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The Oscar Act-Off

Make the nominees sing for their supper.

Still from The Descendants.
Live! On stage! George Clooney and the Descendants!

© 2011 Fox Searchlight. All rights reserved.

On Oscar night, Billy Crystal will sing and mug and flopsweat all over the stage in a futile attempt to entertain. Meanwhile, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Melissa McCarthy—the stars we’re all tuning in to see—will sit in the audience, doing little aside from fake-laughing at Billy Crystal. The way to fix to the Oscars is to flip this workload. The host should do little to nothing, and the stars should be forced to sing and mug and flopsweat for their statuettes.

Rather than screening clips of the acting nominees, the academy should compel these thespians to act on demand. I don’t want to see Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill shooting the shit in a 30-second Moneyball snippet. I want to see them perform on stage, in costume, in front of their peers and an audience of millions. Live performances would be a reward for ensembles like the Bridesmaids crew and Clooney’s Descendants comrades, who would be needed to support the would-be honorees. They’d also be a crucible for the supposedly talented. Is Rooney Mara all costume, no chops? Put her on stage and find out.

Certain roles—James Franco in 127 Hours, Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button—would present challenges of staging. But if Max Fischer could stage an adaptation of Serpico, I’m pretty sure that Brian Grazer could pull off a little limb-severing. These onstage vignettes would become the most-anticipated part of Oscar night. In a counterfactual universe in which actors didn’t sit on their duffs in tuxes, these live performances—Marlon Brando coulda-been-a-contender-ing, Harrison Ford cavorting with the Amish, Kathy Bates sledge-hammering James Caan—would account for the 4,000 greatest moments in Oscar history.

Clip the clips, put Clooney on stage, and thank me later. All I ask for is an executive producer credit.

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