Returning to Form – 94th Academy Awards News

There are two major news items to report regarding this year’s Oscars, set to take place on March 27th. The first is that Glenn Weiss will be directing the broadcast. He has directed the Oscars six times and the Tonys 20 times, for which he’s won a combined five Emmy Awards. The Academy’s press release regarding the announcement can be found here.

Weiss is one of the biggest names in Live Event directing. I know this may not sound like anything groundbreaking, but trust me, it’s important. If nothing else, remember last year’s affair, directed by Steven Soderbergh. The man may have won an Oscar in his own right as a filmmaker, but for the broadcast, he was terrible. Some things, like the COVID-necessitated change of venue, were unavoidable. But that only buys so much leeway. The camera movements were terrible. It looked like there had been no rehearsal. The music performances were pre-recorded and aired before the actual ceremony, even though it was still daytime in Los Angeles when the Oscars began while the music shoots were at night. Best Director was handed out in the first hour. Best Picture was dispensed with before the end, because Soderbergh was so sure that Chadwick Boseman would win Best Actor posthumously that he held it for last, only for Anthony Hopkins – who also thought Chadwick would win – to get the award in absentia, leaving Joaquin Phoenix to just shrug and sign off. Now, in fairness, we all thought Boseman would win, too, but Soderbergh acted on it and changed the entire rundown of the ceremony to accommodate it, even though Academy rules dictate he couldn’t have known the result ahead of time, so he just ended up looking foolish.

So yeah, the idea of giving the reins back to a seasoned event director who’s been awarded multiple times for his exceptional skill and competence in this very narrow space gives me some confidence that this year’s ceremony will be much less of a train wreck than last year’s. It may still end up being a disaster, but it very likely won’t come from the technical logistics of the actual broadcast.

That leads me to the second bit of breaking news. At a press tour for the Television Critics Association, ABC Entertainment President Craig Erwich announced today that the 94th Oscars will have a host. We don’t know who it’ll be yet, but we will have a host. Variety has the recap here.

Fucking. FINALLY!

If there’s one thing that’s been consistently horrible about the Oscars for the past three years, it’s been the lack of a host, thanks to misappropriated Cancel Culture robbing Kevin Hart of his dream gig for jokes he told a decade previous. The first year sans host was just as bad and awkward as the last time it was attempted, back in 1989, where the opening production number infamously included Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White. Yeah, that’s not company you want to keep (the ceremony, I mean, not Rob Lowe; I’ve worked with him, he’s awesome).

But maybe that one-off error could be excused by the lack of a timetable to sign a new host, especially since a lot of previous hosts – good and bad – were either unavailable due to scheduling conflicts or refused to take the job that rightfully belonged to Hart, to say nothing of their own concerns about getting dragged through the media for stuff they said years before when it was still considered innocuous and/or funny.

Sadly, the Academy went hostless again the next two years. The follow-up wasn’t as terrible, but it was still dubious, because tasking actors – especially dramatic ones – with telling jokes when they can barely read a teleprompter was an exercise in futility, and it just looked stupid to have an offstage announcer introduce someone for the sole purpose of introducing someone else to present the next award. There’s superfluous, and then there’s that. Last year was even worse, because on top of the stilted presentation, there was no focal point to keep the chaos even under the illusion of control.

I mentioned this in last year’s Postmortem blog. The lack of a host has been a severe handicap for the last three shows. Even if the jokes are bad, even if the host himself is baked (looking at you, Franco), there needs to be one just to have some semblance of organization and a voice of commentary to bridge the gap between Hollywood’s elite and the at-home audience. When something awesome happens, we need a host to celebrate with us. When something silly happens, we need someone to laugh at it. When something incredibly awkward and uncomfortable happens – which has happened A LOT over the past few years – someone needs to be there to deflate the tension with a joke, even if it’s a hastily scripted, safe joke. That missing piece has been glaring for the last three years, and there was never any reason to maintain it even beyond the first partially necessary occurrence three years ago. I don’t care if the host ends up being Ellen DeGeneres farting insults to her staff, I’ll take it over nothing.

Keep it locked here for more developments as they unfold. For me, I’m just glad that we can have hope of the Oscars returning to normal.

Join the conversation in the comments below! Who would you like to see host this year? Who’s your favorite host? Can the Oscars fuck up any worse than they did last year? Let me know!

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