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Oscars preview: A year when the trial balloons keep going bust

Kevin Hart crowd surfs while hosting the MTV Video Music Awards in 2012. He had been set to host this week's Academy Awards but stepped down after some backlash.

Kevin Hart crowd surfs while hosting the MTV Video Music Awards in 2012. He had been set to host this week's Academy Awards but stepped down after some backlash. | Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Hey, Oscar!

Got a minute? I know this is a crazy time for you, but I wanted to run something by you for Sunday evening.

OK, so we’re going without a host — but if what we have ALL the recent hosts come out at the start to address the lack of a host?

First Jimmy Kimmel, followed by Chris Rock, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, Jon Stewart, David Letterman, Whoopi Goldberg et al.

Billy can cue the band for one of his famous musical tributes to the nominees — and everyone can tell him to give it a rest. Not this year.

Ellen can go into the crowd and start gathering stars for a selfie — but they can all wave her off and say they’ll see her soon on her show.

Kimmel can have Guillermo walk onstage with a group of “actual human beings” — but Stewart et al., can put a stop to it.

Rock can even ask Seth MacFarlane and James Franco and Anne Hathaway what they’re doing onstage, as if we’ve all tried to forget those two shows.

And then they all welcome us to the 91st Annual, Completely Host-Less Academy Awards, exit the stage, and off we go.

Gold, I tell ya! Comedic Oscar gold!

Just throwing it out there, seeing as how this seems to be the year for throwing a lot of, um, stuff, against the wall and seeing what might stick.

•••

The “Never mind!” Oscar craziness began last August, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences introduced a new “achievement in popular film” category, which was immediately lambasted as a pandering attempt to create a “lesser” category for box office smashes, e.g. “Black Panther,” which almost certainly would have won, almost certainly guaranteeing it would have no chance to win the more prestigious best picture award.

A month later, the Academy told us: “Never mind!”

In December, comedian-actor Kevin Hart was announced as the host, but after a tsunami of criticism about Hart’s homophobic tweets from years ago, and what many perceived as insincere apologies from Hart, he decided to bow out as host. Never mind!

(Sidebar: The last time the Oscar telecast opened without a host, it was a disaster. That was the year of the infamous, endless  — 11 minutes! — musical number featuring a Brat Pack-era Rob Lowe and Snow White “singing” a tribute to Hollywood to the tune of “Proud Mary.” Enter Lily Tomlin, who said, “A billion and a half people just watched that. And at this very moment they’re trying to make sense of it.”)

An actress playing Snow White duets with Rob Lowe on the 1988 Oscars, the last to air without a host.

An actress playing Snow White duets with Rob Lowe on the 1988 Oscars, the last to air without a host. | AP

Trying to cut the running time to three hours, the Academy on Feb. 11 announced the presentation of certain technical awards would be taped, edited and shown later in the broadcast.

I’m actually kind of with the Academy with at least the spirit of the idea. As I’ve said through the years about certain categories: We’re watching people we’ve never heard of winning trophies for work we haven’t seen and thanking more people we’ve never heard of. All great respect to the artists and their work, there’s just no way that makes for entertaining, big-time, prime-time television.

But it seemed egregious to relegate cinematography and editing to secondary status. You know what they call a movie without cinematography and editing?

A podcast.

After the predictable backlash, the Academy once again told us: “Never mind!” All 24 awards will be televised live after all.

We also learned just this week Queen will be performing with Adam Lambert (who has been touring with the band for the better part of a decade) as the front man.

Again, no disrespect to guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor and the talented Lambert, but Queen without the late Freddie Mercury is the Stones without Jagger, the Who without Daltrey, Gladys Knight & the Pips without Gladys Knight.

This is one time when the Academy really SHOULD say, “Never mind!”

•••

Even for those of us who love watching the Oscars, the telecast has become ever more predictable: The host(s) comes out and does 10 minutes or so and then becomes a glorified traffic cop for most of the evening, with the exception of a planned bit every hour or so. The rest of the show is a lot of beautiful people squinting at the Teleprompter and reading off the nominees and winners.

Once or twice a night, we get a mild upset, or a stirring speech, or some unintentional comedy. (In the case of “La La Land” and “Moonlight,” we got an unplanned “Never mind!”)

In short, it feels as if we’ve seen this movie before, so to speak.

And you know what? It’s still a pretty great night, and it’s a reminder of some of the great films and brilliant performances of the last year, and it’s still kind of fun to see some of our favorite stars all gussied up and all worked up, hoping their names will be called.

Maybe there are certain things about the Academy Awards you simply can’t “fix,” because they’re not really broken in the first place.