shoot-out on the Silver Streak; the star-filled stabbing on Murder on the Orient Express (the 1974 version, not the 2017 remake, please) and, to put a button on it, the train entering the tunnel at the end of North by Northwest. (Just don’t include that multicar train pileup from 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth, universally known as the least-deserving best picture Oscar winner.)
THIRSTY? Of course, the stars will need a well-stocked bar to retreat to during commercial breaks. And Another Round‘s Thomas Vinterberg, nominated for best director, should be drafted to oversee the pouring of all those drinks.
SELL IT Speaking of commercials, a lot of folks tune in to the Super Bowl to watch the ads, which in some years are more compelling than the game itself. But the Academy has strict rules limiting the number of movie ads that can be shown during the broadcast. (The Academy has long worried that the Oscar will somehow be tarnished if studios use the occasion for too much self-promotion. Huh?) But now that movie theaters are just starting to open up again, it’s time to drop those rules to try to convince moviegoers to leave their couches and return to the multiplex. Encourage the studios to promote their upcoming fare. In fact, why not make a splashy Previews of Coming Attractions a segment on the show itself and offer viewers fresh peeks at movies like In the Heights, F9, Top Gun: Maverick, Black Widow, No Time to Die, Dune and West Side Story?
GOTTA HAVE A GIMMICK When Ellen DeGeneres handed out pizza at the 2014 Oscars, it was amusing. When Jimmy Kimmel distributed PB&J sandwiches at the 2016 Emmys, the shtick had begun to lose its novelty. But this year, why not take it to another level and perform a public service by offering attendees who still need them complimentary COVID vaccinations on camera? Maybe Promising Young Woman nominee Carey Mulligan could even don her sexy nurse costume to introduce the bit. Pfizer or Moderna? Take your pick.
SURPRISE, SURPRISE Cue the gag reel. As things wrap up, how about a recap of some of Oscar’s craziest moments: the 1974 streaker who unsuccessfully tried to take focus off David Niven; that infamous 1989 Rob Lowe-Snow White duet; Jennifer Lawrence’s fall on her way to the stage in 2013; the chaotic La La Land/Moonlight envelope mishap in 2017; and just quickly add in whatever goes wrong at this year’s show. Then insert WandaVision‘s Agatha (Kathryn Hahn), Zelig-like, into each of those moments. And have everyone burst into the show’s critical-reveal tune (written by Oscar-winning songwriting duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez), “Who’s been messing up everything? It’s been Agatha all along.”
This story first appeared in the April 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.