Devin Carter, A&E Writer
The 91st Academy Awards ceremony will air on Sunday, February 24. For nearly a century, the Oscars have been seen as the most prestigious awards in the film industry, and recipients have the honor of being referred to as Academy Award winners. It is, to many who work in film, the crowning achievement of a person’s career, and to win one shows that you are at the peak of your craft.
I, like many movie lovers, am currently addicted to reading all I can about the projected winners, following the numerous storylines, and, of course, becoming familiar with all of the films that are up for nomination. And yet, throughout this process, I have begun to wonder if it is still worth it. The Oscars have shown some very concerning signs, and I am now beginning to ask myself, “Should anyone really care about the Oscars Anymore?”
When I reflect on the reasons for the Oscars’ image being so tarnished in my mind, I come to one certainty: that its image deserves to be tarnished, and that they have done this to themselves. For as long as I can remember, the Oscars have attempted to put on a big show, filled with skits and performances, while the host puts on some sort of standup routine every once in a while. The awards themselves often take a back seat to all of the spectacle. People such as myself, who tune in to see the award presentations and the speeches, often grow tired of waiting through two or three drawn out skits between awards. And then, despite filling the ceremony with hours (yes, hours with an “s”) of random entertainment, the acceptance speeches themselves are very limited on time. This is simply nonsense, and this format has made the Oscars less about the awards and more about, well, the length. The Oscars sometimes last as long as four hours. That’s right, it is an awards show that lasts four hours. Over the years, it has become obvious to me that the Academy Awards ceremony is less and less about the films themselves, and more about garnering hits online with their entertainment bits. And recent actions by the Academy have helped to back this belief up.
It all started when the Oscars announced its intentions to shorten its runtime and move up its awards ceremonies starting in 2020. These are interesting changes, but the change that made the most waves was the introduction of a “Best Popular Picture” category. This received some backlash, with many people making the valid point that the criteria for this award will always be a bit vague, and still others claiming that the Oscars were giving up their prestige in an effort to grab more popularity. After initial backlash, this new category was cancelled. But the controversy was only just beginning; Complaints about the ridiculous runtime, among other things, caused the Academy Awards to make a startling decision: they were going to shorten the runtime by presenting four awards during commercial breaks.
This was about as un-Oscarlike as the Oscars could be. They are supposed to be awards of prestige, the highest honors in the film industry, with many very gifted filmmakers working their entire careers with dreams of Oscar glory. The very thought that these people would have to accept their awards during commercial breaks was insulting, and there was a tremendous backlash., This grew only more so when two of the categories that were to be presented during the commercial breaks were revealed to be Cinematography and Editing, which are two of the most important parts of filmmaking. Eventually, under enormous pressure, the Academy decided to cancel their plans, and to air all awards acceptances live.
But for many, including myself, the damage is already done. This move was not merely a misstep, it was an insult. And the Academy should be ashamed of themselves. Of all of the ways to cut down on run time, the Academy chose to disrespect the greatest people of their craft at their highest moments, instead of sacrificing the skits or the musical performances of the jokes. I am afraid that this recent episode has shown where the Academy’s priorities truly lie. And if they are placing meaningless fluff over the actual awards, then why should myself, or anyone, care about the awards themselves? The Oscars have always been political to an extent, and now they are practicing bad politics.
And yet, I am certain that I will still tune in, and get excited for the people and films that win. I am a movie-lover, and my passion to see filmmakers take home filmmaking’s greatest awards is so deeply rooted that I do not think I can ever let go of it. But if you decide to turn your back on the Oscars, then I cannot say that I blame you.