The Oscars have had a fairly tumultuous year, so it's time to take a look at the biggest mistakes they've made so far. Usually, the biggest controversies surrounding the Academy Awards involve the infamous snubs, and 2019 certainly had its fair share of those. Some moviegoers were flummoxed by the amount of love given to titles like Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book, while First Man and If Beale Street Could Talk were largely ignored. But this year, problems with the Oscars went well beyond the films that were and were not nominated. The Academy had to deal with one PR disaster after another - and all of them were caused by their own doing.
It's no secret that in recent years, the annual Oscars broadcast has seen its viewership ratings diminish. In an effort to reverse course, ABC and Oscar producers attempted to revamp the presentation to make it more audience-friendly (such as implementing a hard 3-hour time limit) and boost interest. Unfortunately for them, just about every decision they made backfired painfully, leaving the Academy scrambling to pick up the pieces in preparation for the 91st Oscars, which take place on Sunday, February 24. Here, we run down all of the issues that have popped up.
The Best Popular Film Category
Following The Dark Knight's Best Picture snub in 2008, the Academy expanded the category to include 10 films. This was done to allow more populist fare a spot at the table. But a decade into this experiment, a case can be made it hasn't yielded the intended results. More often than not, the Academy uses the additional slots to nominate more of "their" type of movie (i.e. smaller, character-driven dramas) and leave acclaimed blockbusters settling for the technical awards. There are some notable exceptions of course, but your typical Best Picture nominee doesn't light up the box office. This year, the Academy thought they had a brilliant idea to give Hollywood tentpoles their due.
In summer 2018, the Academy announced plans to introduce a Best Popular Film category - without detailing what that exactly meant. Unsurprisingly, it backfired in spectacular fashion, with many seeing it as an insult and a manufactured way to ensure the year's biggest movie (Black Panther) didn't go unnoticed at the ceremony. The optics of Best Popular Film were confusing and a little disconcerting; was the Academy admitting their regular Best Picture selections were "unpopular"? Facing intense criticism from various corners of the industry, the Academy ultimately backtracked and tabled Best Popular Film for another time. There's a chance the category could be implemented for a future year, but seeing that box office hits like Black Panther and A Star is Born are in the running this year, it may not be needed. Best Popular Film is always going to come across as misguided.
Not Showing All The Awards
As any director will say, it takes a village to complete a movie. Films would not be possible without the hard work of crew members, including production designers, costume designers, sound mixers & editors, cinematographers, makeup artists, and visual effects supervisors (just to name a few). Many of these people work behind-the-scenes and rarely get a moment in the spotlight. That's what makes the Oscars such a cool experience. For one night, the unsung heroes of the year's best films are recognized for their accomplishments and get time to shine on national television. However, for the 2019 Oscars, things are going to be a little different.
As part of their quest to meet the self-imposed 3-hour time limit, the Academy announced they will not show the presentation of all 24 awards live during the broadcast. Instead, some of the technical Oscars will be handed out during commercial breaks, with an edited package showing the winners airing later in the program. This has not gone over well with cinephiles (the Oscars' target audience), who enjoy seeing who wins in these categories. Again, the subtext of this change is troubling. It gives the impression that certain awards are more "important" than others simply by how recognizable the nominated names are to casual viewers. Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford were the faces of Blade Runner 2049, but Roger Deakins' contributions were a key reason why the film was as acclaimed as it was. Imagine the outrage if Deakins (a beloved figure amongst film buffs) finally won his first Oscar and people didn't get to see his acceptance speech live. Every award (even Best Short) should be seen.