The Academy proposes a Best Popular Picture category; a month later, they drop it ‘to seek additional input’. The Academy eventually finds a host in Kevin Hart; Hart steps down – it’s a no-host deal.
Then, the categories for Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Live Action Short, and Makeup & Hairstyling – you know, those representing the people who, in long and short form, give us the images, their sequence, and Christian Bale’s turkey neck – almost get relegated to a commercial break handout.
Oh, and a film about race relations from the director of There’s Something About Mary, with about four counts of controversy to its name, wins Best Picture.
Akin to your Twitter feed, the last six months has certainly been a road of complaint and uncertainty for the Academy. So, in brief, what can we take away from all this?
Firstly, the 91st edition did signal some steps forward. In recent years, each ceremony has been marked by some new ‘innovation’ which is ultimately designed to increase the ever-dwindling Nielsen ratings for the show – whether it’s making the Academy voter pool more diverse, bringing ‘popular fare’ to the fore, or simply giving Jennifer Lawrence an Oscar.
But the unintentional no-host conceit seems to have paid off in this regard. As The Guardian reports, there was an 11% increase in viewership from the last few years, the first positive blip since 2014. Whether this move will be carried forth into the coming years is considerable. But the Oscars’ steady viewership decline may also be the tired state of the live television model with all things movie-related, and a broader rethink of the broadcast format may be necessary.
Moreover, with Roma’s success on the accolades circuit, we see another step forward for Netflix’s further consolidation as a production powerhouse. In this regard, this is currently its most successful feature film production, and will potentially inform their future algorithms of success. And though the film’s distribution strategy was criticised, it will hopefully mark the first healthy compromise on Netflix’s part in terms of recognising the value of theatrical releases, even on a limited scale.
To conclude, the question of the Oscars’ relevance is now par for the course when we discuss one of the biggest movie events of the year, but it’s not the spell of its doom. The Oscars may reveal to us what we hate about Hollywood, but also where it’s going and what we would like to see from it.
It’s by no means a definitive metric for the incredible array of films produced globally, and oftentimes the classics that get snubbed from victory (here’s looking at you Cold War, First Reformed etc) are all the better for it in terms of evading the post-campaign season hangover, which ultimately treats films as mere products and ciphers, rather than works of craft and personal resonance. Ultimately, only time can judge all of these films.
The Oscars are one checkpoint of several for each film year. And whether the format drastically changes in the near future, it will nevertheless remain an ongoing part of the tradition. And you know, oftentimes they’re a lot of fun to discuss (and bet over).
The Golden Globes on the other hand…