My sweet gay heart broke because we’re about to have the worst Oscars in the events 91 year history. Yes, I’m counting the eleventh ceremony that only broadcast for ten minutes, the 1946 Oscars where Greer Garson invented the acceptance speech, the 2005 Academy Awards where Crash was celebrated as Best Film, the second-hand embarrassment of wrongfully announcing La La Land as Best Picture two years ago, and the one time there wasn’t enough content to fill the Oscar’s time slot and a dance contest was improvised live on air in 1969. The Academy will tank their awards ceremony with the same mistakes they’ve made for years. At the Oscars, the movies have to come first.
I’ve watched the Oscars every year since I can remember. When I was in high school, and YouTube became the home of old zeitgeist moments, I watched every uploaded second of Oscar footage. In college, I attempted to watch every single Best Picture Winner in history. When I entered the workforce working overnights at a 24-hour customer service phone bank, I made sure a live stream was available.
From the minute it was decided there would be no host at this year’s Oscars, my heart sank. A host, good or bad, sets the tone for the entire event. As an annual event, each year can be defined by who led the show. Who could forget the controversy of the poorly written and ill-conceived Ann Hathaway x James Franco appeal to a younger audience? Or the elation that was present when Whoopi Goldberg was announced as the host because the role was in capable hands?
Perhaps it’s time to return to the era of Bob Hope. One familiar, overly talented smiling face to guide the Oscar audience through the years. My suggestion is internationally beloved, conflict-free, singing, Hollywood royal Maya Rudolph. Rudolph could bring her SNL friends on and maybe do a cute sketch with husband Paul Thomas Anderson about their wildly different approaches to the cinematic arts. No matter what Rudolph chose to do with her time on the stage, everyone would leave with a smile. Yes, the bar is on the floor.
This year we won’t even have the opportunity to hear all the nominated songs! In 2013, we sat through a live performance from the cast of Les Miserables, and it was the most memorable portion of the night. There was the time Beyoncé sang nearly every Best Original Song Nominated in 2005. For me, a glorious moment, for others a contentious frustration. In the past, songs have been drastically cut for time, performed in one go, and divided up throughout the telecast, but I can’t recall a moment when all of the songs hadn’t been given their space to shine.
The distinct stench of disrespect wafts over the writers, producers, and performers who will have to be satisfied with an honorable mention. Only Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All the Stars” (Black Panther) and Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” (A Star is Born) will be performed on Oscar Sunday. Due to time restraints, Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins), Jennifer Hudson (RBG), and Tim Blake Nelson (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) will have to settle for honorable mentions. If the Academy can’t make room for three world-class acts sans a host, what are they promising for the rest of the show?
Exclusion isn’t anything new for the Oscars. For years, only the “popular” awards have aired for a live television audience. The Scientific and Technical Awards happen on a different day, with different hosts. They’re able to react to claims of racism and exclusion, but the board hasn’t found a way to touch fans’ hearts.
Films are magic. Ripped from a unique moment in the existence of man, a second can be imprinted on to celluloid, and sound can be trapped in a permanent wave forever. When a small light passes through the film, shadows of the past flicker to life and teach lessons, express love, and end worlds. Behind those films are entire creative teams. Since the inception of the industry, the actors, directors, producers, and cinematographers have been the face of the industry for a long time.
It’s understandable why the creative geniuses, the money, and the pretty faces are the focal point. However, today’s political climate is ripe with a relentless onslaught of hate for the “Hollywood elite.” The Academy has an excellent opportunity, each year, through their programming to highlight the thousands of everyday citizens who make Hollywood run. Showcase the dope camera crews, explore the design of wardrobe, and honor those PAs who never stop working. Create an award for the stuntmen and women who risk their lives to give us the thrills that bring thousands to theaters every year.
This is an insane conundrum. The Oscars are an event. Between the gowns, the winner’s bracket gambling, and the general drama and excitement of winners and losers, there isn’t anything new the Oscars needs to bring to the table. Viewers haven’t stopped watching because the show is too long, they stopped watching because they’re no longer engaged in the content. Viewership for the Oscars decreased 20 percent from 2016-2017. 2018 saw the Oscars lowest numbers ever.
Our industry is struggling. Between the outing of sexual predators, the gender and race pay gap, the lack of diversity in key positions like writers’ rooms and director’s chairs, and the decimation of Entertainment Journalism, we need all the good PR we can get. From the beginning of the Oscars, the show has afforded a space for us to honor the magic of the movies. Entertainment is America’s largest export; the Oscars are where we’re supposed to award the best of the best.
With the new recruits added, I had hoped that there might be a change in approach. I believed they would move away from the flashy, get-viewers-quick schemes like hiring flash-in-the-pan comedians or shortening the ceremony. I’ll grin and bear this year. After all, even an abysmal Oscars is an event worthy of discussion. I just hope that by 2020, the Academy finds a way to celebrate the movies.
Header Image Source: Getty Images