Do the Oscars still matter?
The coveted Oscar is still steeped in red carpet majesty, but the ceremony has become irrelevant and no amount of Botox is going to keep it ready for its close up.
This explains why Ricky Gervais recently tweeted:
I think it's a good idea for The Oscars to have no host. No guests and no cameras would be good too. Just tweet the list of winners for anyone who still gives a fuck.
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) January 10, 2019
Here are a few reasons I think the Oscars are becoming less of an event:
1 Awards, not politics
The acceptance speech has gradually evolved from an airport moment to a political rant. Accessing an average of 40 million viewers, this live moment has become an opportunity to wield a big microphone. Since Marlon Brando’s boycott in 1973, the podium has become a soapbox for issues ranging from Aids awareness and lack of diversity to climate change.
2 Diversity and merit
With the Oscars facing continued criticism and campaigns such as #OscarsSoWhite, some decisions seem like public relations fixes. While diversity among the nominees and winners should be the goal, this perceived bias undermines the overall credibility, and smacks of too little, too late.
3 Host troubles
Bob Hope, Billy Crystal and Jack Lemmon have hosted over 30% of all Oscar ceremonies. Nowadays, the job swings from comedians to actors, reaching an all-time low in 2013 when Seth McFarlane belted out the offensive showstopper “We Saw Your Boobs”. Finding a reliable host who can be funny, tastefully edgy, red carpet savvy and politically aware has become impossible.
4 Taking themselves too seriously
The Academy Awards have a history of favouring drama over comedy. Most actors will tell you that comedy is actually more difficult to pull off, making you question why this challenging aspect of performance hasn’t been given more respect.
5 Film genius ignored
Some of the greatest film directors of all time haven’t won a golden statuette. Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick had never won an Oscar for directing some of Hollywood’s most celebrated films. How is that possible?
While the prospect of roving spotlights and mixing with the who’s who still holds appeal, the ceremony is a long and arduous affair. People’s attention spans have shrunk with the internet’s instant gratification and it’s a struggle to keep the average viewer watching for almost three hours!
7 Out of touch
The world’s values have shifted. Political upheaval and hard times have made people less enamoured and more suspicious of power and money. Since the Oscars deal in the currency of money, fame and power… the event has taken on a more ostentatious than admirable shine. There’s a surreal Titanic feel to the proceedings, making it seem out of touch with reality.
8 Fake smiles
Campaigns like #MeToo have blown the lid on the exploitative ugliness of getting ahead in one of the toughest industries in the world.
Having a number of losers for every winner, the dashed hopes gives the Oscars an air of quiet exasperation beneath the brave smiles. Perhaps Ricky Gervais is right.
So how to fix the Oscars?
It’s probably too soon for drone cameras, roving mics and aisle travelators but it’s not too late for an overhaul! These are my suggestions:
- Announce a year of rebuilding to accept criticism, run surveys and experiment with a new format.
- Take inspiration from live sporting events, either filming with a 30-minute window to pare down or offering viewers delayed no-frills and highlights versions.
- Present the awards from a dual or rotating stage; it could make for a quicker and more interactive acceptance procession.
- Letting the viewers vote for the host and an audience award; it will improve engagement.
- For greater accountability, why not initiate an appeals tribunal for snubs and controversial nominations?
One thing is certain, if the Awards don’t roll with the times, Oscar may not make his centennial.