Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Breaking the Oscars some more

I'm still kind of reeling from the announcement that the Oscars would have no host this year. Heck, I'd even take Kevin Hart at this point.

I hadn't had the chance to write about it, though.

Well, the not writing about why this year's Oscars are stupid stops now.

Today I learned (as did we all, I guess) that four of the evening's awards would be presented during commercial breaks on television. Or maybe we knew that already, at least those of you who are following this a bit more closely than I am. But today we learned which awards those would be.

Logically, you'd think they'd choose the categories that nobody knows the answers to on their Oscar ballots, and just picks them randomly, hoping against hope that they've stumbled upon the answer that wins them their pool. You know, your documentary short subjects, your animated shorts, what have you.

Well, credit the academy for not stepping on the little guy, I guess. Those awards will have their moment in the sun.

The ones that won't?

Best cinematography, best editing, best live action short, and best hair and makeup.


Okay, so one of the random guess categories is indeed in there. As for the others, at least two of them are ones cinephiles consider to be among the most important to the creation of a good film, as summarized by Guillermo del Toro in a reaction tweet: "I would not presume to suggest what categories to cut during the Oscars show but -- cinematography and editing are at the very heart of our craft. They are not inherited from a theatrical tradition or a literary tradition: they are cinema itself."

Like, duh.

I had a revelation of sorts not long after hearing this:

Are the Oscars even broken?

All the recent tweaks reek of trying too hard to fix a problem that maybe isn't there.

Okay, we can all acknowledge the viewing numbers are dropping. But isn't it reasonable to assume this has more to do with natural demographic shifts between generations and between media habits? I reckon that today's younger kids are not growing up thinking that awards shows are cool, and it's not because they're too long -- or they might be too long but that's entirely not the point. If they're not interested in it, 15 minutes would be too long for an Oscars telecast. If they're interested in it, as I argued in Sunday's post about three-hour movies, they'll watch something even longer than the current telecast.

Some recent changes the Academy has been making are undoubtedly positive, like diversifying its membership by age, gender and race. That's far more likely to entice younger viewers, and we're already seeing the results with best picture nominations going to younger skewing movies like Black Panther and A Star is Born.

But all this obsession with the show's length makes the Academy seem like it's being held hostage by all those people out there who can't stop joking about how long the show is.

You know what? That is about the hackiest joke out there. Everyone knows that everyone thinks the Oscars are too long. For Christ's sake just give it a rest and stop using it as your lazy crutch when you can't think of something actually funny to say. I'm looking at you, Bruce Vilanch. (Does Bruce Vilanch still write the Oscars? Who knows.)

I'm sure they are going on some kind of statistics here to support the notion that a show that's 4% shorter will have 7% higher ratings, or something along those lines, but that really seems like a ridiculous conclusion. Each new proposed change (best popular film??) just subjects the Academy to further ridicule.

Again I could probably find the answer to this if I scrounged around online, but why the hell does it matter so much if the Oscars are becoming more niche? Is selling the advertising spots really that important? Why can't they just tailor the show to the people who do still care about its traditions, and if they joke about the length, they do it ironically, within the company of the other people dropping snark at their viewing party who all know how much they all love all this stuff?

I didn't love Roma but I loved its cinematography, and when Alfonso Cuaron very likely wins that award I think it will be worth seeing it live. I mean, this is the damn director who might have been lost without his long-time DP Emmanuel Lubezki. Instead, he went out and filmed the damn thing himself and now he's going to win an Oscar. Isn't that something?

The Academy doesn't think so. They're going to show us his speech at some time later in the show, like he won one of the technical awards at that ceremony three weeks before the show hosted by Courteney Cox.

We all deserve better.

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