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Want to kick-start the Oscars? Let Tarantino direct the live telecast

Sure, directing a live telecast is far different from directing a movie. But who wouldn’t tune in to see what Quentin Tarantino might do?
Sure, directing a live telecast is far different from directing a movie. But who wouldn’t turn in to see what Quentin Tarantino might do?
(Franck Robichon / EPA-EFE/REX)

I can’t write about Quentin Tarantino with fewer than 60 cups of coffee. The man is a transitive verb, a frantic genius and maybe even a darkly comic psycho — as are many of the great American filmmakers.

That’s why I’d have him direct this year’s live Oscar telecast.

Stay with me now, for I know you have a few concerns.

  • Would Travolta have to host?
  • Can he actually read?
  • In the course of the show, how many F-bombs would ABC have to bleep?
  • Would Steve Buscemi and Harvey Keitel kick up their heels in some glitzy yet shocking opening number?

I would hope so, though I’m hardly reflective of a mainstream audience, what’s left of it. I have the sensibility of your basic Buick dealer. But like Tarantino, I am capable of the small mischiefs of children. Stitched together, they become a career.

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So bring on Quentin Tarantino as overlord/director of the Academy Awards, a man of negative nuance, a smash-mouth savior.

Admittedly, directing live TV requires a far different skill set than a feature film does. On a movie set, the director wears a baseball cap, answers a million questions a minute, watches a single monitor, then goes off to take a nap. The movie is at the mercy of the director.

In live TV, the director makes split-second decisions in front of dozens of monitors. It requires the reflexes of a squirrel and the nervous system of a Swedish assassin. It’s like cutting together a movie the very second it is shot. The director is at the mercy of the event.

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It is no task for the timid. It requires at least 60 cups of coffee.

That’s what makes Tarantino so perfect for this. Even his technical glitches would be entertaining.

I’d place one camera in the control room, capturing the pure panic on his face when Uma Thurman goes off-script or the Yakuza soldiers in the “Kill Bill” skit suddenly turn on the audience.

This would be live TV at its most audacious. Tarantino adores movies, and what better love note than a live ode to the industry?

I can’t predict his music choices, which are always inspired. But I’d purchase the soundtrack right now.

Look, good storytelling is filled with surprises. As when Judy Garland wakes up from her concussion in the Kansas farmhouse, or Travolta accidentally blows off Marvin’s head in the back seat. Surprise is the very marrow of engaging story telling.

And right now, in this fragment of time, which is how Hollywood measures time, Tarantino is at the top of the storytelling heap.

So give him the keys to the Oscar telecast and step back. If he succeeds, maybe he could do a few episodes of “The Bachelor.”

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What would one of Tarantino’s Oscar telecasts look like? Happy hour at a seedy little club in San Pedro, probably. On Christmas Eve, with everyone waiting for the bag man to show.

And there’d be plenty of Tarantino trademarks — swords, whips and misfits. Goons and vixens would find ways to triumph despite questionable social skills, reminding a lot of younger viewers of their experiences with social media.

In many ways, Tarantino is the voice of the marginalized and forgotten. He lifts up, he empowers. He is the Capra of the underclass.

tarantino
What does Tarantino have left to prove? That he could save the Oscar telecast with his live ode to the movie business.
(Guillaume Horcajuelo / EPA-EFE/REX)

In his hands, the show would blend old school plus new school plus noir school, with scores of pop-culture references. Combine the subversive vibe of “Saturday Night Live” (now that it’s funny again) with the wildcat adrenaline of Tarantino, and maybe we’d have a spectacle that even Twitter would like.

Of course, the telecast would be shockingly heterosexual, though the marvelous and formidable Patricia Arquette, so feisty good in “True Romance,” could keep everyone in check. At one point, she would actually have to kill a man. With a kitchen gadget.

But before the audience could object, someone would reveal that the victim was a Manson family acolyte, which would make the incident all kinds of cool and righteous and soothing.

“Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and goodwill, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness!” Samuel L. Jackson would shout from the stage.

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Look, there’s more work to be done here. But tell me you wouldn’t be curious. In fact, I’d pitch that all upcoming Oscar telecasts be directed by top-flight movie directors.

Mel Brooks would be my next pick. Then Steven Spielberg after him.

Spike Lee would be a hoot, and I’d like to see what Greta Gerwig would do with the show.

Or how about Richard Curtis, master of the rom-com moment?

“Oscars Actually.”

Desperate times. Desperate measures.


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