Today, we learned some news about the future of the Academy Awards and it was pretty much all bad.
First off, here’s the message that was issued earlier today:
Last night, the Board of Governors met to elect new board officers, and discuss and approve significant changes to the Oscars telecast.
The Board of Governors, staff, Academy members, and various working groups spent the last several months discussing improvements to the show.
Tonight, the Board approved three key changes:
1. A three-hour Oscars telecast
We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.
To honor all 24 award categories, we will present select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined). The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.
2. New award category
We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.
3. Earlier airdate for 92nd Oscars
The date of the 92nd Oscars telecast will move to Sunday, February 9, 2020, from the previously announced February 23. The date change will not affect awards eligibility dates or the voting process.
The 91st Oscars telecast remains as announced on Sunday, February 24, 2019.
We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world. The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.
We are excited about these steps, and look forward to sharing more details with you.
John Bailey and Dawn Hudson
Let’s take this point-by-point.
Number one: the three-hour telecast.
Who cares? I mean, yes, the Oscars always run long. But really, that’s part of the charm of the whole ceremony. It never runs as smoothly as it’s supposed to and it’s a reminder that, as smug as Hollywood can be, they have as difficult a time meeting deadlines as the rest of us.
But, even if you do think that the length of the ceremony is really a big issue, is the solution really to punish the winners? For me, one of the good things about the Oscar ceremony is that it acknowledges what is too often forgotten. Film is a collaborative medium. People like Roger Deakins, Colleen Atwood, Joi McMillon, and Carter Burwell are just as important to the overall quality of a film as Ryan Gosling or Jennifer Lawrence. Giving them their awards during a commercial break is not only insulting on a personal level but it also goes against everything that the Oscars should stand for.
Plus, I happen to love it when a previously unknown filmmaker wins the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film and then totally geeks out about it on the stage. I mean, that’s the magic of the movies right there. At that moment, you’re sharing the best moment of this person’s life. If I have to choose between listening to Chris Overton and Rachel Shelton talk about winning the Oscar for their short film, The Silent Child, or listening to Meryl Streep insist that she’s actually just a working mom from New Jersey, I’m going with Overton and Shelton every time.
If you want to cut down on the length of the ceremony, how about not opening with the host giving a 10-minute monologue? How about not wasting time with those always cringe-worthy segments where stars visit the theater next door or the host insists that everyone buy his daughter’s girl scout cookies?
(I know that everyone loved the Oscar selfie but seriously, every ceremony now feels the need to try to top it and it’s just annoying.)
How about not even having a host? Or at the very least, how about a host who will just introduce the presenters without bring their own time-consuming schtick to the stage? I mean, Jimmy Kimmel has a show of his own to have celebrities read mean tweets on. There’s no need to bring the Oscar ceremony to a halt for it.
Number Two: Best Achievement In Popular Film
Eh. You might as well just call this the Christopher Nolan Trophy or maybe the MCU Award. Though the details aren’t clear yet, it basically sounds like a participation trophy.
Basically, this award says, “We’re not willing to seriously consider a film like Black Panther for any of the major awards but we’re freaking out about the ratings so here’s an honorable mention.” It’s kinda like in high school, when someone would really debase themselves to get the popular kids to come to their party and you ended up losing respect for them regardless of whether the party was good or not.
We all know that the Academy needs to open its mind and, at the very least, give some consideration to films like Wonder Woman, The Dark Knight, Skyfall, and Black Panther. But this isn’t the way to do it. If anything, this award just gives the Academy even more of a excuse to ignore those “popular” films when it comes time to select the nominees for Best Picture.
Add to that, what does popular mean anyway? Why not just give a trophy to the producer of the film that made the most money at the box office?
Number Three: The new dates
To be honest, this upset me more than anything. This doesn’t take effect until 2020 but, if the ceremony is moving to February 9th, then when are the nominations going to be announced? Considering that most Oscar contenders get a limited release before going wide in January, this is going to create a situation where people like me, who don’t live in Los Angeles and New York and who don’t want to move, aren’t going to be able to see the majority of the nominees before the nominations are announced. It’s interesting that, in their attempt to appeal to a wider audience, the Academy is basically embracing elitism like never before.
Here’s the thing: the Oscars are never going to be cool. They’re just not. Nobody — not even the biggest Oscar fanatics — believe that the Oscars ever truly honors the best films of the year. The Oscars have been around forever and they’re always going to be viewed as being a bit stodgy. If giving best picture to Moonlight couldn’t change that perception, nothing ever will. The more the Oscars try to change, the more they’re like Steve Buscemi carrying a skateboard and saying, “Greetings, fellow kids.”
There may be a solution to the Academy’s woes but this isn’t it.