Earlier this month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced some major changes would be coming to the Oscars. Chief among them were a shorter run time and an Oscar for achievement in popular film. The staff at AiPT! provide their thoughts and discuss if these changes make a difference.
What changes would you like to see made to the Oscars?
Michael Rosch: First, certainly NOT a consolation prize to popular films the Academy is too snooty to otherwise appreciate. But, to be fair, while I hate that there’s a divide between the movies “real audiences” see and the movies nominated at The Oscars, admittedly most of my choices in any given year would get overlooked by mainstream casual theater audiences too. I also don’t have a problem with Oscar shows going 4 hours; I’d rather it run long than have the band playing off a winner during a moving speech. So what would I change? I’d experiment more. Last year, the MTV Movie Awards boldly removed the gender demarcation in the actor category and non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon presented the sole gender-neutral acting award. Maybe one year The Oscars could try that while simultaneously experimenting with two Director categories, one for Best Male Director and one for Best Female Director. Last year’s nomination of Greta Gerwig for her directorial debut in Lady Bird — only the fifth woman ever nominated in the category — resurrected the conversation about the lack of opportunities for female directors in Hollywood. Even if it were only done one year, it would raise the profile of at least 5 female directors and send a powerful message of inclusiveness. Plus, if nothing else, the stunt would grab a lot of headlines from both those championing the move and those convinced it’s all part of the evil feminist agenda to disempower men. And wouldn’t those latter articles be a fun read for us all?Nathaniel Muir: The Best Picture is supposed to be about the cream of the crop for the year. Limiting the selection to five automatically makes it seem like those were the top five movies of the year and will be remembered forever. There was a reason the number was reduced from ten in the early 1940s. The Academy decided not to leave well enough alone and in 2009, there were ten Best Picture nominees again. What all time classics have been nominated since? The Post, Arrival, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
David Brooke: I want a fantasy football style league built alongside the show. A website that allows us to login come September and start picking actors we think we’ll win. Run the results and analytics during the show to draw the attention of viewers who are in the leagues.
As far as the show is concerned, let’s stop with the variety stuff and stick to filmmaking. Make the show itself more about the winners and if you’re going to have entertainment throw out the singing and let’s do something with film itself. Maybe a short film that is created during the broadcast or montages of the best scenes edited in ways to entertain in different ways (to make you cry, laugh, dazzle, etc.).
A date or details have not been announced for the ‘Most Popular’ Oscar, but let’s just assume they are taking the top 5 box office grossing movies. This year’s top 5 up to now have been: Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Incredibles 2, and Deadpool 2. There is no criteria yet, so which one deserves an Oscar?
Michael: It’d have to be between the two MCU films for me. And, of the two, Black Panther feels like the one with the strongest direction, thanks to Ryan Coogler. There’s also some particularly strong cinematography from DP Rachel Morrison and some really moving performances, particularly from Michael B. Jordan.
Nathaniel: What a woeful list of Oscar nominees. And I like most of those movies! Michael’s right; it’s between the two MCU films. The Academy still owes Coogler one for Creed, but this isn’t the way to fix it. The Academy would be treating Coogler like the kid who also needs a present on their sibling’s birthday. Really hard pick, but Infinity War was more emotionally impacting.David: I like a lot of these films but none of them seem Oscar worthy when you compare to previous winners. Maybe Avengers? It’s a category that will make you cringe when the winners get up there since it seems like a prize for just showing up.
It seems as if many of the changes announced by the Academy are to increase ratings. If you don’t already watch the Oscars, will the ‘Most Popular’ category get you to watch?
Michael: It won’t because I already watch The Oscars every year despite endlessly mocking The Academy for eschewing bold films more likely to stand the test of time in favor of bland, formulaic “Oscar-bait” movies required by law to only be released in November or December because their heartstring-tugging melodrama only has a 3 month shelf life before being forgotten about entirely. Hey, remember Slumdog Millionaire? Wasn’t that a great film we all think about often and that time didn’t forget about at all? I also try to catch up on all the Best Picture nominated films before Oscar night though there’s usually one I don’t get to. This year that missed movie was The Darkest Hour…which is another super important film I’m sure you think about often and made you fall in love with cinema. Or not. I’m betting not.
Nathaniel: I haven’t taken the Oscars seriously for years. Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas? Forrest Gump is Best Picture the same year Pulp Fiction is in the running? Like Michael, I try to watch all the Oscar nominees, but I have thought they were a joke for years. Their newest category just confirms it. So yes, I will still be watching.David: Only if they implement some kind of fan voting or fan fantasy football style aspect to make me more invested. As it is people picking the best films are probably out of touch and very rich. Represent the people or at the very least let me feel like I’m invested in my own way.
If this ratings grab works, it would open the door to similar awards and ideas. How long before there is an Oscar voted on by the fans?
Michael: I think never. The Oscars is too snooty to ever really change. And I suspect this new category will fail to dramatically improve viewership.
Nathaniel: I think if this attempt at more ratings works, it will only be for that one segment. Still, I think we will see a fan voted special Oscar. Something silly like an Oscar for the best musical performance of the night, but it will happen.
David: I don’t think this would ever happen in large part because it would water down the results. Right now the Oscars have validity because we must assume they are picked by the very best talent who know what they are talking about.
There are so many awards shows nowadays and the Oscars decision to honor blockbusters seems to lower their prestige. Are they still relevant in 2018?Michael: To casual moviegoers, I don’t know when they ever were relevant. To hardcore cinephiles, The Oscars are a mild curiosity that merely starts a fun conversation over who was snubbed. But even among the critic community, I don’t know anyone who really takes them seriously as a barometer of relevance. Still though, I see an ineffable value in some kind of annual pomp and circumstance honoring achievement in this vital artform even while they so seldom award the films that will be important fifty years hence or even twenty years.
Nathaniel: I have never wanted to be a actor, but I always thought being and Oscar winner was the absolute peak in Hollywood. Watch some old acceptance speeches and the winners seem genuinely proud and amazed to be on stage accepting that little gold statue. When MTV started their own movie awards and the marketing was around celebrating the movies we actually watch, it made the Oscars that much more prestigious to me. I didn’t always agree but it seemed like the ultimate accomplishment. Today, you are just as likely to see someone win an MTV award as an Oscar.
Dave: You can’t deny the history of the Oscar. How many years were we all pulling for Leonardo DiCaprio to win one, for instance? I think they’re relevant for fans of cinema, but casual moviegoers don’t really care.