The Academy has just announced changes for the Oscars, one of which is relatively minor, two of which are ham-fisted at best, disastrous at worst. The minor change is moving up the broadcast date for 2020 to February 9, which will just make award season a little more hectic as there is less breathing room between the major ceremonies. On the whole, not a big deal. The other two changes, though, indicate a serious lack of understanding of people’s actual issues with the Oscars. They are: 1) Limiting the broadcast to three hours by shoving some winner announcements off-air during commercials and editing in shortened clips later in the broadcast (I have a SERIOUS problem with this); and 2) introducing a new “outstanding achievement in popular film” category, which is where the Academy loaded a fancy pistol and shot themselves in the foot.
I do not like limiting the broadcast ESPECIALLY when that limitation comes at the expense of people who are not usually celebrated. You know who is going to be awarded off-air and forced into clip packages—the un-famous craft workers who ACTUALLY MAKE THE MOVIES. Every f-cking second of a famous actor’s life is a celebration. Increasingly, thanks to the internet opening up channels for fans to learn more about filmmaking and the people who do it, directors are also extremely celebrated all of the time. You know who isn’t celebrated? Gary Rydstrom. He’s a sound designer and he made the dinosaur roars in Jurassic Park, among the most famous sounds in all of cinema. You don’t know his name, you couldn’t pick him out on the street, and no one asks for his autograph, but you sure as hell know his work. Rydstrom has won Oscars, though, including for Jurassic Park, and it’s the one time he gets to stand up and be recognized for his contributions to cinema. Again, he did this:
That deserves to be recognized! He DESERVES to stand up on a stage in front of his peers and the whole f-cking world that was touched by his work and be recognized for that achievement. The sound designers, the cinematographers, the production designers, the costume designers—these are the people who actually do the work of making a movie and they are the ones who will be shunted to the side and have their big night downgraded to a clip montage or whatever the f-ck and it’s DISGRACEFUL of the Academy to even consider such a thing.
The Oscars are one night. The broadcast being long only sucks when it’s BORING, so fix that by committing to making it a one-night-only extravaganza, not by pushing aside the people who are actually making the movies. No one complains about the Super Bowl being nine hours long because it’s a goddamn spectacle. Turn the Oscars into a spectacular and let those of us who love the pageantry revel in it. Definitely do not attempt to shorten the broadcast by demoting the craftspeople who do not make millions and are not famous and only have one night to be recognized for their work.
And this isn’t even the worst change they’ve announced. No, that award goes to the new “popular film” category. There is already low-level hype for Black Panther to compete for Best Picture, but guess which films will be shoved into this new category? You got it, superhero movies and other such popcorn fare. How do you think it will go down with the public if Black Panther ends up in the Consolation Oscar race, and not Best Picture? You think that will excite anyone? You think people will LIKE that? Because that’s what this is—a consolation prize. It’s acknowledging the gap between Best Picture nominees and movies people actually see and admitting you have no idea how to bridge it.
I have an idea. Here is my unsolicited consultation on how to fix the “elitist” Best Picture race: Nominate ten films every year, and stipulate to voters that three of their nominations need to come from movies with budgets over $100 million. Right now, the max field is ten films, but they do not have to have ten nominees every year (it’s a weighted system). So make ten nominees compulsory, and voters have to pick three big-budget movies on their ballot. That doesn’t guarantee three popular nominees, but it would greatly increase the odds of a blockbuster making its way onto the Best Picture list each year.
Members will grumble about being forced to choose from films many of them DO see as inferior, and many will point to the separate animated and documentary feature categories as an example of putting different types of films into their own categories. But a superhero movie is not different from an arthouse period drama. They are both live action, they both require the same departments to put them together, they both have the same workflow and editing process. There is no material difference between them except budget (and even then some Oscar bait dramas run up big-ass tabs, see also: Martin Scorsese’s upcoming The Irishman) and audience size. There is NO REASON to separate “popular” movies except for the inherent snobbery of the Academy. So instead of creating a participation trophy to acknowledge that people like going to see big spectacle movies, tell the members to get over themselves and just start nominating popular movies.
Expanding the field to up to ten nominees was supposed to solve that problem but it didn’t, so now it’s time to force members to vote for popular movies. This is a problem with the Academy, not the public—who has no trouble recognizing when a blockbuster is also a well-made film. Don’t make it our problem by creating bullsh-t also-ran categories no one gives a f-ck about, just fix your sh-t, Academy. Value the craft workers who make your films possible, bite the bullet and accept that popular movies can also be good, and say f-ck the run time we’re here to have fun.