EXCLUSIVE: Oscarcast executive producers Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic have dropped a bombshell, telling artists nominated for Best Original Song that they won’t be invited to perform the usual big production number. The decision has hit a sour note for the nominated performers. Instead of the Academy Awards’ long-held tradition of staged musical performances of the five nominated songs, the music from those songs will be interspersed with footage from each movie to provide more context. I’m told that some of the nominees and filmmakers are outraged, feeling that the Oscar producers are tossing aside tradition and costing musical artists their well-deserved moment of global TV glory. What the Academy Awards telecast producers will certainly do is shave time that can be spent doting on twice as many Best Picture nominees as in years past. And this year in particular, that is a big priority. Never mind that the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences already decided this year to limit the number of Original Song nominees to speed up the Oscar broadcast.
Mechanic’s and Shankman’s more recent decision appears equally pragmatic. Explanations include that the songs never delivered ratings, and that is what this Oscarcast is all about. That not having the big production numbers will move the show along. That it will save money for distributors, who eat most of the costs (up to 7 figures) of schlepping singers in. That unless a song by Bruce Springsteen, Celine Dion, Sting or U2 were nominated, most of the worldwide audience is hearing the tune for the first time when it is sung. I mean, can anybody besides Tom Bernard or Michael Barker from Sony Pictures Classics hum a few bars of “Loin de Paname” from Paris 36? Other of this year’s 5 nominated Best Original Songs are: “Almost There” and “Down In New Orleans”, two tunes penned by Randy Newman for The Princess And The Frog; “Take it All”, the Maury Yestin number sung by Marion Cotillard in Nine; and “The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)”, the Ryan Bingham/T Bone Burnett song performed by Bingham.
I’m also hearing about other Oscars spoilers which Shankman and Mechanic are contemplating — and changing their minds about just as quickly. (Even though the entire staff involved in the Oscarcast were made to sign a confidentiality agreement!):
— They have placed an emphasis on drawing young stars like Taylor Lautner and Channing Tatum, hoping that translates to a younger viewing audience. But at the same time they’re torn about how to keep storied stars in the mix. I’m told they decided at first to abandon last year’s innovation of having 5 former winners of all ages introduce the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. But that now they are leaning toward keeping what I thought was a very classy innovation by Bill Condon and Laurence Mark.
— Insiders are also buzzing about what Shankman, an accomplished choreographer, has in mind for dance numbers. One thing I’ve heard: don’t be surprised if some of his dancers are culled from past contestants on So You Think You Can Dance?, the Fox show where Shankman serves as a judge and choreographer. (Hmm, how is ABC going to feel about that?)