The 2019 Oscars disaster has already shifted from a snowball rolling downhill to a full-fledged avalanche. And not the awesome kind like from 2000’s Bill Paxton vehicle Vertical Limit.
The entire thing has become such debacle that it’s hard to know where to even begin. Why don’t we start with one factor of the awards ceremony that people generally look forward to:
Oh, oops. There won’t be a host for this show for the first time in thirty years after the fallout from previously chosen host Kevin Hart had his homophobic tweets unveiled.
Hart offered a non-apology before stepping down from his hosting duties. I guess Billy Crystal and Nathan Lane are busy this year, because the Academy just decided to forgo a host for the first time since 1989.
So, no traditional “host” for the 2019 Oscars. No big deal, right? We can just throw out the hacky, yet always looked-forward-to opening package. We will NOT see Kevin Hart awkwardly stomping his way through footage of Wakanda only to be thrown off the waterfalls by Killmonger. For those out of the know on the hosting issue, it can be summarized thusly: The Academy saw backlash for hiring Hart to begin with, then when they fired Hart they got even MORE backlash.
But ABC is totally fine with it, because according to chief Karey Burke:
“The producers decided to wisely not have a host and have the presenters and the movies be the stars. That’s the best way to keep the show to a brisk three hours.”
Okay, so now the decision to go host-less is “wise” as it will help facilitate a “brisk” three-hour show. So that means with less hosting shenanigans we’ll be able to see all of our award categories and speeches, right? Wrong.
Wait… what!? This news is disconcerting to say the least, especially since the Academy gives no indication of which categories will be relegated to commercial breaks. The very idea of “lesser” awards is insulting. If anything it just reflects that the Oscars have failed to adequately convey how fascinating the various aspects of film making are, and why they deserve awards.
There was a time when each category received respect and care. They used to actually SHOW the work going into each award category. You would see the Foley crew in the studio hammering meat next to a violent clip of The Departed. My all-time favorite thing, as a writer, were Screenplay categories.
The Best Original Screenplay category went a little something like this: We see an image of words on paper, a page of the actual script. The presenter reads aloud: “James walks across the room and slams the door. He pushes his glasses up his nose (Cut to the actual clip/footage from the finished film as James slams the door.)
As the presenter reads James’ dialogue, the actual dialogue fades in. All of this happens in ten seconds or less. One minute, for each category. It was nice because you got to see how the sausage is made, and gives great context to all the hard work and collaborative effort that goes into making a single film. There are twenty-four categories on the show, so which ones will not be seen? Costuming? Makeup? Documentary Feature? The cinephiles who still care about watching the Oscars are going to want to see these categories.
The Academy is effectively pissing off everyone with these moves. They are hemorrhaging ratings and views because they’re desperately trying to get new eyes and audiences to tune into the awards show, but alienating all the die-hards who already love the movies and the Oscars. Want to print off your own Oscar ballots and voting along with the show this year? Too bad.
Because Fuck You. The Academy seems almost determined to get people to tune out. It’s not too surprising, because commercials for the Oscars is the second most expensive of any broadcast after the Super Bowl. Of course ABC wants to cash in.
A “brisk” three hour show, with fewer awards and more commercials and zero host.
Well, can they? They’ve certainly tried over the past few years. They expanded the number of Best Picture nominees so more films can be disappointed with losing. This year they temporarily tried adding another category: for Popular Film. The idea was to have a separate category for the big budget blockbusters, the Black Panthers and Fury Roads. That way their “Best” picture category can remain untainted. There are a couple of relatively “simple” ideas, if the Academy was willing to take a little more risk for a lot more reward:
This is the biggest event of the year for film and Hollywood ego. Why not blow it up exponentially, and go all out? Turn this thing into the biggest, most self-aggrandizing circle jerk.
Get rid of commercials completely, and have it set up so that studios themselves buy in. Instead of commercials, they just have breaks where they show trailers for the biggest and most enticing films for the upcoming year while celebrating the best film had to offer over the past year.
Overall, take it less seriously. Have more fun, make it a little more casual. The Oscars are too self-indulgent. When the most interesting thing you’ve done in the last fifteen years is accidentally announce the wrong winner for Best Picture, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.