The Oscars have long come and gone and, according to the numbers, people do not care. A 2016 poll reveals that 68% of Americans do not watch any award show. 2017 was not any kinder. That year’s Oscars had the one of the lowest viewings ever, barely beating 2008’s Oscars. The Oscars have been losing millions of voters every year since 2014, and 2018’s Oscars was the least popular ever. While the Oscars have hit dire straights, they are not lost. There are a few ways the Oscars can draw back in viewers.
- Improve the Writing
Did you know the Oscars have a team of writers? They might be some the most overworked and underappreciated writers in Hollywood (and that is one huge statement). They need to write scripts for every possible scenario the host might encounter, so the vast majority of the writers’ work never sees the light of day. These writers even need to rewrite the Oscars in the middle of the show when acceptance speeches go too long. With such conditions, is it any wonder why the Oscars can barley inspire a chuckle?
Thankfully, the solutions are easy. Firstly, place a hard time limit on acceptance speeches so show can go on as planned. Secondly, write the show after the winners are decided. Instead of rushing out 100 different scripts, the writers can focus on making one awesome script.
- Give Genre Films a Chance
To say that the tastes of Oscar voters are predictable would be an understatement. This House of Geekery article puts it best by saying, “Bland Drama Will Win the Day.” Bland historical pieces and dialog heavy dramas are famous for stealing best picture from movies that stand the test of time much better. A few examples the article lists are: Kramer vs. Kramer beating Apocalypse Now, Shakespeare In Love beating Saving Private Ryan, and Crash beating Brokeback Mountain. Not only does the overrepresentation of dry dramas dissuade casual movie fans, but also it overlooks the importance of genre films. Dr. Strangelove, Stagecoach, and the entire works of Alfred Hitchcock are not straight up dramas, yet they all permanently changed filmmaking. Academy voters should consider giving more attention to such genre films.
- Change the Voting Process
People are sick of movies they never heard of winning Oscars while beloved movies get overlooked, and the Oscar’s archaic voting practice is partly to blame. The movie that receives the most first place votes does not win. The winner is decided through some hard to understand math best described this Cracked Article. Combine the strange selection process with the fact that all voters have to use pen and paper, and the margin for error is huge.
The people who vote are also the problem. Voters often vote on subjects they know little to nothing about. For example, people who have voted for best sound design have admitted to not knowing the defense between sound mixing and sound editing. Many voters even admit to not seeing every film nominated in a certain category, which can go a long way to describe how this year the likes of Ferdinand and Boss Baby snubbed much more worthy animated films like A Silent Voice. It should go without saying that only people experienced in a field should be able to vote in that field.
- Limit the Politics
I understand that people have political opinions, but film is something that is supposed to bring people together. Movies are great because even when they get political, they do so subtly, showing instead of telling. The blunt matter in which celebrities take to the stage is the exact opposite. Besides, politics at the Oscars hurt both sides of the political isle. Republicans obviously get annoyed at the preaching, and Democrats would rather watch the news if all they are getting is politics and no escapism.
- Make the Awards About Film, Not Celebrities
I believe this is the root problem with the Oscars. There’s a common sentiment that the Oscars are a bunch of millionaires patting each other on the back. Even the writers shape the show for the live celebrity audience and not the much larger TV audience, making jokes only the live audience would get. To get rid of the sigma of the Oscars being a celebrity club, they should take steps to be more about movies themselves than the figures in them. A good way to start would be renaming the awards. Instead of calling the award “Best Actor,” call it “Best Performance.” Instead of “Best Director,” say “Best Directing.” This will keep the focus on the art and not he person. It is not a perfect solution, but it will help the Oscars feel more like a celebration of filmmaking.