Amidst declining ratings, waning interest, and enough self seriousness to fill the grand canyon, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were forced to self evaluate and make some well needed (if not controversial) decisions about the most popular event in the film industry – The Academy Awards. 

If you haven’t heard by now, the Academy released a series of revisions to how they will air Academy Awards yesterday.

They are the following:

  1. They are going to cut the production of the show to below three hours.
  2. The most popular categories will be presented on live television while the presentations for the more niche categories will take place during the commercials.  So viewers at home will be able to see them, those presentations will be taped, edited and then re-aired at a later time of the ceremony.
  3. They setting a new earlier-in-the-year air date for the ceremony beginning in 2020. (Looking like February 9)
  4. A brand new category will be added to the ceremony – “outstanding achievement in popular film” (which is quickly becoming known as “The Popcorn Oscar.”)

As it usually happens with all long established properties which are founded on tradition, there has been A LOT of hand-wringing about these changes from industry insiders and fans alike.

Many are saying the revisions are an obvious ratings grab attempt which will cheapen the sanctity, prestige, and gravity of the Oscar. Industry insiders are most upset that the smaller categories like Editing or Sound Editing are being given the short of the stick and won’t get their due recognition. But the most criticized change comes in the form of the “Popcorn Oscar.”

The new category is an effort to give more blockbuster style films (like: Black Panther, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Deadpool 2 etc.) a better chance to win an Oscar.  The hope is to capitalize on the huge box office of these blockbusters, and grab more eyes for the awards ceremony.

To some, however, like actor Rob Lowe, this is an extremely poor choice.  Lowe even went as far as saying “the film business passed away today with the announcement of the “popular” film Oscar. It had been in poor health for a number of years. It is survived by sequels, tent-poles, and vertical integration.” Wow. Those are fighting words.

The good news about the “Popcorn Oscar” though, is that any film nominated in that category can still be nominated for Best Picture as well.

Despite that, here’s the deal: the academy is in a no-win situation.

Either they stay the course and ratings continue go down the path to oblivion rendering them completely useless.  Or, they make these changes upsetting the film industry elitists, experts, insiders, and “serious” fans.

The safe move is to literally do nothing.  No risk. No reward. But they can’t do that. They have do something because they are losing eyes.

In other words – let’s quote one of the most famous Best Picture snubs in the history of the Academy:

You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Is there a convincing argument to be made that the move is cheap? Sure.

My argument to those executives who want their “blockbusters” to get more recognition would be simply be this: make better blockbusters. Nine of the top ten grossing films of all time have either been nominated for Best Picture or won an Oscar.

The Academy was incredibly stupid in how they proposed these changes without a complete plan and all the details fleshed out. As it comes to determining what will be the requirements for the the “Popcorn Oscar”, their answer is, “[e]ligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.”  Meaning – we have no idea. Yikes. I could write another thousand words about all the problems and complications this presents as to what is eligible, why it’s eligible, and where does one draw the line within it’s own category.

I also find it a little icky that ABC suggested all these changes.

ABC is owned by Disney.  Disney also happens to own Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and is a major motion picture producer in and of itself.

So who has the most to gain by Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Black Panther, or The Incredibles 2 winning an Oscar? Disney. It’s completely ridiculous.  It’s like the Bluth’s presenting themselves with their own Best Family award on Arrested Development. Yes, it’s that ridiculous.

I don’t think the decline in ratings only has to do with the lack of blockbusters. Cord cutting, the #MeToo movement, the ill-advised mini-shows within the ceremony, and the over politicizing of the event all probably contribute to people not tuning in.

But I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that ratings have seen a severe decline over the past 8 years (culminating in last years show which only 26.5 million people watched) when your Best Picture winners have included: The King’s Speech, The Artist (::shudders::), Argo, 12 Years A Slave, Birdman, Spotlight, Moonlight and The Shape Of Water.  

Are they all good films? You bet – I watched them all. (Although I refuse to believe The Artist is good by any stretch). I truly believe these films, and films like them all have a place in The Academy.  If your film is good, it should be recognized. But at what cost?

While I consider myself a person who loves indie/ art house films  I do recognize the fact that academy has been pretentious more often than not.

The first time my heart was broken by the Academy was when Shakespeare In Love beat Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture in 1998.  That hokey, schmaltzy piece of garbage was better than what is arguably the greatest war film of all time? C’mon man. I’m not even counting the impact of Saving Private Ryan has on pop culture or how it changed the industry in general.

What I mean is this – the box office for last eight Best Picture films don’t even come close to Black Panther.  Combined.

While sad, this means the major public didn’t see those films. Which also means the majority of the public don’t care about them.  Which, in the end, it all comes down to this: why would anyone in the majority watch a ceremony where they see the film they care about either not be nominated or beaten by a film they didn’t see and don’t care about?

Nevermind the fact that no one in the public cares who wins Best Sound Mixing or even Best Cinematography. The sad, shocking, and inevitable truth is not everyone is a film junkie like me, you, or people in the industry. They want to see the people they know in the categories they know like Best Actor or Best Director. So save time, energy, and costs by showing the stuff the people actually want to see.

Again – is it right? Nope. Is it fair? Nope. But eyes matter.

Make no mistake about it – ABC/ Disney doesn’t care about the sanctity of the Oscars.  And, honestly, they shouldn’t. They are, to quote another academy darling, “in the empire business.”  They’re job is to put on a show that will acquire eyes, which they can leverage into advertising dollars.

No eyes – no money.

And if there is no money, then there is no Academy Awards on TV and everyone loses.

Yes, even those elitists and “serious fans” who hate the changes.

So, lighten up, Francis. They’re doing what they can to remain relevant and I don’t see a better option. Do you?