Do the Oscars Need Fixing? What's the Remedy?

Do the Oscars Need Fixing? What's the Remedy?

Feb 25, 2013

The main issue with the Oscars every year comes down not to who hosts nor who produces. It's about the Academy having a demographic that veers old and white, members who celebrate smart, serious films primarily for older audiences, and the telecast is in turn watched by an audience that's increasingly older and also white.

That wouldn't be a problem for anyone who just wants to tune into the Academy Awards for the self-congratulatory pomp and circumstance. But it's a commercial TV program that seeks not only good ratings but young viewership. So, while the voters and attendees and producers might prefer some old-fashioned singing and dancing and golden age Hollywood revelry, the producers are made to mix in stuff thought to be appealing to the kids, including "edgy" jokes and presenters from popular movies that aren't nominated -- or are nominated very minimally (basically the whole opening last night was self-satire, and not as intentionally as it really was).

But even among those who want to like the Academy Awards, who will tune in regardless of their age or heritage, the ceremony can be  quite a divisive show. Some like it classy but are bored with dance tributes, particularly when they're half-assed and limited in reasoning (or even suspect, like the producers celebrating their own film in more than one way), while others are interested in some parodies and jokes, especially if they're hard-hitting. And then there are the people who tell me year after year that they'd like a short show in which they just hand out the awards. 

I don't like that last group's suggestion. Why not just issue a press release with the winners highlighted? As for the different sides, we've seen for decades that balance and viewer-baiting isn't easy and definitely doesn't work. At least not the way they've been trying. Having some of the guys from The Avengers stand together and banter nonamusingly is of no interest to the majority of Avengers lovers unless suddenly they start a real brawl with the cast of The Dark Knight Rises. And Twilight fans don't need to watch the Oscars just to see Kristen Stewart limp out to a podium and talk through her teeth, either.

Harder stunts to pull off might be worthwhile -- such as if they'd gotten all the James Bond actors on stage together -- but then they'd also have to leak that it will happen. Surprises are fun, such as the Michelle Obama appearance, but that sort of stuff can just be watched or read about a day later and therefore won't help with ratings. Especially when they show isn't consistent and falls flat more often than wowing the crowd. 

I have no idea how exactly the Academy can fix the Oscars. If I did, I'd be an Oscar producer and not a movie blogger. But one thing I know: they need to decide what they want to be and stick with it and not worry about the global television audience. Maybe worry about the live audience in the Dolby Theatre. Entertain them, work off the energy of the crowd and maybe that will translate to entertaining the people who are here because we want to see the Oscars, see the people who make great films honored, and not just drop in for a look at Harry Potter.


Do the Oscars need fixing? How should they be fixed?

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Join the next discussion on Twitter by following Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic) and (@Moviesdotcom).

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