Remakes Are the Answer to the Oscar Ceremony’s Biggest Problem

By  · Published on March 5th, 2014

There’s no need to fix the Oscars, at least as far as the Academy and ABC are concerned. The ratings for Sunday’s telecast were huge. But those of us who wish for a better show can still try to come up with ideas for how the event can improve. My suggestion: they should embrace remakes. I don’t mean specifically honoring remakes, though 12 Years a Slave was basically the second remake in a decade to win Best Picture (and if Steven Spielberg really remakes West Side Story, maybe we can see a remake of a Best Picture win Best Picture). I mean more along the lines of recreating scenes from new and old movies specifically for the ceremony.

Not a lot is different between the concepts of a remake and a recreated movie. The latter might be more faithful and intended for tribute, though. Examples may include the continued art of sweding and “parody” videos that have a loving approach and the popular attraction of live celebrity script-readings, whether cast with the original or new actors and actresses. In the middle group there have been such memorable instances as the Max Fischer Players renditions of the 1999 MTV Movie Awards nominees and this year’s separate instances of kids acting out the Best Picture contenders.

What separates the Oscars from other more entertaining awards shows like the Tonys and the Grammys is its inability to adequately showcase its artform as part of the celebration in a way that’s not merely running clip reels. Obviously it makes sense that shows honoring the stage and music, both of which are easily tied to live performance, can deliver such relevant entertainment. There’s no good in recreating movie scenes on the stage of the Dolby either, because that’s more an appreciation of live theater than cinema. Then again, that’s almost what we get with having Pink sing a cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in tribute to The Wizard of Oz.

Although there is something favored in the danger of live television – whether you’re tuning in for shocking moments at a music awards show or hate-watching NBC’s The Sound of Music or having an extended, viral laugh at the expense of John Travolta’s flub – and it’s understandable that viewers enjoy all the seemingly candid bits in the audience, especially when we can see famous people acting like regular folk and eating the food of peasants, there’s room for more pre-taped segments, preferably in the place of montages. The Oscars have latched onto the wrong Internet phenomenon for movie fans, as supercuts are too broad, hardly unique and apparently also easily done badly.

During the telecast, many noted that a Google Play commercial did a better job of celebrating movies than the Oscars did (ironically, thanks to the Samsung product placement, the Oscars may have been better at advertising than the commercials, too). There is also a Pepsi ad – I don’t recall seeing it during the show, but it’s attached to clips of the ceremony online – paying homage through repurposed movie quotes. It’s no resurrecting a whole never-nominated tune from Beaches for no reason, but it’s cute – and the most Oscar-relevant Cuba Gooding, Jr., has been since his win 16 years ago.

Maybe there’s too much of an extra cost to get the stars to come in to pre-tape material, but how great would it be if the Oscars did their own remake clips of both anniversary and presently recognized films? Instead of bringing the Hollywood legends, like Kim Novak and Liza Minelli, out to awkwardly present an award or to just sit in the audience, get them to act out a moment from one of the Best Picture nominees. Wouldn’t it be neat seeing Novak and fellow Hitchcock vets Eva Marie Saint, Sean Connery and current nominee Bruce Dern reenact a scene from American Hustle? Or if they got Mickey Rooney and Minelli to play the Clooney and Bullock roles in a Gravity bit? Other way around, get some young blood (good for ratings) to redo the classics. Have Selena Gomez play Dorothy in a shot for shot clip of the “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” scene.

The concern might be that it’d all be too silly, viewed as more lampooning than lauding. But they used to get away with more fooling around with clips during opening segments, especially when Billy Crystal was hosting. This would be more of that throughout the show yet maybe even classier by intending for something more serious. Not all re-creations have to be parodies, as we see more often through photography spreads in which new Hollywood players pose in shots from North by Northwest or as Disney characters. Also, more and more we see it in the movies, too, with reenactment-filled making-of dramas like Hitchcock and My Week With Marilyn.

It’s an idea I’d love for the Academy and the telecast producers to consider, regardless of whether they think nothing’s in need of repair. And, hey, maybe having Hollywood remake pieces of beloved movies for this purpose would make them less likely to actually remake the movies in full.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.