Alright, with these Oscars firmly behind us, let’s look ahead. Ratings are up for the first time in years, and that’s a huge positive. Does it mean that the Oscars will be complacent? Absolutely not. After all, there’s still a threat for a “popular Oscar” category, as if blockbuster or populist hits should not contend for the best films of the year. At the same time, the search the shorten the evening will never end. Well, here are five things we liked about the night this last year, and here are some things we still think the Oscar should look to change moving forward.
Things To Keep
1. The Preferential Ballot
This might be the reason that we’re in this mess right now, but it also brought us Moonlight, Spotlight, and The Shape of Water. Three out of four ain’t bad. The problem that few are addressing this year, is that the new guard of the Academy had so many great and progressive films to choose from for Best Picture (with BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, and Roma) they couldn’t coalesce their vote. Those other years? In most cases, they look like mostly typical Oscar lineups. Which leads us to another point…
2. Keep an Expanded Best Picture Field
While I have issues with how the Best Picture nominees are selected (more on that later), we need more nominees instead of less. The days of five Best Picture nominees do not make sense in the modern film landscape. For example, BoxOfficeMojo reports that in 1994 (twenty-five years ago), 453 movies went to theaters. In 2018, 872 movies appeared in theaters. It’s unclear if this includes documentaries or narrative features that go to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Shudder. So that number might actually be higher.
Besides, five nominees is so limiting. We would likely never see an animated feature, documentary feature (we still haven’t), or god forbid more foreign films. What if we had both Roma and Cold War in the Best Picture race? Won’t You Be My Neighbor? could have been the first documentary nominated for Best Picture. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse might have made it too. Who knows what possibilities may have existed for us? We’ll never know because two slots were left open. That makes no sense.
Simply put, there’s no reason that anyone who has spent their career fighting for this moment should have to do it while half the room runs to the bar. Also, think about the family’s that have to suffer their husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers leaving the house for 3 months to go work on a movie in Arizona, Louisiana, or across the world. Those families don’t get to live a luxurious movie star life in most cases, and they should be allowed to see their loved wins receive the recognition of a lifetime in real time instead of hearing about it on Twitter.
Beyond that, at least one women won an Oscar for each of the Shorts. In the case of Period. End of Sentence and Bao, only women won. For an industry that is striving to be more inclusive, this is a great place to start making people feel represented.
4. Go Hostless Again
This really helped things move along. We also got a variety show feel to the night, which allowed the actual presenters to stand out in a lot of cases. Would Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry have felt special if Kevin Hart had been running around doing bits the whole night? We obviously wouldn’t have had the “boom roasted” jokes from Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph, who absolutely killed. I’d rather have a minute of genuine excitement from Awkwafina and John Mulaney than a five-minute detour. Let’s encourage this and try it out next year.
5. Let the Acting Winners Present Awards
This year, we got a slightly messed up version of the Oscar tradition. Normally, the Supporting Actor winner hands out Supporting Actress, and vice versa. However, the tradition was slightly moved when Casey Affleck declined to hand out Best Lead Actress during the #MeToo events of last year. It was a good choice for both the Academy and Affleck.
When the Academy said they weren’t going to let last year’s winners hand out the prizes at the 91st Oscars, the internet went into an uproar. Eventually, they were asked but instead consolidated to Best Actor and Best Actress.
On one hand, I don’t love the fact they were unable to get the stage to themselves, but at the same time, they at least got to hand out arguably two of the three biggest awards of the night. I’m not opposed to this in the future because this is when people are laser-focused on the show. This could also give more opportunities for the Rudolph/Poehler/Fey kind of starts to the show, which would be great.
Things To Change
1. Move Best Picture to a Straight 10 With a Preferential Ballot
The two years where Best Picture had ten nominees, we had amazing lineups. An animated film made both years (Up & Toy Story 3), Sci-Fi was represented (Avatar, District 9, & Inception), and genre (Black Swan & True Grit) all made the cut. Four films by women (The Hurt Locker, The Kids Are All Right, Winter’s Bone, & An Education), which led to Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first woman to win Best Director. Even Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire earned Lee Jenkins the first nomination for a Black Director since Boyz N the Hood in 1991.
