Oh no! Peter Gabriel has dropped out of the Oscars show because they only want to let him sing 65 seconds of his world-changing, Oscar-nominated song, “Down to Earth,” from “WALL-E.”
“I don’t feel that is sufficient time to do the song justice, and I have decided to withdraw from performing,” Gabriel said in his letter to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
But Gabriel’s little snit actually may serve a useful purpose. Could this be the inroad needed to get rid of the ridiculous performances of best-song nominees altogether in the Oscar telecast?
Let’s hope so.
Everybody talks about how long and boring the Oscar show always is – but nobody does anything about it. And the answer is always right there in front of them: Eliminate all musical performances of any sort from the show.
The idea of offering all of the songs in one brief medley is a long-needed step in the right direction. Completing the process would mean announcing the best-song award like every other category (except best picture): minus the performances, with just 10-second clips after the name of each song is read.
This year’s Oscar-show producers, film producer Laurence Marks and director Bill Condon, have promised a slimmed-down ceremony full of surprises. Producing a show that doesn’t put people to sleep would be surprise enough. And that means:
No big dance numbers that nobody cares about.
Fewer meaningless movie-clip montages. (Isn’t that what those pointless AFI 100-best puff-fests are about?)
And no long-winded renditions of the best-song nominees. Cutting those performances automatically slices 20 minutes out of the show’s running time.
Really: Is there a category that’s riper for elimination than this one?
Best song used to mean something, back in the days when the movies – and Broadway musicals – were major players in determining the country’s musical tastes. (We’re speaking, of course, about the Paleolithic era.)
In those days, songs nominated for an Oscar actually figured in the movies with which they were associated. They were the theme song – or they were songs that had something to do with the plot itself. That’s been true of the winners of the past few years: last year’s “Falling Slowly,” “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” to name a couple.
But the bulk of the rest of the nominees over the past couple of decades might better be classified under a different heading: “Best song played over the closing credits of a movie that tells you what the movie was about, in case you’ve already forgotten.”
“My Heart Will Go On,” anyone? Or, perhaps, “Down to Earth”?
So thanks, Peter Gabriel. Let’s hope somebody at the Academy takes the hint.