The Stage Isn’t Set

With the Oscars just a little over a week away, some of the details have started to emerge over the setup of the night. And although it might seem a little bizarre and out of the ordinary, this year’s ceremony might actually be fun.

There are some fairly radical changes that are emerging, even beyond that the hosts – James Franco and Anne Hathaway – are likely to be a damn sight more entertaining than the stale coupling of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin last year. Beyond that, a couple of the more tiresome elements are gone. First to be struck off is the largely irrelevant montage sequence (covered last year was horror), and this makes sense – can we really say that 2010 was a great year for any “type” of movie? This might seem pessimistic and depressing, but it needs to be said; 2010 was not a great year for film, not ranked against the releases to come this year and the decade or so preceding it. So that makes sense. Also facing the chop are the elaborate tributes to the nominees for Best Actor and Actress. Good. Again, this makes sense – if the audience were to learn why Javier Bardem is nominated, they’d probably be up in arms when he inevitably loses.

More exciting, though, is the news of what’s being included. It’s relatively well-known now that the nominees for Best Song will be performing on the night, and that Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine) will be stepping in for Dido to do a better job of ‘If I Rise’, the song in 127 Hours, adding in some crucial entertainment value to what is usually a tiring broadcast.

But the most interesting aspect of this year’s ceremony is that the presenters will be plunged into totally new territory, with the inclusion of “virtual reality projections” to distance viewers from the normal feel of a standard stage-and-audience setup. What does this mean, exactly? Producer Bruce Cohen is quoted as saying that there will be “six or seven scenic transitions” during the show, but with no strict and awkward formula: “one might be a more specific time in history, one might be a specific event, one might be a specific genre.”

How exactly this is to implemented is yet to be seen – one has to bear in mind that ceremonies like the Oscars are often structured as much for the guests as the TV audience, so any green-screen technology might be eschewed for something either more or less ambitious, but exactly what remains to be seen. Either way, this year’s Oscars could go some way to making it more of an entertainment event than a drab ceremony, and as someone who’ll be sitting through what could amount to three hours of self-congratulatory nonsense, it’s a development one can only embrace.

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