Cinephiles Just Wanna Have Fun (But The Oscars Won't Let Us)

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For all of us die-hard film fans, the Academy Awards should be the equivalent of the Super Bowl: once a year, we should gather 'round our TV screens with friends, a platter of treats, an adult beverage or two, and every intention to spend the next four hours enamored by the annual spectacle crafted in celebration of our shared passion ... cinema! In theory, I shouldn't have to spell that one out but with each passing ceremony, the Oscars have been trending in the precarious direction of forgetting why the show even exists. Doubting their ability to get viewers interested in the very medium they're meant to celebrate, the Academy shies away from every opportunity to even try — which has become a source of distress for those of us who actually (want to) care.

Sure, relegating eight major awards to an Oscars pre-show turned out to be a more complicated situation than it seemed: rather than being a simple move on their part to shorten the show, The Academy's hand was forced by a mandate from ABC. But it's not as though we heard the news and thought to ourselves, this terrible decision is so out of character for The Academy. They floated this exact idea three years ago and abandoned it when everyone got mad. The year before, they tried to get folks on board with the "popular Oscar" award — which everybody hated. And now they've pretty much revived that awful plan, but in social media form, which is utterly absurd because everyone knows that Twitter only makes bad situations 100 times worse. The takeaway? Someone should really start supervising these brainstorming sessions because this show is spiraling out of control.

Their own worst enemy

The point of AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)— and, by extension, the Oscars — is to "recognize and uphold excellence" in cinema, "inspire imagination" and "connect the world through the medium" all of which has taken a backseat to their obsessive attempts to boost viewership. The Oscars may be suffering a steady decline in ratings but that's the case for live TV across the board. Who's got time for cable networks when we're all subscribed to 20 different streaming services? Anyway, when it comes to televised award shows, the Oscars are still leading the pack, garnering millions more eyeballs than the Grammys or Emmys could hope for. So with a sizeable audience still bound to tune in, what better place to stir excitement for film? Or, better idea, we can light our love for cinema on fire and devote all Oscars prep time to the magical world of pandering! To whom, you ask? The elusive (arguably nonexistent) base of people who are on the fence about tuning into the ceremony and will only turn on their TVs to see "No Way Home" crowned a Twitter fave or, say, Instagram influencers filming videos. That's real. That's really happening. 

Sadly, nothing will magically boost the ratings back to the highs they once achieved — that's simply not how live telecasts work anymore. Beyond the Super Bowl itself, ratings for live TV are trending down. There's never been more competition for eyeballs and cable-cutting has become a popular path for the masses, just making it a lot less likely for your random viewer to tune in. So what about those who do have the show on their radar? Well here's a novel idea — why not win them over with quality! Or, I dunno, the power of movies!

Where's the showmanship?

Film geeks are primed to fawn over the nominees, place bets on the various races, cheer when our predictions come true, then obnoxiously proclaim to our non-cinephile friends all the many achievements of our favorite winners. And wouldn't that be nice? To prep for the Oscars in good spirits instead of whatever the hell we're doing now — which mostly consists of skimming headlines with the word "Oscars" then groaning, bitching, and being filled with utter resentment upon learning the latest developments.

Even for more casual viewers of the Academy Awards, the point has always been to celebrate a year in movies: I mean — this started out as a big ol' commercial for Hollywood and people have been buying it for decades. So distract us! Provide some escapism! Allow us to be swept up in the Hollywood glamour! I'd like to speed the whole night embodying that Leonardo DiCaprio meme by pointing at my screen whilst clutching a beer! One night a year, millions of people are guaranteed to buy into Hollywood bulls**t, but the opportunity to turn the show into a commercial for cinema is being squandered. The Academy is weirdly embarrassed about the movies they've chosen to uplift, so they instead throw their weight behind a version of Hollywood that might attract the fanbases of *checks notes* DJ Khaled and Shaun White?! But why shy away from the medium when a full embrace could be joyous, fun, and secretly educational? Alas, deep down I know I'm just screaming into the void here but it's my god-given right to air my unimportant grievances so here I go.

Picture this: a badass scene where I break into the Academy vault with Tom Cruise (shh, this is my fantasy) and steal all the little gold men they plan to hand out, along with all the carefully constructed backups. Insert an epic action scene here (and assume Cruise will do most of the heavy lifting) because, despite their attempts to foil our plans, we victoriously slip away. 

