Award-baiting: Why no one cares about the Hollywood validation game anymore
On Sunday, the 90th Academy Awards will roll out their red carpet and hand out a prestigious series of statues to a bunch of buzzed industry professionals. There will be a lot of emotional speeches, a great deal of virtue signaling, and more back-slapping than a heimlich maneuver tutorial – and that’s before the ceremony has even started.
In all likelihood, most of us will probably observe the Oscars in one way or another. Be it tuning in live (god help you), watching highlights online, or simply reading through the lists of winners while groaning into your morning coffee. But why do any of us care? There are more than enough reasons why we probably shouldn’t.
They’re conspicuously inaccessible to the masses
In a conversation about whether the Oscars are still relevant, The Daily Beast pointed out how many people haven’t even had an opportunity to see some of the movies nominated. A really simple solution for that problem: “. . . the Academy allowing streaming access to all the Best Picture nominees for a one-time fee,” the publication suggested. “People are genuinely curious about, say, Lady Bird or Call Me by Your Name by the time the Oscars roll around, but don’t necessarily have access to seeing them”.
Which is a fair point. In fact, it could be argued the Oscars would benefit from providing a streaming service for all the movies nominated as well as for the ceremony itself. The other issue here? Mainstream movies the average moviegoer has likely seen rarely get nominated by the Oscars – which is a little condescending for film lovers who may not share the same tastes as the Academy.
Maybe if a specific category were created for blockbuster movies or genre titles, more people might even feel compelled to tune in to the awards show. According to The Guardian, there has been some correlation at the Oscars between high ratings and blockbusters being nominated for Best Picture. In 1998, when James Cameron was dropping cringeworthy speeches all over the show, the Oscars enjoyed its largest audience to date: 57.2 million people tuned in.
They’re stuck in the past
Though award shows like the Emmys and the Oscars are likely aware of statistics like these, they aren’t actually making any adjustments to their ceremonies to modernize them. Award shows are so entrenched in tradition they come off as relics of the past.
Some see the lack of gender-neutral acting prizes in major award ceremonies to be indicative of how award shows are refusing to get with the times. Meanwhile, others argue the lack of diversity represented in nominations may be the bigger issue, one more accurately reflecting how these award shows are frozen in a bygone era.
On a superficial level, however, shows like the Emmys and the Oscars are just downright stuffy. With the exception of the occasional sketch, the broadcasts are routine and lackluster, nearly void of fun – all of which is worsened by how bloated the ceremonies inevitably are. Don’t we all deserve to watch something actually enjoyable?
The actual award show doesn’t cater to audiences at home
The average Oscars ceremony is about three hours long and that’s if we’re being optimistic. The longest one was in 2002 and lasted a staggering four hours and 20 minutes, which is, as The Hollywood Reporter pointed out, “roughly one-and-a-half Wolf of Wall Streets.” The Emmys aren’t any better, with similar running times. Honestly, who wants to watch anything that long? The average awards show ceremony requires a sharp edit if its to survive.
With that in mind, it’s perfectly reasonable to envision a show retaining all the ceremonial statue-gifting while rejecting the pomp and self-aggrandizing. Cut out the gimmicks, the chit-chat between each award, and the dreadful musical performances, and you might just be left with a taut show people won’t mind wasting an hour on (75 minutes in a pinch). But it’s difficult to imagine Hollywood being elated at the idea of their moments in the spotlight being savagely trimmed down for the riff-raff at home.
Perhaps it’s a stubborn refusal to depart from tradition, or maybe award shows are simply afraid of rocking the boat too hard with the prestigious set. Regardless, award shows don’t appear to be changing any time soon.
Too bad for them, because their potential audiences are changing. By not moving in time with them or making adjustments to the ceremonies, award shows are proving they don’t really care whether we like them or not – so long as we’re still talking about them.
But we already knew that, right? If a Hollywood actor makes an Oscar speech but no one tunes in to hear him, does he still make a noise? You bet your ass he does – and we care about seeing that about as much as Meryl Streep (The Post) needs another doorstop.