It's been clear for a while now what's going to go down on Oscar night this year, at least in terms of the major categories. The Artist will win Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor; Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer will represent The Help for Actress and Supporting Actress, respectively; The Descendants will have to content itself with a Best Adapted Screenplay statue. With those winners -- most of which we're satisfied with if not entirely ecstatic about -- set in stone, here's what we hope to see happen Sunday night to keep the telecast interesting.
10. Early '90s Billy Crystal Emcees Instead of Late '90s Billy Crystal
It's hard to remember now, but the actor/comedian's first few stints as the Oscars emcee were actually pretty great. Remember his first-ever medley name-checking each of the Best Picture nominees at the 1990 show, a great joke before he ran it into the ground? Or how about his Hannibal Lecter entrance at the '92 telecast? When he returned later in the decade, though, that charm was gone, replaced by flop-sweat and stale jokes. We're not sure which Crystal will show up this year, but we desperately hope, to paraphrase Moxy Früvous, that he's stuck in the early '90s again.
9. The Tree of Life Wins Something
Terrence Malick's one-of-a-kind visual poem about life, the universe and everything received three nominations -- Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography. The first two statues are spoken for, but the movie has a strong shot at the Cinematography award for the stellar work by director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki. The Mexican-born cinematographer has received four prior nominations (including one for Malick's previous film The New World as well as the exceptional sci-fi drama Children of Men) but no wins. Time to rectify that by giving him -- and The Tree of Life -- some recognition.
8. The Muppets Get a Chance to Sing
That Brangelina-like Hollywood power couple Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy ("Kiggy"? 'Permit"?) will be among the presenters at the telecast, but as of now, the Academy hasn't reversed its previously-announced decision that Jim Henson's creations won't be permitted to sing their nominated song, "Man or Muppet." A petition (created by Perez Hilton of all people) has been making the rounds online and if that doesn't work out, we fully endorse the notion of a Muppet work stoppage until their musical talents get some respect. And as a corollary to this, we hope to see...
7. A Conchord Becomes an Oscar Winner
Eminem's win in the Best Original Song category was awesome and Three 6 Mafia's was even better. Now we hope to see folk-rocker Bret McKenzie, one-half of Flight of the Conchords and the writer of "Man or Muppet," add "Oscar winner" to his resume. Considering that his only competition is a forgettable number from the equally forgettable animated film Rio, victory seems assured. Somewhere in Brooklyn, Conchords superfan Mel will be flipping her lid when Bret takes the stage for his acceptance speech.
6. Sacha Baron Cohen Does Show Up as The Dictator
The British comedian has notified (or should that be threatened?) the Academy that he'll be attending the ceremony as General Aladeen, his militaristic alter ego from the upcoming comedy, The Dictator. But as the Oscars are generally a no-promotional zone, the event organizers have requested that he not appear on the red carpet as a walking advertisement for his new movie. We hope that Cohen sticks to his guns (maybe not literally) and goes through with the stunt anyway, if only to see how completely his appearance flummoxes all those pre-show red carpet hosts.
5. A Separation Pulls Off an Upset Win
Not in the Best Foreign Language category, where its victory is all but assured. No, we mean for Best Original Screenplay, where Midnight in Paris and The Artist seem to be the frontrunners right now. But rumors have been swirling that A Separation is a strong dark horse contender. If there are going to be any surprises among the major categories, look for it to happen here.
4. The Bridesmaids Crew Goes Off Book
All five bridesmaids (plus blushing bride Maya Rudolph) will reunite to present a still unannounced award during the ceremony and we fully expect that they'll use the occasion to adlib a bit, thus saving us from the usual inane presenter patter scrolling through the Teleprompter. So even if Crystal bombs, we'll have the antics of Kristen Wiig & Co. to look forward to.
3. A New Starlet Gets Her Jennifer Lawrence Moment
The Hunger Games star and former Oscar nominee turned heads on the red carpet last year when she showed up sporting this memorable look. Which young actress will grab all the attention this year with her fashion choice? Our money's on Rooney Mara or Elizabeth Olsen.
2. Anne Hathaway and James Franco Stay Far, Far Away
This is more for their sake than ours, as we don't entirely blame last year's hosting fiasco on them (well, we don't entirely blame Hathaway, at least). If they do show up, they'll be making themselves easy targets both on the red carpet and in the auditorium. Better to take an extended Oscar break, returning only when they're actual nominees, at which point everyone will mutually agree to forget the past.
1. It's a Fun Show
With the winners mostly a foregone conclusion, what we're really tuning in for this year is to see the usual Oscar pageantry accompanied by a much-needed dose of good humor. In the past, the ceremony has always suffered whenever it took itself too seriously. If this year's producers and participants can find a way to balance the built-in pomposity with an anything-goes sense of fun, they'll have a winning mix for a memorable awards show.
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