Nate: Kevin Hart is hosting the Oscars in February 2019. Whatever. The unrealistic ratings goals set by ABC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences guarantee that the show will continue to suck for years to come. Everything they have targeted as a problem this past year, from not nominating popular enough films to trying to find a younger, more hip host, do not address the actual issue. The Oscar telecast, to me, is broken because it airs on network television and is expected to be a huge ratings event. Never mind the fact that ratings for all network broadcasts are on a downward trend and reaching numbers the telecast earned even just five years ago is probably not doable.
Alex: You are completely right. This is an obvious attempt at grabbing ratings. However, I am not sure I understand this move. Yes, Kevin Hart has name recognition. But that is literally all. He was in one successful movie this year (“Night School” costarring the most annoying person I can name, Tiffany Haddish). Every decision the Academy makes regarding The Oscars telecast is in an attempt to boost their ratings. However, the choices they are making are not working. According to an article from Time, posted right after the 90th Oscars ceremony, the 2018 telecast received the smallest viewership in 44 years. When you consider that fact, their choice of Kevin Hart as the host for the 2019 ceremony makes more sense. Hart, as a host, has the potential to draw in an audience that wouldn’t normally watch the telecast. I don’t agree with the choice, but I think it was a deliberate one.
Nate: What would I like to see as a fan of filmmaking? For starters, the Academy would have to do away with their decision to hand out some of the technical awards during commercial breaks. That’s right, starting this February, somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter of the awards won’t even be handed out on live television. Instead, snippets of those categories being handed out will be shown later on in the broadcast. The reason for this, according to the producers, is so the show keeps moving and doesn’t exceed three hours. I have an idea, how about we do away with a lot of the time-consuming skits that fall flat instead? Is anyone clamoring for the next bit where Jimmy Kimmel visits a theater full of regular people? Are our ears craving to hear Billy Crystal croon “It’s A Wonderful Night For Oscar” again. Of course not. In fact, let’s just do away with the host. I mean it. The entire show should consist of actors and filmmakers introducing the nominees and handing out awards. No host. Just find talented directors and producers who will keep the show running on time.
Instead of having actors hand out awards for every category, let’s have people who actually work in the given category of filmmaking hand out the awards. Editors give awards to editors, makeup artists to makeup artists, and so on. One of the special things about the Oscars telecast, at least up until this year, was that it honored, live, all aspects of filmmaking. It wasn’t just about celebrities the way the Golden Globes are. I do think the “In Memoriam” segment can stay, and so should the performances of the nominated songs. Otherwise, let’s make the recognition of the films and all the aspects of filmmaking dominate the telecast.
Alex: First of all, I very much agree about the “In Memoriam” segment. It’s the one time of a year that I remember I am not completely dead on the inside. Second of all, the musical performances need to stick around because my soul requires another Lady Gaga performance at The Oscars.
I completely agree that awards being handed out off camera is not the best move. I think there are more effective ways to cut down on the length of the telecast. I think you are correct in that doing away with the host is the best idea. People who tune into the Oscars are not there for Jimmy Kimmel’s shenanigans, the opening musical number, or the reactions of random people trying to watch a movie in a theater. Viewers are there to see the actual awards that are being given. Usually, the host on screen just gives me a chance to go to the bathroom or refill my wine glass during the telecast.
Nate: Want to make the Oscars shorter? Let’s do away with acceptance speeches. When the winners are announced, we can get reaction shots of them coming up on stage to get their award. They take their award, say thanks, and walk away to talk the press backstage. They’ll have their moment and we’ll still get the dramatic reaction shots. No cringe-worthy, overlong speeches though. That should reduce the length of the show by a good hour.
Most acceptance speeches at the Oscars, or any of these awards shows for that matter, are terrible. They are usually only memorable when they get political, and that annoys me too. I’m not someone who thinks celebrities should stay quiet on political issues. I like hearing what they have to say and they have just as much right to make their opinions known as everyone else. But I don’t like it at these awards shows. It seems pointless. I think it’s safe to say that if you watch the Oscars, and are familiar with most of the kinds of films that are nominated, you lean at least a little to the left. It’s really just become three hours of people preaching to the choir, and as a member of the choir, I’m over it. Sometimes it can just be enough that awards are going to films that are addressing the issues these artists care about.
Alex: I don’t disagree with you about the acceptance speeches. I do get tired of the same political messages over and over again. However, before we were in our current political climate, I always enjoyed the acceptance speeches. I can’t quite put my finger on why. But I think it had something to do with the fact that as the viewer I was being thanked for investing in their performance. Yes, a lot of them are cringeworthy and overly dramatic, but I think it helps to humanize celebrities. I mean would we consider Jennifer Lawrence to be the successful hot mess she is without her famous trip up the stairs to accept her 2013 Oscar?
Oh I’m all for them still having to walk to the stage. They can still accept the award, but any speech should be limited to a polite “Thank you.” Also, I’m not suggesting this, but the Oscars could easily up their ratings by making the stairway bigger and giving all the nominees lots of booze beforehand.
(I really wanted the Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga version of that scene, but the internet let me down today)
I’m not naive enough to think any of my suggestions will be utilized. ABC will whip this old war horse until it dies of shock. For those of us who really care about all aspects of filmmaking, it is sad to watch the show erode the way it is. It was never perfect. Hosts more often than not were bland and disappointing. But because the ratings were high and competition was light, the show escaped unaltered for many years. It’s time for a reality check, one that ABC/Disney doesn’t want to hear, but one the Academy needs to think about as their deal with the house of mouse ends ten years from now. The Oscars need a new format, and producers at some point are going to have to decide what niche they want to appeal to. The ceremony that exists now only has mass appeal for those who want background noise.
Gajanan, Mahita. “Last Night’s Oscars Ratings Were the Lowest in 44 Years – By Far.” Time, 5 Mar. 2018, http://time.com/5186280/oscars-2018-ratings-low/. Accessed 5 Dec. 2018.