The now Oscar-winning Avengers: Infinity War was being touted as the new gold standard of how art meets commerce among many industry executives backstage..
Hangover 4 rebooted the entire franchise with its recent Oscar win and Warner Bros. is now talking multi-episode story arcs along the lines of Star Wars as Bradley Cooper circles a revamped multi-pic deal with the studio through his freshly-minted Wall Street-backed production company as director-producer-star…
Of course, THE viral moment of ANY Academy Awards ceremony occurred back in in 2019 when seven-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close, finally a winner for that year’s The Wife, was forced to pick up her trophy during a commercial break in a filmed off-camera segment and tersely growled I’m not going to be ignored! – an oft-quoted line from her box-office hit Fatal Attraction – before justifiably storming offstage and out the doors of the Dolby Theatre…
Oh yes, it can happen. And more.
This week the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences announced without warning to its 6000 plus membership – and us – that its Board of Governors voted for some noteworthy changes to future Oscar ceremonies that include:
1- The addition of a new Oscar for Best Popular Film.
2 – The presentation of some Oscars off-camera (who knows, it may even be backstage)…during commercial breaks…in categories to be determined
3- An earlier airdate from late February to early February.
This is certainly not an emergency situation given what is going on in the world at the moment. Still, if you’re an inveterate Oscar watcher – whether as cheerleader or snide, smack-talking comment-maker – it is one more assault on one more of the dependable and seemingly scarce growing pleasures left on the planet Earth.
It seems that millions and billions of dollars in profit should be enough, doesn’t it? No. Michelin will soon be awarding 4 or 5 stars to the top McDonald’s franchise, People Magazine will no doubt be forced into doing a Sexiest Armadillo Alive issue for disenfranchised pet lovers and the Nobel Peace Prize for Best Villain Whose War Was Prevented by a Treaty of Nations could most conceivably and likely be awarded to our current sitting American president at some future date he deems to his own liking by way of Oval Office pressure privately applied.
The latter analogy is apt because changes by organizations like the Motion Picture Academy don’t just happen, even when they seem to be doing so. That’s like believing the mere election of a Person of Color as a U.S. president created the corrupt crop of American racism aka Nationalism that is sweeping the country. It pays attention only to the mere tipping point without acknowledging the tides of this nature that have been sweeping and swirling about for decades, if not centuries.
ABC-Disney broadcasts the Oscars and the show’s ratings have been steadily declining in recent years. In fact, last year they dropped a whopping 19% to an all-time low of 26.5 million viewers, marking the first time in 10 years they registered at less than 30 million.
This means that even though The Shape of Water was a genre film and more popular than the previous year’s indie best picture winner, Moonlight, it didn’t seem to matter. In fact, research over the last few decades showed the only times the ratings could be counted on to seriously tick up was when blockbuster grossing films like Avatar or Lord of the Rings were in serious contention.
Nevermind the general decrease in television ratings among younger demographics and the competition of online and streaming entertainment. Something had to be done.
The urgency of this can be certainly be attributed to commerce. Networks justifiably do not like to lose money, especially when we keep being reminded of how well the economy is doing.
But…well…there is something about these changes that smell a little to those with a sensitive sniffer – or who are just sensitive (Note: Which used to be the euphemism used for all artists, not to mention the gays and lesbians among and outside them).
See, Disney – that is half of ABC-Disney, in case this is becoming too complicated – is also the distributor and defacto partial financier of all Marvel Films. That’s pretty much the majority of all the Oscar overlooked superhero hopefuls.
It’s also the distributor and defacto partial financier of all Pixar Films. That’s pretty much the majority of all of the Oscar overlooked animated films before the installation of the best animated Oscar category in 2002.
Not to mention, it also distributes and serves as the defacto partial financier of all the Star Wars/Lucasfilm movies.
These are all very POPULAR FILMS. In fact, consistently among the MOST POPULAR. Though certainly they are not among the biggest Oscar winners. And often they are…gasp…not even in contention.
As a person with year-round season allergies, even I CAN SMELL something rotten here in Hollywood beyond the phony Donald J. Trump Walk of Fame stars some right wing conservative group pasted directly onto the streets last week.
We seem to be living in a world where money is not enough and massive amounts of fame proves to be inadequate for the insatiable. The next bastion seems to be legitimacy in the form of some type of higher class of award or recognition usually reserved for the artistic and/or intellectual.
Of course it’s impossible to argue at this point that all Oscars are consistently high class, intellectual or even the most artistic. Yet if over the years you compare the winners to the Golden Globes, People’s Choice and MTV…well, our standards are our standards.
Yet somewhere it has now been decided that the producer/director of a short film or documentary who did something brilliant and/or original (and is likely maxed out on their credit cards) doesn’t deserve that kind of international attention for artistic achievement, especially if it can be given to someone the world is already familiar with.
Sort of like an American president pushing the president of a tiny country – say, Montenegro – out of the way in order to get one more photo op to add to the many millions accrued previously or to be added in the future.
Never mind the fact that all outstanding leaders in their fields deserve some attention, even those of more modest means, in those rare moments when the spotlight happens to turn on them.
The more categories included, i.e. the more awards given, the more diluted and less prestigious any honor will become. This is one reason why the Oscars has managed to maintain whatever star quality and specialness it has left – it limited itself to 24 categories, eliminating some others while adding a few more over time.
Then, some years ago, when ego and commerce and the omission of a best picture nominee like Dark Knight dictated – rules were changed to include up to TEN best picture nominees – with hope for some more superhero or at least commercial inclusion, if not winners.
When that didn’t work…well…now there’s the popular film – dragging along all the other Oscars along with it so they can be awarded TWO OR THREE WEEKS earlier in hopes they can at least capitalize on some additional amorphous awards buzz along with everyone else. Forgetting entirely that sometimes you want to stand out from a group instead of delivering a cheap imitation of what everyone else has already grown so used to.
This kind of strategy slowly makes irrelevant not only a date of broadcast but the very awards themselves. Much like a bad leader can do to any organization, corporate leader or country.