In this interview series, we ask famous free thinkers to recast the Oscars in their own image. Please give your warmest applause for actor and comedy legend Fred Willard.
Q: Fred, who's going to win the Oscar this year?
A: Meryl Streep deserves to win for not only making every film she's in better, but for making my wife a better cook. "Crazy" Jeff Bridges, if only for the fact that he was in "The Big Lebowski." And "Up" for being another amazing Pixar film.
But let's get it out of the way; for its beauty, for the way its taken technology and for the numbers it has scored, "Avatar" should win.
I also loved "A Serious Man." But who decides? There are so many great performers. How can we say any one actor's work was better than another's?
Q: Well said. So if you were in charge of academy votes, who would go home on Sunday night with an Oscar?
A: From "A Serious Man," Michael Stuhlbarg was amazing, but so were Richard Kind, Fred Melamed and anyone else in that film.
Q: Which films and performers from the past do you feel deserved the Oscar but didn't receive one?
A: "Field of Dreams." Definitely one of the best baseball films of all time. When Kevin Costner spoke to his dad and his dad answered, I, um, I mean a lot of guys I know couldn't help crying.
Martin Landau in "Crimes and Misdemeanors" -- he gave me chills. Tom Hanks in "Cast Away" ... for Pete's sake, he was alone on that island with just a volleyball to act with! And Michael McKean and Annette O'Toole for "A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow" for best song from "A Mighty Wind." That was such a pretty song, and so perfect for Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy's characters.
Also, as far as I'm concerned, anything that Woody Allen or Albert Brooks does immediately goes to the top of my list.
Another favorite of mine was "Rocky Balboa" ("Rocky VI"). If I like a movie, I see no reason not to go back for Parts 2, 3, 4, etc. I'm also a fan of the "Saw" franchise. I view them more as cartoons than horror. However, I've avoided "Richard the III," since I missed "Richard I" and "II."
Q: Which categories would you add? Which need deleting?
A: Best craft services. . . .
Q: What part of the telecast would you remove? And what would you replace it with?
A: So let's have some fun: Divide the judging for performing and technical awards into four groups -- men, women, teens and kids. The men could add or subtract a few points from the women's picks and vice versa, or have opposing viewpoints, like the Supreme Court.
Clips of the children's winners would be introduced by a couple of youngsters so we could see what the kids are liking.
The teen movies would be introduced by Joel McHale and a teen favorite, who could do a back-and-forth debate on the plusses and minuses of each film.
Q: Which part of the Oscars would you never change?
A: The film montages. They are never long enough.
Q: Who would be your dream host or presenters? Musical performers?
A: For hosts, Conan, Jay, Dave, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson . . . together.
Or the academy could take a note from "The Ed Sullivan Show" and have several hosts, e.g. a singer, a comic, an actor and a magician. Each one could announce the winners in the adult categories, and the magician could obviously have fun making the audience open boxes and look in their pockets or under their seats to find their winner.
Then older stars say hello, accompanied from clips from the past. A singer from the '60s would appear with a film clip -- those Alan Freed movies weren't that bad.
Then a couple of today's performers, capped by that Canadian Olympian figure skater Tessa Virtue -- the one who looks like Snow White -- doing a quick ice routine.
Finally, Jack Nicholson, Elizabeth Taylor, Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart come out and say good night.
Q: Who would receive your honorary Oscars for lifetime achievement?
A: Peter Boyle.
And an honorary honorable mention to every actor who works, auditions, is rejected and keeps plugging.
Q: Do you have a favorite (good or bad) Oscar moment from the past?
A: I think everyone would agree the best moment was Jack Palance doing one-handed push-ups.
Q: Fred, you deserve an Oscar for year after year of outstanding work. Let's hear your acceptance speech.
A: I'd like to thank the academy for allowing me to be part of such a great organization and for letting me see movies on the big screen in a quiet theater with no cellphones, talking or popcorn among people who stay through the credits.