The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced multiple changes to the Oscars going forward, including efforts taken to shorten the broadcast, as well as the creation of an entirely new category devoted to “popular films.” Across the board, these changes have two things in common. The first: They are all meant to increase the telecast’s ratings, appealing to viewers who don’t want to spend over four hours watching people they haven’t heard of winning awards for movies they didn’t know existed, and likewise to moviegoers who only see the biggest films of the years. The second: They are all terrible, whether you’re a filmmaker or movie fan.
1. A three-hour Oscars telecast
In fairness, a four-and-a-half hour awards show is not always a great use of your time (it can be especially tough on East Coast viewers to stay up until after midnight on a Sunday night), and no one denies the Oscars absolutely drags sometimes. But “shorter” doesn’t necessarily mean “better” either. The Academy’s new efforts shouldn’t be focused on strictly adhering to a three-hour show, but on cutting the fat that makes the show feel long.
For example: Instead of having five full performances from every Best Song nominee, do a medley of the lot instead. Streamline the way-too-long intros to the nominees with shorter montages. Let some presenters hand out three or four awards in a row so we don’t have to watch so many people walk out to the stage. If the show is entertaining and maintains a good pace, no one will be eager to leave Hollywood’s biggest party sooner. Time flies when you’re having fun.
2. Select categories will be presented in the theater during commercial breaks, and they will be edited and aired later in the broadcast.
For many professionals and artists, winning an Oscar is the realization of a lifelong dream that they get to celebrate with the entire world. But in a shortsighted attempt to make a broadcast an hour shorter, the Academy wants to turn their massive achievement into an afterthought. “You’re good enough to be here, but not enough to make it to air.”And while we don’t know which categories will be pushed aside, obviously they will shaft those which nominate lesser seen films, as well as categories that have generally nominees without any name recognition.
So instead of celebrating excellent works or art and the people who brought them to life, which would get a needed boost from being highlighted during the Oscars, the Academy will turn them into second-class citizens during the highlights of their career. (And if you think this won’t create a two-tier system, the Academy already does this with their Scientific and Technical Awards, which are given out at an entirely different ceremony.) It’s almost cruel! And in an attempt to help the ratings of one annual broadcast, it actually undermines what that broadcast was created for in the first place: getting people excited about even more movies.
3. A new category for outstanding achievement in popular film
Celebrating more movies and the people who make them is always good in a vacuum, and that is exactly what the Academy Awards should be all about. But rather than finally giving us a Best Stunt or Choreography award or a Best Ensemble category, this promotes the terrible mindset that there are “serious movies” and “popular movies,” as though some films are works of art and others are mindless entertainment.
It’s as if to say the likes of Black Panther, Infinity War, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and The Last Jedi need their own kid’s table while the “real” movies (a.k.a. dramas) get to sit up front. A great movie is a great movie is a great movie, and just because a film is popular and sold a lot of tickets doesn’t mean it isn’t also a tremendous achievement in filmmaking or an outstanding work of art.
“Oustanding Achievement in Popular Film” translates to “Lots of People Saw This Film and We Want Them to Watch the Oscars.” But sometimes lots of people see a film even if it’s not particularly great (like Jurassic World), and sometimes because it’s an amazing movie worthy of being considered among the year’s best (like Thor: Ragnarok). A movie isn’t defined solely by its subject matter; sometimes comedies are the best moviegoing experiences of the year, and sometimes superheroes movies offer meaningful insight into life.
The less cynical way to view this addition is to say the Academy is still trying to make up for The Dark Knight not getting an obviously deserved Best Picture nomination. But if a film isn’t deemed worthy of one of the 10 available spots in the Best Picture category, you aren’t honoring it by giving it an obviously lesser trophy. And if you can’t figure out how to nominate a movie like The Dark Knight for Best Picture, the problem isn’t the category, it’s the people doing the nominating.
Not one of these changes promotes or honors movies; in fact, they all condescend to them. And in an attempt to get more eyes on the telecast, the Academy is treating movie fans like they aren’t smart enough to be exposed to different types of films, or that they can’t take a little extra time one night a year to watch a stranger have the greatest moment of their career.
The Oscars is the year’s biggest celebration of movies, the people who make them, and the people who love them. But somehow The Academy has decided TV ratings for a one-night show are more important.
What do you think of these changes? Share your thoughts, good or bad, with us in the comments section below.
Images: The Academy/ABC/Marvel/Warner Bros.