Movie Feature

Oscars telecast: come for the music, stay for the movies?

By Mary MillikenMovies - 17 February 2015 3:00 PM

Oscars telecast: come for the music, stay for the movies?

Lady Gaga will perform in a sure-to-be eye-catching outfit, Tim McGraw adds a little country to Hollywood, Adam Levine brings rock-star swagger and pop duo Tegan and Sara team up with The Lonely Island for kid favorite "Everything Is Awesome."

No, it is not the Grammys. Those were last week. It is the 87th Academy Awards and the telecast producers know they need new viewers who might require more enticement than a slew of good movies and gorgeous movie stars to show up for Hollywood's biggest night Sunday.

"It is a very strong year for us in music," said co-producer Craig Zadan, adding that "a lot of the strategy behind that is to welcome a younger audience."

'Everything Is Awesome' - Tegan and Sara featuring The Lonely Island

Zadan and producing partner Neil Meron, now in their third year behind America's biggest non-sports televised event, need to do that without alienating the adult audience that tunes in each year.

Their choice of first-time host Neil Patrick Harris could be seen as the bridge between young and old and music and film fans. A Tony-winning, song-and-dance man who has won three Emmyshosting theater's Tony Awards, he also has a young following as the star of the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother."

"There will be a big musical sequence that features Neil that is being written by Bobby and Kristen Lopez who won the Oscar last year for 'Let It Go'," said Meron, who credits the performance of that 'Frozen' anthem last year for bringing kids to the Oscars.

One of the big challenges to any Oscars telecast is that the best picture nominees are usually not blockbusters - and this year is no different with the exception of 'American Sniper'.

"Our plan from the beginning, two years ago, was we are going to get every fan of every movie we are honoring to come watch the show," said Zadan. "But in addition to that, we are putting on an entertainment."

The catch: the live performances must relate to movies.

'Selma' - Common, John Legend

Performers include Common and John Legend singing their best song nominee 'Glory' from 'Selma', Jack Black and Jennifer Hudson.

SELFIE REFLECTION

Zadan and Meron, veteran musical producers for Broadway, television and film, have last year's ratings on their side.

The 86th Academy Awards hosted by talk-show maven and comedian Ellen DeGeneres - and made famous by the selfie that brought Twitter down and a pizza delivery - scored the biggest audience for an Oscar telecast in 14 years for Walt Disney Co's ABC network. Some 43.7 million people tuned in.

It was a big validation after their first Oscars came under heavy fire for the provocative humor of Seth MacFarlane - a hosting choice they stand by because it brought in the most fickle audience, young males.

A big part of their mission to make sure the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, its awards and the film industry have a place among the new generation.

"It is very important, above and beyond any sort of notion of advertising dollars, that the passion offilm is continued and perpetuated," said Meron.

While some critics argued that DeGeneres' star-studded selfie and pizza delivery were down-market for the film industry's highest honours, Zadan said he learned while traveling that those two moments are what stuck most in people's minds.

"There we are standing in the jungles of Peru and there is this young girl talking to me about the pizza and selfie," he said.

And then there was the unscripted moment provided by the so-called Oscar gods, when John Travolta mangled singer Idina Menzel's name and it went viral. "It was fantastic," said Meron.