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Tom Alderman Headshot

The Oscar Imperative

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"So, whadja think?" is the question most heard around America after the Oscar telecast. As it should be. Whether you've seen any of the nominated movies or even care about watching, there is a cultural imperative that dictates you MUST watch this annual event. If you don't, you really will be the outsider you think you are. The Oscar event is one of the few remaining common grounds we Americans can talk about without having to listen to Sean Hannity or Keith Olbermann. Like the Super Bowl, watching is a major social event. Someone you know is throwing an Academy Award party and you'd like to be invited even though you wouldn't know Jeremy Renner from Jeremy Piven.

"Whaja think of the host?" is the first place we generally go to with our post-show critiques. Whether Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg or Hugh Jackman, the host(s) are inevitably compared against the three title holders: Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal. Tough acts to beat.

Elaborate dance numbers often generate disparate chatter. A few years ago show producers eliminated the dancing segments causing cheers among ADHD viewers and jeers from Dancing with the Stars fans. This year, the bewildering dance number was back - you could tell by the millions of flushing toilets heard around the country.

Then there are those un-scripted, cringe-worthy moments we all hope will happen: naked streakers flopping across the stage, Brando's Sacheen Littlefeather, David Letterman's repeated "Uma-Oprah" dud. There was potential this year for drama because of the ex-husband and wife: blockbuster, box-office record-breaking Avatar versus tiny, independent non-commercial The Hurt Locker. This is classic dramatic friction and we came to see how it played out. The TV producers knew it, which is why they sat James Cameron and Kathryn Bigalow close together for a two-shot so we could see their reactions. So what happens when the Best Director Award is finally announced? The TV show director, Hamish Hamilton, drops the much anticipated two-shot and cuts to an overhead audience wide-shot so we never get to see the response between the two ex-lovers. Did they hug? Did she even look at him? What happened?

By broadcast time next year, most of us will have forgotten who won best this-or-that for 2009. Producers will inevitably try some new angle to punch-up our interest and we'll already be questioning whether the 2010 host will ever be up to Hope, Carson or Crystal.

And whether you want to watch the Oscars again after The People's Choice, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild Awards - you probably will and you'll still be asking, "So, whaja think?