How do you do, fellow kids?
Today, the Academy announced some lit AF changes to the Oscar broadcast: The revamped, totally snatched show will run no more than three hours, and a new Oscar will be added to put respek on a popular box-office banger. Are you dead yet? In your feelings? Ready to stan?
If it was exhausting to read just a few sentences of that, imagine how it’s going to feel when the Academy does it.
Now, before we get into analyzing these new rules, please know that I am not someone who fears change. On the contrary: I think opening up the Best Picture field to more than five nominees is one of the best things the Academy ever did, and recent changes to the voting body were long overdue. Though the Oscars are all about canonization, they’re not sacrosanct. The Academy should be allowed to tweak the telecast, and sometimes rule changes can be for the good.
So am I sitting here clutching my pearls, ready to bash the Oscars for letting the common rabble into the theater? No, bitch, I’m in my boxers eating a Slim Jim I just bought from the gas station. I’m you.
But let’s get real here. The two big rule changes are transparent attempts to earn a diminished youth audience by whittling down some of the things that make the Oscars … well, Oscar-y.
Take the first big change, the Academy’s commitment to streamline the Oscars to three hours. At first, this sounds like a great idea, because the annoying people in your life always complain that the Oscars are too long. Well, it’s not for them! The Oscars should always be long, because we wait all year for this show and those stray, long moments are where all the weird and memorable shit tends to happen! Nobody complains about the Super Bowl running 20 minutes over, because that’s masc, I guess.
Even worse is the way this cut-down is going to be enacted: Several categories will be presented during the commercial breaks, then editors will whip together a quick montage of those winners to play later in the show. What a dumb way to diminish all the craft that goes into these movies and ding the non-famous on the biggest night of their lives, especially since many of these craftspeople hail from exactly the kind of popular blockbusters the Academy wants more of. (Just delete the three short-film categories like we’ve been telling you! They make no sense in the era of YouTube and they’re simply about rich kids renting out the Nuart to qualify!)
And then there’s the new Oscar that will be created to honor “outstanding achievement in popular film.” The Academy hasn’t figured out the details of this category yet, but most assume it’s there to honor the mega-blockbusters that might find no purchase in another race. The irony is that plenty of those blockbusters already do find their way to the Oscars, simply by being good! Last year’s Best Picture race included Dunkirk and Get Out, two box-office phenomenons, while just a few years prior, the film that won the most Oscars was Mad Max: Fury Road. Yes, it’s true that in 2016, Deadpool didn’t earn a Best Picture nomination. Do you know why? Because Deadpool didn’t deserve a Best Picture nomination.
This new category will have the unfortunate effect of blurring the lines between Best Picture and Best Hit, and if a popular film is nominated in both categories, will voters give it the latter award to make room for something smaller in Best Picture? Pixar movies began to vanish from the Best Picture race once voters figured they could just give something like Inside Out a Best Animated Film nod instead, and I worry this new category will have the unintended effect of holding back the hits that would normally go all the way. This year, Marvel could have its first Best Picture nominee with the worthy Black Panther, yet I fear it won’t be taken seriously as a piece of art if there’s another award that’s simply meant to recognize how much money it made.
I understand that the Academy wants to draw more young people to the Oscars, but they simply aren’t watching Nielsen-rated television in the same way these days, and that’s true across the board. Instead, I wish the Oscars would stop with the self-loathing, and lean into their length. Some might look at the new rules and say that the Oscars should be ashamed of themselves. To me, it’s clear they already are.