The Academy seems intent on changing things up but do they need to?
It feels like a long time since the Oscars has been without controversy. Over recent years, there’s been an uproar about a lack of diversity, the wrong winners being announced, and hosts making tasteless gags, and much more.
This year was no different. The planned host, Kevin Hart, was effectively ousted from the role days after being announced when old homophobic tweets he’d made resurfaced, leaving the show without a leader. Then there were the Academy’s plans to broadcast some “minor” awards like cinematography and film editing in the advertising breaks. A swift backlash restating the importance of recognising not just the famous faces in the film industry meant that idea was quickly scrapped.
The Academy, with its designs to introduce a Best Popular Movie category, wants to fix the Oscars largely because of a decline in viewership figures. It’s a problem most major awards ceremonies are facing, perhaps because, in the age of social media, you don’t have to sit and watch a whole three-hour event to watch your favourite stars win, lose, fall over, or throw a tantrum. All the GIFs, videos, and memes will be on Twitter almost as soon as things happen anyway.
But do the Oscars actually need fixing? Watching the 2019 ceremony you might not think so. The lack of host actually feels like an improvement on recent years. Jimmy Kimmel repeatedly needling Matt Damon might be funny but tonight’s ceremony felt slicker, faster-paced, and focused more on what the night is all about – celebrating the best of the movie industry.
Past criticisms about the diversity of the winners couldn’t be made again this year, either. The 2019 victors come from all walks of life, representing films that also reflect all pockets of society. Of course, there’s always room for more representation and the Academy should never get complacent about this. We can always be better and more inclusive. But there aren’t many faults you can find with the list of winners this year, the only major blots coming in the form of the controversies attached to various crew members, as with Green Book or Bohemian Rhapsody.
That’s not to say the 2019 Oscars was the best ever and without flaws. There’s clearly still things that can be improved when one of your Best Original Song nominees (Kendrick Lamar and SZA) decline to perform (the official reason for not turning up is “logistics and timing”, but the Oscars should be an event you move hell and high water to play at). Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper aside, that pair’s performance would have been the most anticipated of the night.
Instead of worrying about changing things up and bringing in new categories, perhaps the Academy should concentrate on what’s working right now. Continue to be respectful of diversity and representation, keep the ceremony moving instead of stalling for whoever’s hosting to indulge in some long-winding joke, and pepper it with enough star power (or people as charming and lovable as Olivia Colman) to grab our attention between awards and 2020 should continue to improve its standing.