Now they have no choice but to give in to our list of demands, which I have laid out below, to improve the show as I see fit.

The ceremony of our dreams

Bring back the movie clips. The Grammys have musical performances, the Tonys have Broadway musical performances, and the Oscars ... also have musical performances. But! They also have movie clips! Y'know, to shine the spotlight on the medium that this award show is celebrating.

Stop cutting categories. This is self-explanatory. None of these films would be possible without the below-the-line talent, so the ceremony should be a celebration of their work just as much as anyone else's. Anyway, what's the fear? People might tune out because Hans Zimmer is about to win an award for Best Score? Do you think the concept of composing is so abstract that people's brains will melt? Perhaps playing a snippet of each nominated score might solve this conundrum.

Abolish this Twitter poll nonsense. Maybe I should reserve the right to comment until after we see how it goes down this weekend, but I'm betting money on absolute ridiculousness. It's an even worse riff on the "popular Oscars" ploy: the Academy doesn't want to regard the big beloved blockbusters of the year because they don't consider them [insert poetic cinema meme here]. But at the same time, they want the clout and attention of acknowledging Spider-Man because it might just boost engagement. It's superficial and very dangerous to give Twitter that kind of power.

Stop trying to pander to ... teenagers? Partnering with Meta (aka Facebook) to bring Instagram influencers to the show? Having a TikTok star weigh in on the nominee announcements? This has serious "How do you do, fellow kids?" energy and not in a fun way.

Hire a host. The host-less ceremonies were a bummer and the night tends to run a lot smoother when there's someone around to usher us along. The big issue is that no one wants to touch this show with a ten-foot pole, but maybe injecting some showmanship into the thing should help things along. It's hard to say after the Kevin Hart fiasco, but I wonder if hiring hosts earlier in the year might help. After all, they might've been able to get the Only Murder team onboard if not for scheduling conflicts.

As an addendum to the previous demand, cool it with the bits. They're almost never good. In the right hands, an opening monologue and some audience interaction can be fun — but it doesn't need to be a constant throughout the night. I'm still scarred from the (*ahem* racist) bit in 2017, when Jimmy Kimmel brought in a bunch of tourists and made fun of their names. 

Add a stunt category, for f***s sake. The reasons to honor stuntwork are abundant and this missing category is egregiously overdue but fine, let's ignore all the logical motivations and simplify this to appeal to The Academy: most of today's big blockbusters are action movies! If you don't wanna toss them any biggies for Best Picture, this would be the prime place to get 'em on the board and trick normies into caring!

Oh, hey, while I'm at it, add a category for casting! Because acknowledging the people who make movies possible seems like an important part of the whole celebrating cinema thing, no?

(An update to demand #2) Present all 25 awards on the telecast, plus the honorary awards. Is this an awards show or SNL? Less comedy, more trophies!

Move networks (or stream elsewhere). Recent events indicate that this is a major issue, but it's been in the cards for some time now. ABC won't let go of the rights because the ceremony is still profitable and the Academy has no reason to leave since they get paid so well for staying. But ABC and the Oscar producers have very different priorities and the desire to keep the show short and appeal to a nonexistent demographic is hindering the show's ability to, y'know, be good.

Stop playing off the speeches. Oscar speeches are where the magic happens, why take that away?

Put. On. A. Show. I'm not asking for anything unhinged, like Rob Lowe flirting with a Disney princess — but film is a visual medium and the Oscars should represent that. So make it cinematic! Make it beautiful! Put those skills to work!

The bad news? None of this is actually gonna happen! Instead, a couple dozen more hair-brained schemes to rake in viewers will be announced just in time for the 2023 Academy Awards and before you know it, Glenn Close and Amy Adams will be reenacting TikTok dances in The Dolby Theater (and they still won't go home with statues because the world is a neverending dumpster fire). 

The worse news? No matter how ridiculous their ideas get, those of us who love movies will continue to have a Stockholm Syndrome-esque relationship with this silly award show because once upon a time, it helped nurture our love of cinema and we can't quite let go. No matter how many "Green Book" wins and Twitter polls we endure, we'll be tuning in this Sunday and many more to come, because the Oscars remain a focal point for conversations around cinema and the dwindling sanity of film-lovers everywhere. See you all on Sunday!