I love the Oscars, but I’ll allow nearly any critique of them. Did they overlook your favorite performance? They do that sometimes! Is there still so much ground to be made up when it comes to representation? Absolutely! Why do the most beautiful actors on earth always submit to such unsettling spray tans? I just don’t know.
However, there’s one knock against the Oscars that I’m finally ready to push back on, and it’s a complaint I hear far too often.
“The Oscars,” these people argue, “are just too long.”
Enough! Enough of this.
Yes, the Oscars are long. You know what else is long? The Super Bowl, but you don’t have Carrie Underwood zipping through the National Anthem and begging the teams to use fewer time-outs. Every year, people levy this tired, “too long” complaint against the Oscars as though it’s a horrible imposition to watch Jordan Peele make history and see Armie Hammer wield a hot-dog cannon on a free television station. If you don’t enjoy a long Oscarcast, then you’re simply not watching it with the right people, and if you can’t find the fun in a few hours per year where we get to revel in actresses and artists and Rita Moreno reaction shots and Sufjan Stevens in that jacket, then we don’t want you anyway!
A lot of this has to do with the host’s attitude: If the emcee keeps apologizing for how long the Oscarcast is, then the audience will get antsy, internalize that message, and parrot it back online. This year, Jimmy Kimmel acted as though it would be a war crime for the Oscars to go past midnight, as though he himself does not host a nightly talk show that asks America to stay up past 12:35 a.m. Imagine if the host came out for his monologue, told the viewers that the Oscars would go for three or four hours, and then promised that they would love every single second of it? Imagine if the Oscarcast aspired to deliver on that promise rather than shrugging and undercutting it at every turn? In this case, the producers and Kimmel had an entire calendar year to plan for the 90th Oscars — a significant anniversary where you’d expect a razzle-dazzle gambit on the level of the Oscar class photo or that time where they asked five cinema legends to present each acting award — and all they gave us, really, was a Jet Ski. (The Jet Ski was cute, but come the fuck on.)
The onus should not be on the winners to curtail the most exciting moment of their lives in order to make the show come in on time. The onus should be on the show to deliver those great moments, and to remind us that we love to watch them. The other day, I took a look at Madonna’s six-minute performance of “Sooner or Later” at the 1991 Oscars, an incredible clip where you can watch the indomitable Madonna submit to and then conquer her nerves in real time, ending the number with a confident burlesque shimmy that means all the more because you got to watch her perform the song in its entirety. Imagine how quickly a modern-day ceremony would trample through a moment like this instead of letting it breathe:
So let’s give the Oscars the space to actually be the Oscars, instead of groaning about time constraints in an era where people will happily watch a 13-episode Netflix season all in one sitting. Pour some wine, cue up the Oscarcast with a group of fun friends, or stay home and take part in the giddy, worldwide live-tweet. The Oscars are unwieldy, and they ought to stay that way. The only thing that needs to be played off is your attitude.