As a movie buff, I look forward to the Oscars broadcast each year. I don’t always agree with the winners chosen by the Academy members, but if I got upset every time something happened in life that I disagreed with, I’d be suicidal by now.
The show that will air Sunday night won’t have a host, and that’s fine with me. It means we don’t have to sit through an 18-minute monologue of just-okay jokes, not to mention the obligatory portion of the evening where the host does something to break up the festivities, like feeding candy to the celebrities in attendance, or bringing in a bunch of “regular people” to breathe the same air as Bradley Cooper. Whenever anyone complains that the Oscars telecast drags on, I blame self-indulgent crap like that, which I’ve never found entertaining because it has nothing to do with the theme of the event — movies. Instead, I hope to see more movie montages, brilliantly edited, full of images that evoke great moments not only from the nominated films but those that came before.
This year’s show generated a lot of controversy because the Academy made some dumb decisions in an attempt to get the ratings up for ABC. First, they added an award for most popular film, making it seem as if the Oscars were on par with the People’s Choice Awards. That idea was dropped, fortunately. Then, in an effort to cut down on the runtime, it was decided that the Oscars for four categories (cinematography, editing, makeup, and hair design) would be handed out during commercial breaks, then edited and run later in the show — as the Tony Awards do. But, after backlash from the nominees in those categories, plus many others in the industry, that decision was reversed as well.
I’m fine with that, just as I’m okay with spending some time on short subjects, documentaries, visual effects, musical scores, etc. What makes the Oscars different from the Golden Globes and all the others is seeing its spotlight shine on more than just the famous names and faces. Let’s face it, Lady Gaga and Glenn Close and Mahershala Ali and Emma Stone and Christian Bale already get big paychecks and accolades for their work. Does it really do them an injustice to also hail the work of the crews that captured Alex Honnold’s ascent of El Capitan in “Free Solo” or did the sound editing on “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Besides, the best speeches of the night usually come from someone in those “minor” categories, a person who worked for years on their craft and passion project and may now finally get some glory.
ABC supposedly wants the telecast not to go over three hours because viewers in the east won’t stick around past that. There’s an easy solution — start the damned thing an hour earlier, like the Super Bowl. Incidentally, ABC does just fine with the Oscars. According to Bloomberg, it pays $75 million/year for the broadcasting rights, which last year yielded $149 million in ad revenue. Moreover, the ad rates for each 30-second spot have risen again from $2.1 million last year to $2.6 million this year. With that kind of money rolling in, why would you want fewer minutes in your broadcast?
The good news for the network, the Academy, and the producers of the Oscars is that, unlike in previous years, they have some really popular movies among the nominees for Best Picture. “Black Panther,” “A Star Is Born,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” all did big business at the box office, and the others have enough recognizable stars to bring in viewers.
Plus, there’s a chance Spike Lee will win his first directing Oscar for the brilliant “BlacKkKlansman,” which would put him in front of a live microphone with a lot on his mind — that will be must-see TV. On the other hand, the night might be full of honors for “Roma,” which Netflix has spent more on promoting than producing. Everyone I know who has seen it uses the same two-word phrase: excruciatingly boring.
Hopefully, that won’t be the review for the Oscars-cast itself. I’ve already set the DVR for the show — as well as for the Independent Spirit Awards, which will be handed out Saturday afternoon in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica. That ceremony, broadcast on the IFC channel, is always less formal, more fun, and might include some love for “Eighth Grade,” which ranked #3 on my Best Movies Of 2018 list (“BlacKkKlansman” was #1).