For the first time in 22 years, presenters at the Oscars won’t be using the traditional, non-competitive phrase “and the Oscar goes to … ”
Instead — to go by how they’ve been rehearsing for the past couple of days — they’ll be trotting out a phrase that was once an Oscar trademark, before the Academy opted for a kindler, gentler approach.
“And the winner is … ”
Oscar producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman haven’t talked specifically about the change — though when I spoke to them on Wednesday Shankman said, “There is something on the show that I literally can’t believe we’re getting on the show. It’s not going to be a big deal for the audience, but to the town and the people who are Oscar aficionados … It feels naughty.”
“Rude is my word,” added Mechanic.
And now that most of the show’s 73 (!) presenters have dropped by the Kodak Theater to rehearse, a participant at the run-throughs told me that the big change involves those four little words.
The star participants, most of whom rehearsed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, were asked to read scripts that included "and the winner is" in place of the phrase that has become standard over the past two decades.
Unless Shankman and Mechanic are planning to switch back to "and the Oscar goes to" for the show — in which case it makes no sense to rehearse this way — the 82nd Oscar show will acknowledge the competition in a way that hasn’t happened since the 60th show, back in 1988.
The new language was introduced by producer Allan Carr for the 61st Academy Awards, and has been used every year since then (though an occasional presenter would slip into the old language).
Back in 2001, the first time he was hosting the show, this year’s co-host Steve Martin even mentioned the change in his monologue.
“You’ll notice they changed ‘and the winner is’ to ‘and the Oscar goes to,’” he said. “Because God forbid anyone should think of this as a competition.”
A pause. “It might make the trade ads seem crass.”
In a way, the change may be appropriate after an Oscar season that in its final weeks grew particularly ugly and competitive … or, to use Shankman’s and Mechanic’s words, particularly naughty and rude.
After all, in a year that’s gone well beyond crass, why not restore a little edge?