My Oscar Rant

Dear Academy,

Congratulations on finally putting together a show that was worth watching — for the first time in a number of years. Bringing back Jimmy Kimmel as host was a good move, as was restoring live presentations of all the awards. The look of the show was also quite appealing. Well done.

HOWEVER, the producers of this show STILL need to get some things right, and they never seem to do so. For starters, it’s widely recognized that viewership has been dropping off for some time, and that trend is probably not going to be reversed. Given the decreased attention spans of many people these days, they’re just too impatient to sit that long. But that’s actually OK. Instead of worrying about ways to try and retrieve lost viewers, the Academy should focus on ways to retain the viewership that it already has.

How can that be done? First of all, stop worrying so much about the length of the show. Those who are REALLY interested in it will stay watching, no matter how long the broadcast goes. Those who grow impatient and tune out aren’t your target audience anyways, and they likely won’t stay with the show no matter how much the Academy futilely tries to trim the runtime. Wrong-headed experiments like last year’s prerecorded ceremonies for awards presentations in certain categories need to go. And then there was this year’s shamefully abbreviated In Memoriam reel, which left out so many notable figures, such as Leslie Jordan, who served as one of the Oscar nomination announcement broadcast’s co-hosts several years ago (he was good enough for you then, so why not now? what a slap in the face). In short, the devoted viewers of the ceremonies are the ones who buy your product — movies — so do whatever you can to keep them happy, and I’m sure you’ll see viewership stabilize.

With that said, however, there are ways that the show can be tweaked to successfully shorten the runtime, and that begins with the elimination of the best original song performances. This has become an increasingly irrelevant category over the years, so why waste viewers’ time with pieces that are eminently forgettable? (The Golden Globes have an award category for this, but they don’t waste viewers’ time with performances of the nominees.) In fact, I’d even go so far as to suggest eliminating this category entirely. I doubt anyone will remember most of these compositions even a year from now. Heck, one of the numbers was not only forgettable in itself, but it came from a movie that virtually no one had even heard of to begin with (diehard movie fans included). And, as for the winner, it’s a music video piece that, in true Bollywood style, is virtually irrelevant to the picture’s story, so why is it even being recognized as a nominee? (That’s what we have the Grammys and the MTV Music Awards for.) Getting rid of this televised nonsense is something I’ve been calling for for years; it’s time to do something about it to streamline the broadcast.

This change would also make it possible to free up time for several award categories that I truly believe should be added, as they’ve been grossly overlooked for far too long. Five categories jump to mind right off the top of my head — best ensemble cast, best casting, best soundtrack (as opposed to best original score), best stunt performance ensemble and best voiceover performance (which could actually be split into two if intended to recognize both actors and actresses in this kind of work). I’d also keep best production design but restore separate awards for best art direction and best set design. I’m sure diehard movie fans — the true audience for the Oscars — would much rather see these awards presentations added than watching forgettable performances of forgettable songs.

And, of course, more film clips would always be welcome. One of the biggest complaints behind why viewers have tuned out in recent years is that they weren’t aware of the nominated movies, and, with scant numbers of film clips of them during the telecast, they just weren’t enough to keep those audience members interested any more. Including more clips would not only help to retain the current viewership, but it also might even draw back some of those who have stopped watching. Imagine that.

To me, these changes seem so patently obvious that I have a hard time believing that the Academy and the broadcast’s producers still haven’t figured these things out after so many years. What’s more, they’re things that are SO EASILY FIXED. I’d hate to see the Oscars go the way of so many other awards show broadcasts that have gone other ways in recent years, ceremonies that have had to turn to alternate hosting vehicles just to remain visible. Get with the program, Oscars. Focus on what’s important, and stop worrying about the stuff that’s not.

Copyright © 2023, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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