In the eight ceremonies since, here’s how those numbers look:
- 2011 – 0 Genre Films, 0 Animated, 0 Sci-Fi, 0 Foreign Films, 0 Women, 0 Directors of Color
- 2012 – 1 Genre Film (Les Miserables), 1 Foreign Film (Amour), 1 Director of Color (Ang Lee) 1 Film Directed By a Woman (Katheryn Bigelow – who went unnominated)
- 2013 – 2 Sci-Fi Films (Her. Gravity), 2 Directors of Color (Steve McQueen, Alfonso Cuarón)
- 2014 – 2 Directors of Color (Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Ava DuVernay), 1 Film Directed By a Woman (Ava DuVernay – who went unnominated)
- 2015 – 2 Sci-Fi (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian), 1 Genre (The Revenant), 1 Director of Color (Alejandro G. Iñárritu)
- 2016 – 1 Sci-Fi (Arrival), 2 Genre (La La Land, Hell or High Water), 2 Director of Color (Barry Jenkins, Denzel Washington – who went unnominated)
- 2017 – 1 Sci-Fi (The Shape of Water), 1 Genre (Get Out), 1 Film Directed By a Woman (Lady Bird), 2 Directors of Color (Guillermo del Toro, Jordan Peele)
- 2018 – 1 Sci-Fi (Black Panther), 1 Foreign Film (Roma), 1 Genre (The Favourite), 3 Directors of Color (Alfonso Cuarón, Spike Lee, & Ryan Coogler – who went unnominated)
That track record looks terrible with the exception that people of color are finally getting a chance to direct. However, the lack of animation, documentaries and foreign films continues to be a problem. Keep in mind, we’ve been in a golden age for all three of those “mediums,” as well as sci-fi and genre filmmaking. For example, Ex Machina, two Star Wars films, Blade Runner 2049, Interstellar, Inside Out, Coco, A Quiet Place, The Conjuring, and Gone Girl all feel like they should have received Best Picture nominations. Yet none made the cut. Maybe if we expanded out a little bit, we can be more inclusive.
2. Expand Makeup & Hairstyling to 5 Nominees
For some weird reason, this category still only has three nominees. At one point, there was a logic behind this. Not long ago, Animated Feature had a sliding scale of nominations, with 2010 representing the last year of three nominees. Best Original Song was dwindled down to two nominees in 2011. Yet each category had four nominees every year since then (with a disqualification in song being the only exception). At this point, it’s a disservice to the makeup & hairstyling teams to be the only ones without five nominees. If you need it to technically be an activated feature, like it is in animation, be my guest. But my money would be on the makeup branch easily finding five nominees regularly, especially given the greatness of several films left out of this year’s race.
3. Add 3 More Prizes
Rather than cut prizes, let’s add a few more. The first obvious choice is Best Stunt Work, which deserves to be put into the discussion. Stuntmen and women risk their lives in order to deliver for their films. Not only that, but it could push for more practical effects in films. This would reward the Stunt Supervisor of a film, and finally, give some of these people the due they deserve.
Second, we really need the Best Cast Ensemble prize. Unlike the SAG awards, which give all the title card actors this prize, this should go to Casting Director of the film. I’m not the first to suggest this award, but it’s a shame we don’t have it regardless.
Third, Best Digital Production Design. At this point, there are too many films that rely on digital effects to create their world that we can ignore them. In the past decade, films like Avatar, Beauty and the Beast, Blade Runner 2049, Interstellar, and Life Of Pi have been nominated here.
Until 1967, this category was split between Color and Black & White Nominees and Winners. Return to something like this, and give big budget films that dare to dream about fantastical worlds their due. This could also be used to reward films like Coco, Inside Out, or Kubo and the Two Strings, which use CG effects to help build their worlds.
4. Create A Streaming Platform For Oscar-Nominated Films
The biggest issue for most people is actually watching all the movies. If the Academy had a special streaming service available for 6 weeks a year, priced at $50 for the month between the nominations and two weeks after the awards, watch the money roll in. This would also give the Academy a strong revenue stream every year to help pay for the upcoming museum.
Write an agreement to split profits with all studios depending on their number of nominations, and have it be a prerequisite for submitting your film for Oscar consideration. Potentially, expand this over time so that audiences can have access to forty or so films that received nominations in the past for a lower price (like $5 a month?). It could also be a potential platform to stream the Oscar as well.
5. Allow More Movie Teasers During the Oscars
A few years ago, the Academy lifted the ban on showing trailers/teasers during the show. The result has been a few one-off trailers, with studios only being able to push one film each during the broadcast. The price for these spots is in the millions, and that makes sense. However, we’re missing out on an excellent chance to show off what kinds of movies we’re in store for in 2019.
The Captain Marvel and The Irishman teasers each became talking points after the show, and now audiences who were unaware of their development are excited. So why not own that for all of the studios? The Super Bowl has stolen their flare, with more than a half dozen movies premiering footage here. Let the blockbusters get their word out there, but let audiences know about The Goldfinch, Ad Astra, Knives Out, or god forbid, a Star Wars: Episode IX tease during the show. Want ratings? Throw some of these out there and see how audiences respond. Make tonight about honoring the best of last year, and what to look out for in the year ahead.