The Oscars are broken. Here’s how to fix them.


His client was having a great evening. He should have been delighted. But on the last Sunday evening in April, as this year’s dreadful Oscars continued to unravel, a senior Hollywood representative texted me about the show “beyond the dreadful” and worried: “The whole country has disconnected”.

Later, as the ceremony entered an even worse final act that included a piece of sweat-flop comedy and a failed best actor reveal, I received another text from him: “This could kill the Oscars.” It is so bad.

Reviews of the show were almost as scathing, and the ratings released the next day were grim: the Oscars had plunged more than 50% from the previous year, drawing just under 10 million people, the lowest number on record since those numbers were calculated. .

I thought about that drop in grades (and those catastrophic texts) quite a bit over the next few months, as a new awards season began. There’s a lot of excitement in Hollywood right now, as premieres and awards shows can once again be in person and the films competing for the awards look a lot bigger. But behind the unmasked smiles of the people, I detect some anxiety, as if there is a question that everyone is still too nervous to ask: What if all of this leads to Oscars that no one will watch?

I think it helps that the series returned to 10 Guaranteed Best Picture nominees which should ensure that a wider range of films are nominated, just as the academy’s laudable efforts to diversify its membership should result in a list of nominees who feel less disconnected. But all of those efforts might seem in vain if the show’s audience shrinks so sharply again. After the latest ceremony ravages Oscar reputation and ratings, here are four things the academy should do to make things right ahead of next year’s show.

The last three Academy Awards have gone without an MC, which continues to feel like a missed opportunity. The right host can help bring viewers to the show and deliver viral, memorable moments: One of the reasons the Golden Globes won at the Oscars is that they could promote animated hosts like Ricky Gervais and the duo of ace by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

Hosting the Oscars was one of Hollywood’s most prestigious concerts, but the show has often escaped that privilege over the past decade: there was the James Franco-Anne Hathaway debacle (which could have run with crisper handwriting and a more committed partner for Hathaway), shrewd turns from Seth MacFarlane and Neil Patrick Harris, and two back-to-back stints from a disinterested Jimmy Kimmel. Since 2018, when Kevin Hart quit the show after refusing to apologize for anti-gay jokes, the ceremony has decided to do without a host altogether.

But if the Oscars are so keen to incorporate blockbuster content into a show that often celebrates small indie films, why not invite guests from this tent kingdom? I’d rather watch Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt host the Oscars than star in something like “Jungle Cruise,” and it’s fun to imagine what a quick-witted Marvel duo like Paul Rudd and Simu Liu could too. To do. I’m afraid the Oscars will never restore the host position now that the streak is shorter without. But on that note …

In their never-ending quest to reduce the Oscars to manageable length, ABC and the academy would do well to remember one thing: it’s not about how long the series takes, but how the series uses this time. Why not build on the Oscar mammoth reputation and fill every nook and cranny with something exciting? It still puzzles me that there isn’t a list of comparable Super Bowl movie trailers: imagine how many people would log on if the commercials promised a first look at the ‘Black Panther’ sequel, just for beginners.

When the spectacle is reduced too ruthlessly, it leaves less room for the real human moments we indulge in. These moments don’t have to come just from acceptance speeches, either: I often think fondly of the 2009 show, hosted by Hugh Jackman, which made room for five former winners to feature each of the acting categories. . It was a lovely way to pay homage to the history of the Oscars, and all of the nominees were memorably moved by the tribute. This ceremony was about 11 minutes longer than the one that aired last April, but I’m going to take those 11 minutes out of almost everything the shorter show had to offer.

One of the reasons this year’s Oscars show was so boring is that almost all of the clips were removed from the show. For casual viewers who tune in to the Oscars without seeing most of the nominees, these clips create ingrained interest: Based on the glimpses of the performances and the craftsmanship, you can guess your own chair who will win. And when I watched the show as a kid, the clips offered a taste of worlds, lives, and people that had been unknown to me until then. They are essential.

This year’s ceremony also featured the song’s best performances at the pre-show, which robbed the main event of several high-energy moments. (Can you imagine if this steamy duo “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper had debuted at the pre-show two years ago?) With original songs in the mix this year from Beyoncé and Billie Eilish, the Oscars would be foolish not to milk these performances for all that. they are worth. And if all those clips and performances make the show too long, cut the short already!

That said, there is little that the Oscars can do to stop their fall in linear odds. People just consume media differently these days, and many households and young audiences have completely cut the cord, consuming all of their TV shows on streaming services.

But the core appeal of the Oscars remains. It’s the only awards show that generates so much gossip, and the tales that unfold because of the show – from earth-shattering victories as the winner of Best Picture “Parasite” to a cultural movement like #OscarsSoWhite – continue to grow. spread through our culture. I saw it last year, when “Minari” star Steven Yeun became the first Asian American nominated for Best Actor, and when “Nomadland” director Chloe Zhao became the first woman to be nominated for Best Actor. color to win the award for best director: Even though their films were barely blockbusters, their achievements went incredibly viral on social media.

This type of engagement proves that there is still a huge following, even as it tunes in more and more frequently through Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. If the academy is to draw all of these glances to the actual broadcast, then they should make a game more compelling for their attention. Despite the recent missteps, people haven’t lost interest in the idea of ​​the Oscars. It’s the show itself that needs tune-up.

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