What in the holy hand grenade of Antioch is The Academy of Motion Pictures doing now? Their never-ending quest to stem the tide of declining ratings is tied to a Baby Huey-sized anchor around its neck that is choking the life out of the yearly event. They have lost total sight of the fact that awards shows, while not quite a thing of the past, are not something today’s world needs the way it used to.
Sure, everyone complains about the show’s length. It frequently goes to four hours, and no one seems to be sure why. Even when the Academy makes a silly decision such as relegating the honorary award tributes to a separate ceremony, they gain nothing in shortened time length. Instead, they fill the show with lame stunts designed to go ‘viral’ that mostly don’t work, and they spend time showing scenes from all 8-10 Best Picture nominees. And that isn’t the biggest problem, one the Academy still hasn’t figured out yet; there are no surprises.
Maybe if you are not an avid film watcher, and if you are not, why are you even watching this show, you might find it surprising that the winner of the BAFTA, Golden Globes, several Critics awards, and SAG trophy, just won an Oscar for Best Actress, but it isn’t surprising to most of us. There are so many awards now, all presented before the Oscars, that there is simply nothing left to be surprised about. Maybe once every five years one major category drops a surprise, but those moments are becoming few and far between. And when the ceremony is filled with constant reminders to keep acceptance speeches down to 30 seconds or less, there isn’t much room for spontaneity there either. Of course, there is always five-ten minutes available for a cringe-worthy segment where a group of people off the street are invited into the awards ceremony.
This leads to this year’s terrible decision by the Academy to placate the demands of their broadcasting master, ABC. Short subject film, makeup and hairstyling, film editing, and Cinematography awards will all be handed out during a commercial break, and snippets of the acceptances will be played later during the broadcast. Are you fucking kidding me? Okay, short subject film? I can see that. But if they don’t care about this category enough to show it live, why are they even bothering with it? And if they are omitting live, categories they think home audiences don’t care about, why not the two sound categories? They are both nearly the same nominees for both categories, year in year out. Most audiences could care less. So why do they get a pass this year? Oh, that’s right– Black Panther is up for awards in both those categories, and we all know which studio put that film out, and who owns the company broadcasting the awards.
There are so many reasons why Best film Editing and Best Film Cinematography should be presented live, and not just because they are two of my favorite categories. Come to think of it, that is a perfect reason and should be justification by itself. Let’s put that aside. Editing and Cinematography are what make movies, movies. You can’t tell a story without them. And this year, in particular, there is some exciting drama in the cinematography category. Director Alfonso Cauron is, I think, the first director to be nominated for shooting his own film. The cinematographers branch usually frowns upon this, but Cauron’s work is so striking in Roma, it was impossible to deny him. But can he make history come Oscar night? Maybe, but if he does, we won’t get to see that moment live. And unlike the acting categories, which have all but been decided, there is some real excitement here. Roma or Cold War? One of those films is likely to take the cinematography Oscar, but which one?
Now, trimming these four categories is not going to do a lick of difference to bring the show down to a manageable run time, and more important; it is not going to do anything to boost ratings. But I offer a suggestion that most certainly could. I present to you Jim’s idea for making the Oscars exciting again: Throughout its history, there are many years where films, actors, and actresses were all left off the ballot–films and performances people felt sure were going to land nominations, but didn’t. And with the Oscar ceremony itself, there is that one or two films or performances that shocked audiences. If you are like me, you’d love to know who was on the bubble, and just missed a nomination. Or when Shakespeare In Love won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan, was Saving Private Ryan the runner up?
My idea for making the Oscar ceramony more exciting is to pick a few years, and categories, and tell us who those runner ups were. I know this could upset people in the industry so a timeframe could be set up where the mentions could be from 50 years or longer. I don’t even know if these results are available so where, but if they were, it is the kind of thing where people would tune in live to be the first ones to hear the news. Will the Academy ever do such a thing? Not on your life, buddy. Would it be cool if they did? Absolutely. But until such time, look forward to more cuts, more bland, and less of the reasons we all came to watch in the first place.