The Bumpy Road to the Oscars

By Skyler King

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The 2019 awards season is ending, with one ceremony left to go – the most coveted of them all. The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, dedicated to achievements in film and regarded as the most prestigious award in the industry. This past awards season has been a good one, with Sandra Oh making history at the Golden Globes and Glenn Close giving a wonderful speech when she won a Golden Globe for her role in The Wife. The cast of Black Panther took home the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. So far, it’s been a good awards season for everyone, except for the Oscars. It seems that Academy can’t stop running into problems and the Oscars has yet to air. Here’s a look at the bumpy road leading to the 2019 Oscars.

The Oscars has long been criticized for its very long ceremony that often doesn’t truly reflect what the public is actually seeing in theaters. They tried to fix this problem with the introduction of the Best Achievement in Popular Film category in late August. Immediately following the announcement, the masses took to social media to discuss their disapproval of the new category.

On the surface it sounds like a category the Academy created to recognize films the public actually seemed to care about, but still claiming that those movies were not good enough to be nominated for Best Picture. Fans of Black Panther worried this category would be the Oscars excuse for not nominating it for Best Picture. Then there’s the question of what counts as a “popular film”, does it mean films that were successful at the box office? Well that doesn’t work out as well, because there are plenty of films that do great at the box office, but they were not good films overall. (Not to mention the films that were amazing but did not do well at the box office.)

The New York Times reported that film critics saw this category as ruining the prestigious reputation of the Oscars, calling it an act of pandering. Overall the new category was criticized for sounding like a consolation prize that could make the Oscars sound like a joke, and didn’t even make that much sense. A few weeks later in an interview with the New York Times, Dawn Hudson, chief executive of the Academy,  stated “there has been a wide range of reactions to the introduction of a new award, and we recognize the need for further discussion with our members”. The Academy decided to postpone the Popular Film category for the 2020 Academy Awards.

Problems for the Oscars didn’t stop there, up next was the question, who is going to host the ceremony? Hosting the Oscars can be a great honor, but at the same time a daunting task that only few do great at. Ellen DeGeneres was one of the few who made a lasting impression when she hosted the Oscars in 2014.  During the ceremony she handed out pizza to the crowd, took one of the most retweeted selfies ever and of course made the audience laugh plenty of times. Unfortunately, everyone knows hosting the Oscars is a thankless job and you’re more likely to get criticized than praised. For a while no celebrity was willing to step up to the plate and host the Oscars, that is until Kevin Hart said he would take the job – only to be met with controversy shortly after he was announced to host the ceremony.

In the past Kevin Hart made homophobic jokes, and those jokes came to light after his hosting announcement. The LBGTQ community came out in force, criticizing the Academy for choosing a host with a homophobic past. The Academy issued an apology and urged Hart to do the same. Initially Hart did not want to apologize stating he already has, and this is just the work of online trolls. Soon he later did apologize and withdrew himself from hosting the Oscars, claiming he did not want to cause a distraction. After a month of everyone asking, “who is going to host the oscars?”, an Academy spokesperson confirmed that they will go on this year without a host. Oscars without a host? It has been done before, back in 1989, so what are they going to do this year? The Academy spokesperson spoke to ABC News and said they’re going to focus on having A-list celebrities handing out the trophies. If you think about it, that is essentially how the Oscars goes, celebrities telling some jokes and handing out awards to their peers. The only difference is we won’t have to sit through the usual long, and often, awkward monologue given by the hosts at the beginning of the ceremony. Reports are saying producers might recruit The Avengers cast to come in and do a few bits. Who knows, maybe we’ll be getting Avengers 3.5: The Oscars.

This year’s telecast of the Oscars is looking at a run time of 3 hours, and with ratings going down each year along with plenty of criticism over the length of the ceremony, producers are looking for ways to shorten run time. Back in August when the Academy announced the popular film category, they also announced a few awards would be moved to commercials instead of being aired during the live telecast. Recently they revealed those awards would include editing and cinematography.

This choice, no surprise, was slammed with backlash after the announcement. Many calling it outrageous that they would omit editing and cinematography awards when they are essential to filmmaking. Alfonso Cuarón, nominated for Best Director for his film Roma, came out against the Academy’s choice tweeting “No one single film has ever existed without cinematography.” Academy Award Winning Director, Guillermo del Toro, also tweeted his disapproval of the decision saying, “Cinematography and Editing are at the very heart of our craft…they are cinema itself.”. Kees van Oostrum, president of the American Society of Cinematographers, had a letter signed by 380 members protesting the Academy’s decision saying “We cannot quietly condone this decision without protest.”, via Hollywood Reporter. Soon after the backlash, the Academy rolled back the decision and stated they will be airing all 24 awards during the live telecast. With the ceremony right around the corner, the Academy will have to come up with new ideas fast or simply try again next year.

No one will doubt that winning an Academy Award is the highest honor in film, and really solidifies your skill as an actor or actress. It’s unfortunate that the ceremony itself is struggling, and losing its appeal as the years goes by. Ratings have been plummeting and these days most people just wait for social media to tell them who won and what happened, no need to sit through the whole thing. Sure, the Oscars has faced problems before, but nothing like this and it’s not a good sign for producers. After facing controversy after controversy it’s hard to know what viewers will be in for once the night of the Oscars rolls around. Will producers be able to pull it together and put on a good show, or will it be a disaster? We’ll see when the Oscars airs on February 24th on ABC.