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How can we make the Oscars better?

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Fix the Oscars

Inept hosts. Dumb categories. Dance numbers. It is time to reform the Academy Awards.

Actor Billy Crystal mimics the Oscar statues at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Billy Crystal will host the Oscars yet again this year. Is it time to get rid of him?

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Sure, 37 million Americans watched the Oscar telecast last year. But it seems as though all 37 million of us thought the show was terrible. Complaining about the Oscars—the ineptness of the hosts, the lousy choices made by the academy, the dance numbers that never end, the categories we don’t care about, the boring speeches that go on forever, the great speeches that get interrupted by the orchestra, the presenters woodenly reading Bruce Vilanch-penned witticisms off the Teleprompter—is as much a part of awards season as a Harvey Weinstein tantrum.

Yet we still watch! For movie fans, the awards remain essential viewing, as painful as they may be. We get together with friends, we make movie-themed cocktails, we fill out ballots and put our $5 in the pot. But couldn’t we make the viewing experience a little better for everyone? Couldn’t we make the Oscars more funny, exciting, and fair? Couldn’t we find a way to make the speeches better, the races more competitive, the show less old-fashioned and stultifying?

The academy struggles with these questions every year—witness the Franco/Hathaway hosting fiasco of 2011, which in its way wasn’t that different than the Rob Lowe/Snow White dancing fiasco of 1989. But we here at Slate think there’s hope for the Oscars. The show’s ratings may never return to its Titanic-era heights, but we can certainly make the presentation better for those 37 million of us who will apparently watch it no matter what—and we could also make the awards themselves more relevant to the era of filmmaking and film-watching in which we live.

That’s what The Hive is for. In The Hive, we crowdsource tough questions—from brainstorming ways to end childhood obesity to  improving our commutes. It’s hard to think of a problem more intractable than the essential badness of the Oscars—so let’s get together and make it better.

Should the best picture category be split into “Art” and “Popcorn” categories? Should a holographic Bob Hope host the show? Should we levy fines on the most boring acceptance speeches, as judged by ordinary Americans? Should there be more dance numbers? Should the whole ceremony be conducted in dance? Draw on all your experience watching, love/hating, and snarking on the Oscars to make suggestions big and small. We’ll publish your ideas on Slate, and other readers will vote and comment on their favorites. Then, the week before the Oscars, we’ll choose our favorite fixes and create a comprehensive plan to present to the academy, which will probably ignore us. But who knows, right?

Submit an idea by clicking the "Enter Your Idea" button. Come back to comment on other Slate readers’ ideas. Slate staffers will stop by from time to time to present our own modest proposals for improving the ceremony; tell us why we’re morons (or geniuses, we could be geniuses). Voting will end on Friday, Feb. 17, and we’ll post our winners in plenty of time for Oscar producer Brian Grazer to crib as many ideas as he wants.

Together, we can make an Oscar ceremony that you won’t need a half-dozen The Help-inspired mint juleps to enjoy.

Photo credits: Billy Crystal with statues by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images. Beyoncé’s feet by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images. Billy Crystal hosting by Kevin Winter/Getty Images. Oscar envelope  by Valerie Macon/Getty Images.

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