Criticizing bad movies is easy, criticizing good movies is even more difficult, but criticizing an entire show based on rating movies that are supposed to be best sounds almost like an impossible task. Well let’s give it a try. The ceremony of the Academy Awards is quite possibly the most famous and according to some the most important movie event of the year. It would be crazy to dismiss the Academy Awards, better known as Oscars, as a whole, because their significance still remains as important as before, which is in my opinion: Introduce a certain movie to somebody who normally wouldn’t even know about it and for that I have to applaud them. It is also a most basic system of validation and recommendation for a general audience. On the other hand, Oscars have been here for over ninety years and right now they must face a most problematic issue in their long history, the 90th Academy Awards had lowest viewership over 40 years and people just lost interest in the Oscars. So, the Academy tried to encounter this problem, something that worked only partially and I’ll try to explain why.
Disclaimer: “I haven’t seen any Academy Awards in it’s entirety and also I haven’t seen every movie nominated for best picture yet.”
1/ Best Picture?
Best Picture is quite possibly the most prestigious award of the show and the highlight of the ceremony. The 90th Academy Awards (2018) had some excellent movies nominated for this category like Dunkirk, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Call Me by Your Name, Get Out and Phantom Thread, but viewership was really low so the Academy decided to nominate more mainstream movies like this year Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star is Born and Black Panther. Let’s start with Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born both of these are actually quite decent, A Star is Born is in my opinion much better (a movie about fictitious musicians is better than movie about Queen), problem is that they aren’t Oscar-worthy, compare this to the 90th Oscar best picture nominations. Nominating Black Panther or any MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movie for a best picture is like getting Starbucks a Michelin Star; why is Black Panther that much better than Avengers: Infinity War or Ant-man and the Wasp? Also the fact that Black Panther is the first superhero movie to get best picture nomination, not Dark Knight, Spiderman 2 or even Logan, that is perhaps the most egregious element of it degrading superhero movies by this Academy is proclaiming that this is the best superhero movie ever made and Black Panther is simply not. My bets on the winner of this year’s Best Picture were either on The Favourite or Roma surprisingly neither of them won, instead of it Green Book won, a movie I haven’t seen yet and from what I heard it is an average “Oscar bait” similar to last year nominations like The Post or Darkest Hour. To close this part nominating some mainstream movies for Best Picture apparently work, because viewership finally increased, for the cost of Oscar prestige.
2/ Dirty little tricks
Before nomination announcement the Academy tried everything they could to increase viewership and interest of the public and everything the Academy tried to pull out failed miserably, these new ideas go from mildly annoying to worst idea ever. So let’s have a look at these:
1) Kevin Hart as an Oscar Host – I never understand the reason for Oscars having a host. Firstly, I always thought that the hosts were one the worst part of the shows, Jimmy Kimmel wasn’t funny, Chris Rock wasn’t funny, Neil Patrick Harris wasn’t funny and I doubt that Kevin Hart would have been funny. Oscar hosts are one of the reasons why I am not watching the show, to make matter worse after announcing that Hart will host 91st Oscars, tweets from his past suddenly appeared and he was ultimately pull down. The result was a host-less Oscars show, I however didn’t see much of a difference, still some unfunny people saying some unfunny stuff, to give some credit according to some it was better without the host and maybe they are right, this is the least outrageous idea Academy came up with.
2) In order to shorter the entire ceremony, Academy decided to do some cuts to run-time, understandable it is long enough and many people are put off by it including myself. Performing only two songs live at the ceremony out of five nominees, is basically limiting any chance for other to win. Also, this is something that most of people would love to see, perform these songs live, let the artists give their speeches. If Academy wants something to cut out of their schedule, cut some montages.
3) One of the worst ideas the Oscar organizers came up with, was the plan that over the Oscars for best cinematography, film editing, makeup/hairstyling and short film and also the winner’s speeches will be presented during commercial breaks. I almost wish they were joking, this is the most insulting thing Oscars have ever done and that’s saying something. Absolutely nobody liked the idea and after some backlash, it was rightfully scraped and hopefully it will never return.
4) Creating a new Oscar category takes time and after some thoughts, I can imagine some new categories like: “Best stunt-work”, “Best Debut” or “Best voice-acting”. Instead of these Academy decided to create “Best popular movie award”. I have two questions: A) What does “popular” mean and how it is measured, by box office, user scores or critic scores on web sites, or combination of both? B) Popular movies do not get nominated for best picture, that’s wrong. Have you ever heard about Avatar, Titanic, Lord of Rings or Star Wars: A New Hope. Is Academy so desperate to get Black Panther win something, that they created this nonsensical category?
This isn’t confidence or long time preparation, this is “throwing things at a wall and seeing what sticks”.
3/ Technical Mess
Some time ago I realized, how messy technical categories (except cinematography) are and which movies usually win them, for example: loudest movie win the sound mixing and editing etc. During 91st Oscars I realized that nobody thought about them, they just gave the prizes to whoever was popular, case and point Bohemian Rhapsody, this movie won “Best Film Editing” category, which is bizarre, because this movie’s editing wasn’t the best. I wish this was the only issue with technical categories, but it’s honestly not. Have you ever noticed how “Best Costumes” nominations are always most noticeable costumes imaginable? Or how “Best CGI effects” is always something super noticeable, best CGI doesn’t always mean CGI characters or battles, it could also mean something small and something you barely notice, because it is that good.
4/ Ignorance or Arrogance
For all the trouble with views, the Academy never actually did main things to correct it. For example let people watch the show online and charge a small fee for some would definitely do that and it would have made some impact on the views. Ignoring the Internet and streaming is not helpful. Over the years I found out that many movies that I love weren’t even nominated for anything, the excellent movie Good Time (2017) wasn’t even acknowledged for anything by the Academy, same goes for It Comes at Night (2017). Academy arrogantly ignored excellent movies that came 2017 and instead of that decided to nominate crowd-pleasing blockbusters.
Epilogue: Time’s up
The current state of the Oscars is now untenable, it tries to be two things at the same time a celebration of art and love for movies and a massive celebrity-driven show for general audience. The audience for artistic movies is going to be put off by mainstream movies, that shouldn’t be nominated and the mainstream audience doesn’t understand artistic movies or technical nuances of the movie-making and thinks that Bohemian Rhapsody deserves the Oscar for “Best movie editing”, because they don’t know the difference between good and bad editing. Oscars now try to appeal to everyone and temporarily it worked, but what is their vision for the next Oscars? Are they going to nominate Captain Marvel or Avengers: Endgame? I hope not. Honestly I think that Oscars are on their way out and if they try to keep it up like it is now, it won’t end well for them. The reputation of the Oscars will be massively downgraded and the rift between two audiences will continue to grow. The only way I can think of is to split the Academy Awards into two parts, one part as a more mainstream event with celebrities and big shows and the second part where true cinematic excellence is awarded.