Even when the hosts are unpredictable – James Franco is an original; Anne Hathaway not so much, but she can be surprising – the Oscar show follows a predictable pattern. There’s a very funny opening routine, some early awards excitement, then a slog as people you don’t care about thank their agents, you wonder where the hosts have gone, you look at the clock and can’t believe this interminable show is only halfway through. Will it ever change? Probably not, but we can get smarter about it.
Here are my Top Five Rules for Watching:
1. Always stayed glued to Franco and Hathaway. They come armed with material from some veteran Oscar-show writers, which makes me cringe (I’m sorry, I have never heard a Bruce Villanch joke that made me laugh) but also some new writers, which adds some hope. This little video of the hosts doing “Grease” is promising.
2. Don’t even think about taking a break before Best Supporting Actress; it’s the second award up, and an exciting race worth sitting still for. I think Hailee Steinfeld from “True Grit” will upset the frontrunner Melissa Leo from “The Fighter“. Helena Bonham Carter could even break through for “The King’s Speech“.
3: Unless Franco and Hathaway are involved, run when you hear music. You don’t remember Randy Newman and Mandy Moore’s songs from hearing them in “Toy Story 3” or “Tangled”, why waste your time now? You’ve already heard Gwyneth [Paltrow] sing her “Country Strong” song plenty of times.
4. Major time for snack-making, drink-refilling, running around the block: Celine Dion will sing “Smile” during the In Memoriam sequence, which I always call The Best Dead People montage. This was a lovely idea when Queen Latifah sang I’ll Be Seeing You a couple of years ago, but was there ever a more treacly song than Smile, a less cool singer than Dion? This comes fairly late in the evening, a good chance to get a second wind. Take a break; they’ll still be dead when you get back.
5. Nikki Finke at Deadline.com has posted a helpful rundown of the show’s schedule. Things may change and for all we know this schedule could be disinformation, but if she’s right the producers have very sneakily tucked the volatile Best Director award (Tom Hooper or David Fincher?) between two totally skippable longer segments: In Memoriam and the Governors Award package. Try not to nod off, because Best Actor, Actress and Picture will then be squished together at the end. (Read Finke’s whole article if you don’t mind spoilers.)
And don’t forget that “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” follows the awards and the local news with his yearly Oscar special. Last year’s included his hilarious Handsome Men’s Club sketch, always worth another look.
Caryn James writes about TV and movies for IndieWire.com. For more cool stuff from her, click here.