The 91st Academy Awards are less than a week away and after some of the most contentious pushbacks in Oscar history, more details of the now likely 3 hours plus telecast are coming to light. Not only will all the categories be handed out on the live telecast, but all five songs nominated for Best Original Song will be performed (you forgot about that controversy already didn’t you?). There’s still no host which is fine by producers Donna Gigliotti and Glenn Weiss because they have a plan.
Thanks to an in-depth interview, er reveal, in the New York Times, Gigliotti and Weiss revealed that their big contribution to this year’s show will be to have people from outside the movie industry present a scene from each nominated Best Picture that meant something to them personally. For example, they revealed Serena Williams will be presenting “A Star is Born.” The legendary Tennis player is a global icon but what will she and the other presenters really bring beyond a 30 second or minute long introduction? Maybe it will work in context. Maybe some of the presenters are so surprising it will create an emotional reaction with the audience and viewers at home. Sadly, this pundit knows of one fabulous talent who had to turn the Academy down, but we can assure you they are certainly trying to go out of the box.
The producers also revealed that not only will Bette Midler be joining Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Hudson on stage to perform the Best Original Songs, but that singer-songwriters Gillian Welch and David Rawlings will perform “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” No one is confirming yet that Kendrick Lamar and SZA will be singing “All The Stars” from “Black Panther,” however, which is somewhat disconcerting.
Gigliotti and Weiss note they were hired to deliver a three-hour show and had planned to do that even with a host. They confirmed Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was their first ask, but he was unavailable (he’s noted he’d do it if he had more lead time). Kevin Hart was their second choice and, obviously, that turned into a controversy no one saw coming. Even going hostless after Hart’s departure, once they were notified they had to include all the categories they informed the Academy and ABC a three-hour show would be impossible. How much longer it goes over that mark remains to be seen (we’re not convinced it could ever be under 3 hours).
This year’s telecast will have a newly designed set which the producers hope will “come out and hug you.” It’s a very modern design from David Korins who is best known for his work on Tony Award winners “Hamilton” and “Dear Evan Hansen.” Korins’ design is certainly unique and we’re hoping blows us away in person. At the moment, there certainly are a lot of people who think it looks like Donald Trump‘s hairline (you can’t unsee it now can you?).
One of the more interesting elements of the NYT piece was that embattled and soon to be termed-out AMPAS President John Bailey was not quoted in it. Instead, CEO Dawn Hudson provided a statement noting that The Academy will “continue to discuss how the Oscars can evolve — to keep engagement strong, to reflect the increasingly global nature of the film business and our membership.” Moreover, she added, “If we have learned anything over the last few months it is that people feel very connected to the Oscars. Everyone has an opinion and a passion.”
Honestly, you’d think the Academy would have realized the later years ago, but better late than never, right?
The 91st Academy Awards will air live on ABC on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 5 PM PT, 8 PM PT.