OPINION | Dear Oscars, Dropping Categories from Your Telecast Won't Gain You New Viewers
The Oscars are arguably the most-watched awards show in the world. Not this time, though. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' decision to drop four major categories from the live broadcast of 91st Oscars has shaken a lot of people’s faith in the credibility of the ceremony.
Like everyone else, I, too, thought Oscars were meant to celebrate the art of filmmaking, dedicated efforts of artistes who otherwise don’t get commended, and the actual creativity that goes into making a film until The Academy’s president John Bailey busted the myth by announcing that this year the Best Cinematography, Editing, Live-Action short and Makeup and Hairstyling trophies will be handed out during commercial break in order to shorten the show.
"Viewing patterns for the Academy Awards are changing quickly in our current multi-media world, and our show must also evolve to successfully continue promoting motion pictures to a worldwide audience," Bailey wrote in a membership email on Monday, justifying which categories are the most deserving.
Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 90th Academy Awards, which witnessed an all-time low 26.5 million viewers. (Reuters Pictures)
The move comes after the Oscars' last edition claimed the lowest viewership in Academy Award history, allegedly owing to its three hours and 50 minutes runtime— the longest in more than a decade. However, that edition was only six minutes longer than the most-watched Oscars broadcast, the 70th Academy Awards, which garnered more than 57 million viewers. It had taken place on March 23, 1998.
Clearly, the Oscars are the new TRP-hunters precisely which is why they are just using any and every tactic in order to draw more viewers. However, they must understand that Cinematography and Editing are the two elements that literally create a film. Imagine not seeing film editor Lee Smith and cinematographer Roger Deakins finally being honoured for their brilliant works in Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049, respectively, on TV, had the Academy introduced this format last year.
Emmanuel Lubezki, winner for Best Cinematography for The Revenant, posed during the 88th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, February 28, 2016. (Reuters Pictures)
Who could forget watching Emmanuel Lubezki making history by becoming the first person to win Best Cinematography Oscar for three years in a row for critically-acclaimed films Gravity (2013), Birdman (2014) and The Revenant (2015)? How on earth is this category not worth enough to be televised, Academy?
For that matter, even if you don’t religiously follow Hollywood and still have happened to hear anything at all about Queen Biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, it probably has everything to do with its lead actor Rami Malek’s striking resemblance to Freddie Mercury. Well, Jan Sewell is the woman who famously transformed Malek into the late iconic singer. She is the same prosthetic designer who transformed Eddie Redmayne into Stephen Hawking for The Theory of Everything. She is up for Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar nod at the upcoming Academy Awards. Considering Malek’s Golden Globe and Baftas Best Actor wins, Sewell is likely to take home the golden statue. But by pushing artistes such as her under the carpet will be like mutilating their work beyond recognition.
Kate Winslet (R) presented the Oscar for Best Film Editing to Thelma Schoonmaker for The Departed at the 79th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, February 25, 2007. (Reuters Pictures)
Same goes for the nominees of the Best Live Action Shorts and Editing.
Excluding the Editing category from the broadcast is like invalidating the achievements of icons and three-time Oscar winners Michael Kahn and Thelma Colbert Schoonmaker whose work literally shaped some of the world's most memorable and cinematic masterpieces. Over the past four decades, while Kahn has edited every Steven Spielberg-directed film, except for E.T, Schoonmaker’s long-term association with Martin Scorsese has resulted in cult classics like Raging Bull, The Aviator and The Departed.
It’s actually unfortunate that the Academy could think of introducing a new “popular film” category (which they have now scrapped after facing major backlash on social media), but is unable to figure out time to recognise the existing 24 categories itself. You must #PresentAll24, The Academy.
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