The 91st Academy Awards will air starting at 8 PM Eastern on ABC on Sunday, February 24th. Below and in the comments you will find a lengthy rant about the Academy’s many inane decisions regarding this year’s telecast, continued frustration about several of the films that are in the running this year, and How to Get Away with Mordor’s final predictions in all 24 categories, even the ones that won’t be aired live.
What a disaster of an Oscars season this has become. It was already getting hard to get particularly excited when the likes of Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody have sucked so much of the air out of the room, but have we talked about the ceremony yet? Here’s a list of boneheaded moves the Academy made before February 11th:
• The “Best Popular Film” debacle.
• All the drama surrounding Kevin Hart being an unapologetic homophobic ass and the ceremony ultimately going host-less.
• The “Best Original Song” crisis that started with only two nominated songs (“Shallow” and “All the Stars”) being performed, which led to Lady Gaga’s rebellion that got all five songs included, but for only 90 seconds each. (Have you thought about what a 90 second version of “Shallow” sounds like? Your options are (a) Bradley Cooper mumbling or (b) Lady Gaga wailing. Never both.) Also, Emily Blunt won’t perform and it’s unlikely Kendrick Lamar will either.
• The Academy decided that Frances McDormand, Gary Oldman, Sam Rockwell, and Alison Janney aren’t famous enough and won’t present. Then they decided they can present, but not the acting awards (again, not famous enough).
• They will limit the time from when a winner is announced until the end of their acceptance speech, including the time it takes them to get to the stage, to 90 seconds. Yes, Oscars producer Glenn Weiss, who took more than 180 seconds to propose to his girlfriend at this year’s Emmys, is cutting the actual awards in favor of…well, no one knows what, exactly. They extended an open invitation to the remaining members of Queen to perform, because apparently they can barely find room to give 90 seconds to an ACTUAL NOMINATED SONG, but they could’ve found 5+ minutes for freaking Brian May to honor the freaking Bryan Singer movie, if only he’d said yes!
That brings us to February 11th, when the Academy finally followed through on their long-standing threat to give several “below the line” awards (that is, the shorts and technical categories) during commercial breaks. What did they decide to cut? Cinematography, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Live Action Short. Those first two in particular are clearly ancillary to the making of a cinematic feature, so it makes just a whole, whole lot of sense.
Why those four categories? Academy president John Bailey has said that they asked for volunteers to be the guinea pigs for this experiment, and picked these four from the six branches that raised their hands. There’s been some theorizing that since Bailey is himself a cinematographer (and his wife an Oscar-nominated editor), he put up the categories he cares most about as a show of good faith. Does any of it hold water? Not really. The president of the American Society of Cinematographers and several nominated editors and cinematographers have already called bull, and it’s barely been 48 hours!
How do I think they settled on these four categories? There are lots of salacious theories out there. The one that I think has the ring of truth to it is this: There are only five categories this year without a single nomination for ABC’s parent company, Disney: documentary short, live action short, makeup and hairstyling, cinematography, and film editing. Four of these five have been cut from the telecast. Every other decision made about the telecast so far this year has been so transparently about maximizing ad dollars and the potential for young viewers to tune in and hear about Disney productions that it’s hard to see why that wouldn’t be the case here as well.
I recognize that the Academy is doing something similar to what the Tonys and BAFTA have been doing for years, editing the telecast during the telecast to shave off a few minutes. I’d be a bit more sympathetic if they had at least had the courtesy to make the announcement before the nominations were announced. Well, I’d find it less disingenuous, at the very least – saying it’s all about getting the telecast below three hours when you’re already saving tons of time on hosting and musical numbers doesn’t really wash. Point being, if John Bailey has the balls to take up precious time delivering the traditional Academy president’s speech, you better bet he will be getting called out.
To many of you, this probably seems like a lot of ranting signifying nothing, but to a lover of the pomp and circumstance of the Oscars, this has been one disappointing turn after another. A lot of it has seemed like they’re throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what generates a bad reaction, or like ABC and the Academy just want any publicity, even negative, for the ceremony. ABC’s president has said as much, so there’s that. Hopefully by next Sunday, Bailey and company will have gotten the message and restored the four categories (and presumably cut a montage of Clint Eastwood’s left thumb or something similarly important). In the meantime, I’ll stop bloviating and give a recap of the past several weeks’ worth of precursor awards…
At this point, most of the guilds and precursor organizations have given out their awards:
• The Screen Actors Guild gave their ensemble award to Black Panther (the film’s only precursor win, really), and their individual awards to Rami Malek, Glenn Close, Mahershala Ali, and Emily Blunt.
• The Broadcast Film Critics Association (aka the Critics’ Choice Awards, not usually much of a precursor, but useful for reinforcing frontrunner status) gave Picture to Roma, Director to Cuaron, Actor to Christian Bale, Supporting Actor to Ali, and Supporting Actress to Regina King. Their Actress award was a tie between Glenn Close and Lady Gaga.
• BAFTA turned out in force for The Favourite and Roma, possibly but not likely boosting Olivia Colman, and reinforcing Roma and Alfonso Cuaron’s positions on ballots, as well as Rami Malek and Mahershala Ali.
• The Directors Guild also voted for Cuaron.
• The Producers Guild, usually one of the more reliable predictors, picked Green Book in a bit of an upset.
• The American Society of Cinematographers awarded Cold War (unlikely to repeat on Oscars night).
• The American Cinema Editors awarded Bohemian Rhapsody and The Favourite.
• The Visual Effects Society went for Avengers: Infinity War.
We’ve yet to hear from the Writers Guild (February 17) or the Cinema Audio Society, but I will boldly predict those categories without their input.
With that, let’s venture into the comments, where you’ll find 24 posts predicting 24 Oscar categories, and a 25th post that is the General Discussion Thread where you, too can vent your rage at John Bailey and Glenn Weiss (sort by “Newest” to find it, and please use it)! Do I find the number 25 significant? Why yes I do! 25 is the number of awards that the Golden Globes manage to fit into a three hour live telecast without shuffling any off to the commercials.