The Identity Crisis at the Oscars Image

Sure, it might be all pomp and circumstance as rich people give each other awards but, to offer a sincere counter, the Oscars still matter for many reasons. They are the organization spotlighting small movies like Moonlight and giving them the film world’s largest stage to have their message heard, when people might not have know what that film is. Moonlight is considered by many as one of the best winners of recent years and imagine everyone who felt heard or seen because that movie won Best Picture (envelope snafu aside).

No, the Oscars aren’t the only deciding factor of what can be classified as a great movie (there’s a strong case to be made that three of this year’s Best Picture nominees are not good movies). Even when my personal favorite movies don’t make it to the Dolby on Oscar night (apparently the Academy didn’t see Widows or Burning, but I digress), it’s still a night celebrating movies and all who help make them.

Therein lies the problem with the handling of the 91st Academy Awards; it appears some people’s contributions are not being considered as important as others. John Bailey, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, announced four categories will be given out during commercial break: Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Live-Action Short and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. The categories will be available via live stream, edited down and shown at the end of the telecast, all in an effort to keep the show at exactly three hours.

“…the Academy has made one ill-advised choice after another, probably at the behest of ABC and the powers-that-be, to create a marketable show.”

Over the summer, the Academy announced they would be instituting a new category called Best Popular Film, which was haphazardly declared and then bemoaned across the Internet because no one – including the Academy – knew what this meant. In the same announcement, they stated several categories will be eliminated from the broadcast because a shorter broadcast will certainly bring the ratings up from a new low at the 2018 telecast. Memo to the Academy: it won’t.

Since the summer announcement, the Academy has made one ill-advised choice after another, probably at the behest of ABC and the powers-that-be, to create a marketable show. Those who watch the Oscars as their own version of the Super Bowl have spoken up with rightful outrage about each decision. As we inch closer to Oscar night, the voices online are getting louder and writers, directors, actors and craftspeople are lending their opinion to the disrespectful decision to shun four categories to commercial breaks.

Film Twitter is an interesting, if often toxic, place to be because if you don’t worship at the altar of Christopher Nolan, believe The Last Jedi is the devil and the 2016 Ghostbusters is one of the seven deadly sins, you will be excommunicated from the church. However, when it’s a positive place to be, it can be a community of film lovers, who appreciate the craft of filmmaking more than the Academy does, apparently. The hashtag #PresentAll24 starting making the rounds on Twitter, unifying Oscar watchers under a common cause.

“After the Academy has pulled back on Best Popular Film and only having two of the Best Original Songs performed it seemed odd that this is where they drew the line in the sand,” said Amanda Spears, contributing writer at GoldDerby and the author of the #PresentAll24 hashtag.

As someone who writes about the race and watches the Oscars religiously, Spears said, “I came up with the hashtag simply because it’s what should be done – Present all 24 on the telecast. At the end of the day, it’s about the film and no one contribution should be more important than the other.”

But, as we know, ratings rule all and the Academy has opted to alienate their base to chase people who have no interest in being chased in the interest of obtaining a new legion of viewers. A shortened show will not suddenly spike ratings because you have to care about the movies to want to watch in the first place. Four less acceptance speeches doesn’t suddenly create a groundswell of interest in what wins Best Picture or if the cast of The Avengers is presenting the winner. Those who spend the year seeing these movies, talking about them and supporting them tune in every year for one last celebration before moving on to a new year in film.

It appears the Academy no longer cares if we come to the party.

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