Eddie, Benedict, Julianne: How you can improve the Oscars

Can whoever wins please make an interesting speech?

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The Oscars are tomorrow night. I don’t think I’ll bother to stay up.

How is it that such a glamorous awards ceremony always manages to be so mind-numbingly boring? All the ingredients for a memorable night will be there – the famous faces, the fashion, the film clips, the acceptance speeches. Ah, the acceptance speeches. There’s the first problem. The lesson of the Oscars, year after year, is that the most erudite and charismatic actors and directors can’t make an interesting or amusing speech to save their lives.

So, Eddie, Benedict, Julianne, Patricia or whoever, here are some tips. First, forget those lists of thank-yous. A list is not a speech. And, for once, think of the TV viewers around the world who have to put up with hearing a dozen or more such lists. Second, crack a joke. Any good speech needs one. Yet, award-winners seem uniformly devoid of humour. A behind-the scenes anecdote from the movie in question would also make a refreshing change. And how film fans would lap it up.

And, directors, why not give us an insight into how you made that picture? What was your approach? Why did you choose those actors, how did you coax those performances out of them? Is it really verboten for the biggest film night of the year to give us even the tiniest insight into the business of making films?

Then, there’s those erudite, glamorous actors presenting the awards. Look, we have sussed that most of you actually read – surprisingly badly —  words that have been written for you. Don’t. Insist on writing your own words, and tell us what you really like and admire about the shortlisted films. Or even give us a bit of insider gossip about the stars. Platitudes that aren’t even your own platitudes are certainly not worth staying up for.

Presumably, many of those watching on TV tomorrow night, and in the small hours of Monday morning, will be movie buffs. They’re not all anoraks, only interested in arthouse and film noir. They are fans. They like the glamour, they like seeing their idols speak. But they are also keen to add to their knowledge about cinema, and to pick up some morsels of inside information about the film-making process.

Oscars night could be a treat for them, and a treat for all of us, if only those lucky enough to be called to present or receive an award made the most of the opportunity and genuinely entertained and informed us. But I won’t hold my breath.



Why punish the ENO for being brilliant?

The arts lover from Mars might have assumed, given the Arts Council’s removal of the English National Opera from its national portfolio and its demand that ENO put its house in order within two years, that the company was an artistic failure. Yet it has just received a series of five star rave reviews for its production of Wagner’s The  Mastersingers. Indeed it is commonly acknowledged to have been on an artistic high for some time now. There really can’t be any qualms about what happens on stage. The problem, clearly, is the finances and not getting sufficiently full houses. I have argued before and still maintain that to be ‘The People’s Opera’ it must reduce its ticket prices. That aside, the ENO seems to me to be doing a pretty good job, and is one of the more exciting venues to visit. If the chairman of the Arts Council, Sir Peter Bazalgette, really thinks that ENO has not got its house in order, then he could do worse than demand answers from the man who until fairly recently was chairman of the board of the ENO – Sir Peter Bazalgette.



A disturbing vision of Mark Rylance

Mark Rylance was predictably a joy on Desert Island Discs. Asked if he would miss an audience on the island, the marvellous actor, who has been playing Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall on TV, replied that he would not. The sea would be his audience. Asked what luxury he would take, he said that he had been given a stand-up bass by his wife and would take that. I try to clear my mind of the vision of Rylance, a solitary figure on the sand, playing his upright bass to the crashing waves. I try. But the vision won’t go away.