Most Oscar mornings have a peculiar routine if you’re an entertainment journalist. You pour yourself a hot cup of coffee and drearily stare at a spreadsheet, with all your winners’ predictions. If you’re nerdy enough, you have the ‘will win’ and ‘should win’ columns. Taking one last look at your choices, you switch on the TV an hour before the actual awards ceremony will begin, and watch carefully manicured celebrities speak about what they’re wearing, or what they’re looking forward to. There’s excitement in the air as you wait for the host’s opening monologue. However, the staple butterflies-in-your-stomach as the event kicks off, will be missing before the 2019 edition.
Can you blame an Oscar fan for his/her lacklustre enthusiasm when the Academy has become the laughing stock? Best Popular Film. Okay, no Best Popular Film. Kevin Hart as host? Oh no, Kevin Hart needs to apologise for homophobic tweets. Oh wait, there is no Oscar host. The Oscar for Best Editing and Best Cinematography will be given during commercial breaks. Okay okay, retreat retreat. No, they will all be a part of the telecast.
The Academy’s recent back and forth have compromised the very integrity of America’s most prestigious awards night. There’s little to look forward to, and we’ve been getting to this point with each passing year.
The little games by the host – the musical numbers, ordering pizza from unsuspecting delivery-persons and introducing them to a room full of celebrities, taking a record-breaking selfie, it’s all been done. Even Billy Crystal’s ‘What Are They Thinking’ game is terribly dated for the Oscar night. In the Drumpf era, where the satire and irony (most of which) is self-inflicted, there’s little fresh humour or insight to be mined out of a witty host. The stakes keep getting higher.
Also, the Academy’s manic obsession with a 3-hour show means that the acceptance speeches keep getting cut shorter and shorter, robbing the evening of its sheer spontaneity that have been responsible for some of the best Oscar moments. In case that point isn’t clear: what if Roberto Bengini had simply delivered a bland acceptance speech, instead of climbing on top of the arm-rests of the front seats and delivering one of the most memorable speeches (and photo-ops) in Oscar history. Can 45 seconds be enough for an overwhelmed Oscar recipient?
The Academy might be lip-servicing the diversity issue with the odd nomination for Spike Lee or Regina King, but the truth remains that it doesn’t necessarily care too much. Just look at some of the insufferable films in the Best Picture category, thanks to a studio’s clout. Films like Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book have no place in a Best film line-up in a year, where you have Alfonso Cuaron & Yorgos Lanthimos giving us arguably the best films of 2018. Also, in a year that saw films like Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me, how is the Best Director category an all-men’s club?
Some of us feel like we’ve aged three years since the last Oscar telecast, the nominations are that pedestrian. We might still switch on the TV (or laptops) on February 25 with a hot cup of coffee, but some of us won’t have the enthusiasm to make a spreadsheet. Because are you really going to pick a Best Foreign Film where Lee Chang-dong’s Burning hasn’t even been nominated?
Does anyone really care for films like Bohemian Rhapsody competing with the likes of Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma? While Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk looks on without a nomination? Nope. There’s no excitement in the air anymore.