This is a week for surprises at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. On Tuesday the Academy announced that Oprah Winfrey would be the recipient of this year's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an announcement that elicited howls of outrage from show biz pundits (and rightly so -- Winfrey has had little to do with movies, either in front of or behind the camera). Now the Academy has announced that Brett Ratner and Don Mischer will produce the 84th Academy Awards telecast next year.

The choice of Ratner, announced by AMPAS president Tom Sherak, is a bit of a surprise. Ratner, 42, is the director of broad-stroked, action-packed films such as the 'Rush Hour' series, 'X-Men: The Last Stand' and the upcoming 'Tower Heist,' and picking him is clearly an attempt by AMPAS to inject fresh blood into a show that lately has been too, shall we say, not with it.

Mischer, of course, is a long-time producer of the Emmys, the Tonys, Super Bowl Halftime Shows and produced and directed last year's 83rd Academy Awards, for which he just received an Emmy nomination.
"We just had an instinct that (Ratner) would have a fresh point of view for the show," Academy CEO Dawn Hudson told The Hollywood Reporter. "He's young, he's enthusiastic, and mostly he comes with a deep, deep love of movies. Brett is such a renowned cinephile, and such a student of this industry and of the Oscar shows. He knows the ins and outs of the shows from the beginning of time. He has a very broad sense of entertainment, a great sense of comedy, and he's a showman. ... [Plus] he has great talent relationships."

(Ratner lives in Beverly Hills in a home known as Hillhaven Lodge, where Ingrid Bergman and Kim Novak lived -- but also where Alan Carr lived; Carr produced the 61st Academy Awards in 1989, which gave us the infamous dance duo of Snow White and Rob Lowe).

"I think comedy is the key," Ratner told TheWrap. "That's the most important thing I can accomplish. If people can sit in that theater and laugh, and people can watch at home around the world and laugh, then I've accomplished what I want to do. The numbers [ratings] will be what they are."

Let's hope that Ratner goes with his aforementioned respect for movies and Hollywood lore, and keeps away from the dumbed down comic book sensibility that typified the later 'Rush Hour' films and even 'X-Men' (Sorry, X-Men fans). After all, he's produced such classy outings as an American Masters segment on Woody Allen, 'I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale' and 'Catfish,' among others.

What do you think?

The Oscars will be presented Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and televised live on the ABC Television Network.

Here's the press release from the Academy:

Beverly Hills, CA - Brett Ratner and Don Mischer will produce the 84th Academy Awards telecast, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak announced today. This will be Ratner's first involvement with the Oscar show; Mischer will for the second year in a row serve as a producer and as the telecast director.

"I was so impressed with Brett when I met with him to discuss the Oscar show," said Sherak. "He has an incredible love of film and its history and is a true student of the business of movies. He's unbelievably creative and knows how to take risks that are both interesting and inspiring. Together with Don Mischer – who, by the way, just earned an Emmy nomination for his work on the 83rd Academy Awards – I think these two will give us a fantastic Oscar show that you won't want to miss."

"I'm thrilled that Don will again bring his tremendous expertise to the Oscar telecast," said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. "And Brett has a really smart and fresh take for the show. They have great chemistry, and their vision meshed so well with ours."

"Making movies has been my dream since childhood, and I've been fortunate enough to have made several, but the Oscar show is in a league of its own," said Ratner. "It will be fantastic to work with a live television master like Don to meld the glamour of legendary Hollywood with the enormous talents who thrill moviegoers today."

"The Academy Awards are in a class by themselves, and I'm elated that the Academy has asked me to return," said Mischer. "I hope to take the wealth of knowledge I now have about the Oscars, which is a completely unique kind of show, and work with Brett to create an evening that is fast-paced, fun, and memorable to movie fans and Oscar fans everywhere."

categories Movies, Oscars