Each and every year, it seems there is another stir of controversy surrounding the film industry’s most prestigious award show: The Academy Awards.
This year’s plaintiffs include Kevin Hart’s hosting debacle, the sudden surge of both “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Green Book” as award-season darlings, despite the troubling developmental details behind them, and the public lambasting garnered from the Academy’s proposal of a “Popular Film” category as well as the announcement that the awards for cinematography, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, and live-action short would be cut from the broadcast in an effort to save time.
In fairness, the Academy did withdraw its popular film award – at least for now – and Academy President John Bailey and CEO Dawn Hudson recently stated they would continue to air every award after the feedback.
But nevertheless, the Oscars still face plenty of issues and drawbacks, as well as the incontrovertible truth that their popularity and approval has been on the decline for years.
What better way to celebrate achievements in film than to not publicly honor the people’s who’s job it is to literally film things.
— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) February 12, 2019
The 2018 show had a record-low 26 million viewers, which represented a nearly 20 percent decline from the year before. This is significantly lower than the previous record-holder of 36 million from 2008.
There is a multitude of reasons behind the ratings’ decline that simply cannot be boiled down to one specific aspect, like politics, but there is little doubt a change is in order. For that change, the Academy might want to take inspiration from a place one might not expect: The Game Awards.
The Game Awards, which have also had their fair share of turmoil, are essentially the gaming industry’s equivalent of the Oscars. It might be tempting to dismiss video games, but the Game Awards are secretly one of the greatest success stories out there, with the viewership of last year’s show having a 128 percent increase from the previous year, totaling around 26.2 million streams across multiple platforms.
They do an excellent job at capturing the greatness behind video games and their history, while the Oscars tend to be more of a celebration of themselves rather than an accurate representation of film history.
Instead of focusing on cutting award categories, the Academy should look to be more inventive with new categories like the Game Awards are. Areas like “Best Debut Indie Game” and “Best E-Sports Moment” could easily translate into a movie-centric vernacular. There are even suggestions from people within the film industry, like Christopher McQuarrie, the director of “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” who suggested a new category for stunt coordination be implemented.
Adding new awards that are unique can add a fresh twist to the ceremony without feeling like they denounce the tastes or interests of regular movie-goers.
One thing that has become excruciatingly clear since the Best Popular Picture debacle is that the Academy is deeply, deeply bad at communicating with not just the public (who, you know, are the source of the all-important ratings) but its own membership
— Alissa Wilkinson (@alissamarie) February 14, 2019
Another aspect that could be explored would be the addition of announcements and of revealing trailers, which is one of the areas the Game Awards are known for. Instead of focusing on movie montages, it might be more interesting to see the debut trailers for upcoming movies showcased at the Oscars.
The prospect of, perhaps, revealing the first look at Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming film, “Once Upon A Day in Hollywood,” or director Greta Gerwig’s next project, “Little Women,” makes for a tantalizing reason to tune into the show. The combination of celebrating the best the year in film had to offer while also giving a look into the future is a nice combination that could prove fruitful for the Academy’s desire to attract more viewers.
While these more inclusionary ideas might be dismissed as being too populist, there is certainly no debate that the Academy should attempt to overcome its arrogance and welcome new, modern ways of discussing films. Doing so will not take away the prestige of the show, only help preserve it. Adapt or die.