UPDATED 2/11 1:33 p.m.
If you’re like me, you can do without most of the endless speculation and combing-over of every speckle of gold-tinged minutiae leading up to Oscar night that is characteristic of the Internet age and epitomized by the Los Angeles Times and their ground zero awards Web site The Envelope. The site (which is duplicated in an old-fashioned pull-out section-- yes, it’s actually printed!-- in the Tuesday morning edition of the paper) is in many ways typical of the USA Today-ization of this once-sturdy and literate newspaper—no shiny surface goes unbuffed in the relentless march toward that night when all wide eyes will be focused on Hollywood, and where viewers will eventually turn away from the gushing glamorization leading up to the event and, armed with 20-20 hindsight and cynicism, toward furiously raking through the burning embers of the show in its iron pyrite afterglow. (Times TV reporter Mary McNamara checks in this morning with some ideas on how to get viewers to tune in to the ceremony in Super Bowl-like numbers, ideas which may encourage the movie-mad TV audience to rhapsodize rather than rant about the experience afterward.)
But given that fundamental disinterest, and regardless of what you or I may think of the breathless, up-to-the-minute coverage by the likes of Pete Hammond and Tom O’Neil, The Envelope seems to be on to something with their apparently recurring feature “If I Ran the Oscars.” It’s a sneakily irreverent column (and for the Times somewhat surprisingly so) devoted to asking questions of a Hollywood personality or filmmaker who will likely never be invited to the ceremony, either as an onlooker, presenter or recipient of an actual Academy Award, and then making happy way for their (hopefully) iconoclastic answers. Last week inaugural IIRTO interviewee Ann Magnuson let loose with a hilarious series of responses to the general theme of the grilling. Asked what aspects of the ceremony she would change, Magnuson grabbed the reins and hollered “Giddyap!” (metaphorically speaking, of course):
“First of all, the whole operation has to move back downtown to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. That Kodak joint just ain't got no class! It's in a mall, for criminy sakes! The Dorothy Chandler is an exquisite building with a gorgeous interior. Plus, it's part of L.A.'s fabulous Music Center that hearkens back to a more sophisticated time when the Oscars appeared to mean something.
There should be dress code "themes" for each year, a la Truman Capote's famous 1966 Black and White Ball. The first theme, to honor the new 'old' location, would be the year 1962. Think JFK's inaugural ball meets Mad Men and Tom Ford's A Single Man, with everyone dressed in black and white with accents of green and gold, as seen in the glittering decor inside the pavilion.
The next year, we could progress to Fellini. All will be sent screeners of Toby Dammit and expected to dress like those in the Ferrari/award ceremony sequence. Later, the academy could turn to ancient Rome. All are sent screeners of the 1953 film Quo Vadis. Women are asked to pay close attention to Deborah Kerr's dazzling Technicolor costumes, while men can go in Tom Ford or full-on Praetorian Guard. Togas, of course, would be 'too much.' Finally, we reach the ultimate goal — Pasolini's Salo — and members are asked to dress and act accordingly.”
Whew! Imagine that Governor's Ball banquet! But this week’s participant is no less unexpected. While maybe not as articulate or as in-your-face irreverent as Magnuson, you’d have to admit a least a sliver of curiosity about what Herschell Gordon Lewis thinks about the Oscars, wouldn’t you? The unapologetic maestro of gory exploitation horror films such as Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs andThe Gore Gore Girls is as unlikely a presence in the Los Angeles Times, particularly in the wisened old master mode you find him in here-- his opinions solicited and taken seriously and all—as there ever has been. And it’s a treat to hear the 81-year-old director, who is prepping a new film called The Uh-Oh Show, chime in on the tastelessness of mainstream Hollywood.
Most Heartwarming Movie of 1963?
On what he would change about the show itself, Lewis remarks with customary impatience, “I'd drop the insane dancing around that has nothing to do with the awards themselves.” And on what new categories he might add, the director, known for occasionally instructing his villains to rip the hearts out of his leading ladies, goes positively grandfatherly (that is, if your grandpa was one of the original indie exploitation kings): “I'd add ‘Most Heartwarming’ and ‘Best Picture Budgeted Under $10 million.’" A “Most Heartwarming” category created by Herschell Gordon Lewis would indeed by a category I would anticipate with glee year after year. (Read the whole Lewis interview here.)
I can’t believe it, but I’m actually looking forward to opening next week's Envelope to see who’s up next.
UPDATE 2/11 1:33 p.m. Ask and ye shall receive! Posted just this morning to The Envelope are the "If I Ran the Oscars" musings of Troma Pictures impresario Lloyd Kaufman. I haven't yet had the chance to peruse Mr. Kaufman's no-doubt fastidious and erudite contributions to the Oscar conversation, but do I ever look forward to the surely first-ever juxtaposition of the words "Academy Award" and "Toxic Avenger" in an English-language article from any source, least of all the Los Angeles Times.