Countdown to the Oscars: 5 Ways to Make Sure the Show is a Winner

It won’t be long now before the envelopes are opened and winners announced at the 82nd annual Academy Awards. The live ceremony starts at 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday on ABC.

Producing the Oscar telecast is not an easy job, but there are already signs that the people in charge of this year’s affair might offer up a show to fondly remember. The producers, Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic, have already decided against having each nominated original song performed. Thank God! And unlike last year, when presenters were kept secret, Shankman and Mechanic have announced the presenters in waves to build buzz. Along with a host of young, pretty people, historic Oscar winners like Kathy Bates and Barbra Streisand have also been named presenters for the show.

It is inevitable that there will be more critics of the ceremony than people at it, but let’s face it, that’s all part of the fun. It’s unfortunate that the Academy chose two hosts (Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin) and ten best picture nominees, but there is nothing that can be done about that now.

Here are 5 ways that the producers could ensure that Sunday’s telecast is a winner:

Present supporting actress at the top of the show
Mo’Nique is a lock to win best supporting actress for “Precious.” She has won every preliminary award and everyone who follows the Academy believes that her chances of winning are near 100%. The producers should open the show by presenting the best supporting actress Oscar — even before the monologues. Mo’Nique gave very moving acceptance speeches at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Her Oscar acceptance speech would inject the perfect emotional lift to kick off the ceremony. And even if she is upset, and what an upset it would be, the shear surprise of who wins would be a great opening to the show.

Return to tradition in who presents what to whom
Traditionally, the best actor from the previous year presents to the best actress of the current year. However, last year the Academy had five previous winners presenting each of the 4 acting awards. Does it really take 20 people to hand out 4 Oscars? Hell no! The length of the show is the one constant pitfall, so it just makes sense to limit the number of people who will be rambling on and on and on. Besides, the old tradition of a previous winner handing off to the new winner is actually quite poignant.

Limit clips to only the 10 films nominated for best picture
I have to admit that I do enjoy seeing the clips of classic movies during the Oscars, but must the show be halted every 30 minutes to show a set of clips? One of the biggest laughs Jon Stewart got when he hosted the Oscars in 2008 was when he poked fun at how they had run out of clips to show! The producers should resist the temptation to be nostalgic and only show clips of the 10 films vying for best picture of the year.

Switch up the order
It appears that we are heading into a very predictable ceremony. Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”), Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”), Christoph Waltz (“Inglorious Bastards”) and Mo’Nique (“Precious”) are all expected to win the acting prizes. The actors are why people watch the show, so if we already know who is going to win, it quickly becomes boring. To keep viewers engaged, the producers should move some things around. How about presenting best director during the first hour as opposed to the last 30 minutes? This change could pay off hugely, especially if “The Hurt Locker” director Kathryn Bigelow (pictured with best actor nominee Jeremy Renner) can edge out her ex-husband James Cameron (“Avatar”) and become the first woman to win an Oscar for directing. And who says lead actor and lead actress have to be presented, back to back, in the final 20 minutes of the ceremony? With three hours to play with, the producers could spread things out and present at least one acting award each hour. I’d roll the dice and hand out lead actor in the second hour of the telecast, while saving lead actress for later.

Bring all minor category nominees to the stage
After inviting 10 best picture nominees and two hosts, it would be cruel to play music over the people who actually win the awards. After all, Oscar night is about honoring Oscar winners. Nominees for the minor awards (i.e. make-up, editing, sound) are usually seated in the back of the auditorium behind the actors. And it usually takes them at least 30 seconds to get to the stage if they actually win. That time adds up and it slows down the ceremony. The Academy realizes this and actually handed out a few minor awards in the aisles a few years back. Bad idea. A better idea would be to invite all minor nominees to the stage. For example, there are three nominees in the best make-up category. Why not have all three nominees on stage to be recognized and the winner just steps forward to the podium after the envelope is opened? It would take all of 5 seconds! Not only would it save time, but it would also allow those who didn’t win the award to have some precious stage time. For once, everyone would truly be a winner.