For the sake of my sanity, and to hopefully help shed some light on what’s happened so far, I’ve put together a little summary of this year’s Oscars build-up…
It’s a sorry state of affairs when the anticipated broadcast of an awards ceremony gets more coverage than the films nominated or those that missed out. But here we are, a few days away from The Oscars, and we’re witnessing probably the most publicity given to the Academy Awards for years; that’s including the La La Land/Moonlight debacle two years ago.
Once again however, it’s nothing but bad publicity for the ceremony which, after dwindling ratings year-on-year, decided to take some radical steps to refresh the broadcast, and convince the public that yes, the magic of The Academy Awards is worth watching a 4 hour telecast.
That said, with a forward thinking mindset, and the opportunity to blow the cobwebs off The Oscars and make them appealing to a new generation of film lovers, what could possibly go wrong?
1. The whole ‘popular film’ thing
In a well-meaning but ultimately flawed bit of decision making, last summer the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the creation of a “Best Popular Film” category to be included in the 2019 ceremony. The reasoning for this was down to the common mismatch between the films that get recognition from The Academy’s voters, and the ones that people actually go out and see.
Of course, it blew up in the organisers’ faces, with claims of elitism and snobbery levelled against the new category; the detractors’ points being that The Academy didn’t see popular films as “worthy” of the top prize, and that the average member of the Oscar’s TV audience were being put off by films like Moonlight winning Best Picture and not anything in the MCU, for example.
Clearly the awards’ organisers took note of this feedback, and eventually walked back any inclusion of the Popular Film category. It’s possible that the idea will pop up again in time, but for now this was the first big U-Turn in the run-up to the 2019 Oscars.
2. Issues with the host, or lack thereof
After Jimmy Kimmel’s solid double run across the 2017 and 2018 ceremonies, the search was on for a host that would pull in viewers, and turn around the telecast’s dwindling ratings. After a fair bit of shopping around (Kimmel said no to outing 3, apparently Dwayne Johnson was approached), Kevin Hart was confirmed to oversee proceedings on the big night.
Unfortunately, Hart also happened to be very stupid on Twitter in the past.
Some of Kevin Hart’s old tweets containing homophobic jokes were revealed and, naturally, they didn’t go down too well. Hart refused to apologise for the content of those tweets, and after a lot of back and forth – not to mention a mountain of press coverage on the issue – Kevin Hart officially confirmed that he would be stepping down from hosting duties.
Whether it was down to the actual content of his tweets, or the lack of any apology remains unclear. What was becoming more apparent though, was that the 2019 Oscars would go ahead without a host, as every single person on the face of the earth realised they could only be free to present an award at most. This year’s ceremony would therefore be the first without a host for 30 years, and looking back… it’s clear why.
3. The mess around Best Original Song
When the above plans fell through, the Oscars organisers turned to another strategy to entice viewers back in: cut down the ceremony’s running time from its mammoth 4 hour stretch to a more manageable 3. To do that though, there would need to be some cuts made to the planned programme.
Looking back at past broadcasts, there are a few areas that could have maybe been justifiably culled: no host means no lengthy monologue or painfully awkward ‘bits’ to drag out, plus the mini-features about each Best Picture nominee could probably be cut too.
Nope, it was to be all but two of the performances in the Best Original Song category. The plan was to just do ‘Shallow’ and ‘All The Stars’ from A Star is Born and Black Panther respectively, being the bigger hits of the nominees, but the announcement was rightly called out for favouritism and the organisers’ decision was, once again, walked back.
With ideas running low and the date of the awards ceremony looming closer, perhaps the most controversial decision to date was considered…
4. Cutting Categories
The Academy announced that some awards would be presented during advert breaks in a last-ditch attempt to save time. In their infinite wisdom, the organisers confirmed that the awards for cinematography, editing, make-up and hair, and live-action short would be the four sacrifices to the broadcast gods.
Justifications were quickly made: the awards would still be broadcast later in the show, that those who had seen a preview of the edit were in approval, and that other awards would get the treatment in subsequent years (apart from the “important” ones).
Naturally, the announcement made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move. Twitter campaigns went viral to present all 24 awards categories in the live broadcast as equals, and eventually some of the biggest names in the industry found their voices too, calling for the broadcast to include all categories without meddling.
The momentum was so great that, of course, all 24 categories would be presented live, bringing us back exactly where we were at the start, except without a host to oversee proceedings.
All in all, the whole build-up has been nothing short of a complete shambles. Time will tell if it’ll be alright on the night, but given the path that The Academy has taken so far with this year’s Oscars, I can’t see it sticking the landing myself.
As for this year’s nominees, there’ll be more on that from me soon.