Limiting Original Song Performances
Live performances of the Best Original Song nominees have been a fixture at the Oscars for years, but the Academy attempted to "fix" this portion of the show for 2019. Back it January, it was reported only two of this year's five contenders - A Star is Born's "Shallow" and Black Panther's "All the Stars" - would be showcased on the broadcast. This was done in an effort to preserve time, but like so many of the Academy's other decisions this year, it was not well-received. None other than Lin-Manuel Miranda voiced his displeasure with the turn of events, and he apparently wasn't the only vocal critic. Once again, the backlash got to the Academy and they backtracked.
Shortly after the initial wave of rumors, the Academy announced all five songs will be performed during the show. This means fans of "I'll Fight" (from RBG), "The Place Where Lost Things Go" (from Mary Poppins Returns), and "When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings" (from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) can rest easy. The plan is for the songs themselves to be shortened (90 seconds), which seems like a better solution than omitting ones at random. It would have been easy to accuse the Academy of favoritism if they stuck to their initial plan - and how awkward would it be if "Shallow" or "All the Stars" didn't win? Everyone can agree the Oscars broadcast can run a bit long, but eliminating segments where celebrities shoot hot dog cannons at unsuspecting movie patrons is the stuff we can do without.
Snubbing Last Year's Winners for More Famous Faces
Traditionally, the previous year's four acting winners present the acting Oscars at the ceremony. For instance, when Emma Stone won for her performance in La La Land, she received her Oscar from 2015 Best Actor winner Leonardo DiCaprio. This can be seen as a symbolic gesture; one winner welcomes another to a rather exclusive club, in essence passing the torch. There's nothing inherently wrong with this practice, but the Academy thought it could use some fine-tuning. Per reports, the Oscars wanted to recruit bigger, splashier names to present these four Oscars, snubbing the foursome of Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Allison Janney (last year's acting winners) in the process.
Of all the proposed changes to the Oscars in 2019, this was perhaps the most baffling. The Academy seemed to be under the impression that more people are likely to tune in if someone from Avengers: Infinity War reads a list of five nominees and announces who gets the Oscar. And like the notion of "Popular Film," this deviation from tradition has an element of insult to boot. Oldman, McDormand, Rockwell, and Janney are widely-respected industry veterans and are admired amongst film buffs. To suggest they aren't "famous" enough to present an award definitely sends the wrong message. Apparently, it took Janney saying she was "heartbroken" by the mere suggestion to incite a change. Today, the Academy backtracked and announced Oldman, McDormand, Rockwell, and Janney will in fact present the acting Oscars this year. It's a shame this was even a rumor.
The Kevin Hart Hosting Debacle
Back in December 2018, actor and comedian Kevin Hart was hired to host the 2019 Oscars. After the announcement, Hart celebrated by saying it was a dream come true, but the good vibes didn't last for long. Quickly, Hart found himself under heavy fire for homophobic jokes and comments he made in his past. The controversy led to Hart ultimately stepping down so that he could avoid being a distraction. Academy members were allegedly open to Hart returning if he showed remorse for his prior mistakes, but any chance of that went out the window following Hart's heavily-criticized interview on Ellen, which portrayed Hart as the victim of an Internet troll smear campaign.
When Hart stepped down, there was plenty of time to find a replacement. However, the Academy is forging ahead host-less, the first time in 30 years this has happened. Their plan is to use a rotating cast of A-listers to introduce the various segments. Producers don't seem too concerned about the development, since the alterations to the telecast would have limited the role of the host anyway. Still, this isn't a great look for the Academy, and there are still some things that need to be resolved. Since there won't be an opening monologue, how is the show going to start? Members of Queen turned down an opportunity to perform a song from Bohemian Rhapsody, so ABC needs to think of something else. Maybe it would have been easier to find a new host.
The Oscars take place February 24, 2019.