For Thankful Windbags, an Oscar-Cam Awaits

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This year at the Academy Awards, in order to keep the ceremony moving along, award winners will have an opportunity to thank people after they leave the stage. They'll be using a "thank you" cam that will broadcast messages on the Web. Rob Long, a Hollywood writer and host of Martini Shot on member-station KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif., says the thank-you cam is a bad idea.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

There will be one change you might notice at the Oscars this year. It's called the thank-you cam, and it's aimed to keeping those acceptance speeches a little shorter.

Well, commentator Rob Long is not happy about it.

ROB LONG: I have a rule. I never attend, and I try never to watch an awards ceremony where I'm not nominated. I've been in the entertainment business for 17 years, and I've been to my fair share of awards ceremonies. But at a certain point, the idea of slipping on a dinner jacket and hustling over to some theater in the middle of the afternoon to watch someone else get an award sort of loses its magic. But I do watch the Oscars. In this business, and in this town, the Oscars are the closest thing we have to a quasi-religious ceremony.

I mean, its got it all: elaborate costumes, alarming music, even - if you think about the category of best supporting actor or actress in a certain way -ritual human sacrifice. Now, I watch it because I like to see the faces of the people who don't win. And I suspect I'm not alone in this. I bet lots of Oscar viewers - even most Oscar viewers - get a creepy, nasty thrill out of this.

In fact, I think they cut away from those faces a little too soon, while the frozen smile still frosty and the wise, good-sport head tilt is just about done, but before the eyes start to dart furiously around the room, searching out the agent, the director, the soon-to-be ex-spouse for a piercing look that says, I want to talk to you later. Now, this year, apparently, the thank-you speeches are going to be even shorter.

The Academy has installed something called thank-you cams backstage so that any winner who was momentarily brain locked or hustled off stage too soon and forgot to thank some key person can make amends by saying their thank-yous into a Web cam. Nice, huh? Sorry, Mom. I forgot. But I thanked you on rever(ph). This is a bad idea for two reasons. In the first place, it seems weird that a business locked in a furious and doomed struggle with Web-based video for copyright protection and diminishing profits should rely on that same platform to keep it signature award show at sprightly pace.

Presumably, moments after the envelope is opened, you'll be able to see a pirated copy of the movie and the actor's Oscar acceptance speech for that movie on YouTube. But it's also bad showmanship. Aside from the furious broken look on the face of the - well, let's not say loser, let's say Oscar non-recipient - the only other reason to sit through the boring musical numbers is the very real possibility that the winner, in his acceptance speech, is going to say something bizarre or stupid or outrageously left-wing or maybe just expose himself as a perfect, malignant narcissist.

Why cheat us out of making fun of the winner, especially if you're going to cut away from the loser? Talk about not getting it.

(Soundbite of song, "As Time Goes By")

BLOCK: Rob Long is a writer and producer in Hollywood. His weekly commentary, "Martini Shot", is heard on member station KCRW.

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