The Oscars’ Popularity Crisis

And if ABC is so determined to give comic-book blockbusters a sizable presence on the show, can’t it work with its Disney corporate partner Marvel Studios to encourage some of those superheroes to host? Imagine Tom Holland and Zendaya dressed to the nines, Paul Rudd and Simu Liu trading witty quips, or the excitement that would ensue if Robert Downey Jr. took over the Oscars for a major post-Marvel pop! Nab one of those stars early enough — say, before their next superhero film comes out — and they’ll be doing free publicity for the Oscars for a full year.

On Tuesday afternoon, academy President David Rubin sent a letter to members announcing that eight of this year’s awards won’t be presented live on the telecast. Instead, the winners in those categories will accept their statuettes inside the Dolby Theater an hour before the show begins, and those victories will be condensed and edited into the main broadcast.

Does that mean viewers who are following along on Twitter will have the results spoiled far in advance? Apparently! Will the winners have to deliver their speeches to a half-full Dolby Theater, since the biggest stars will still be out on the red carpet? Sure seems that way!

Three of the edited-for-time categories are the short-film awards, and I understand the impulse to quickly dispense with them — in fact, I’ve argued before that they should be cleaved from the night entirely, since the ceremony should be dedicated to feature-length films. But the other five categories getting the chop are production design, score, editing, makeup and hairstyling, and sound, all of which are essential to the art of moviemaking. These races also tend to honor the big blockbusters that the Oscars claim to want more of on the telecast.

Rubin maintains that viewers will hardly notice this “seamless” change, but Twitter is already in full revolt, and the young, social-savvy audience that the Oscars are hoping to court will get the impression that the show is apologizing for itself in advance, as the Oscars too often do. Is it really worth all this fuss in pursuit of just a few trimmed minutes, when the Super Bowl routinely makes its immensity part of the draw? Doesn’t this threaten to antagonize the people who actually like watching the Oscars being handed out, instead of drawing viewers who weren’t going to watch anyway?

Change can be a good thing, but the Oscars are so desperate to make themselves over for approval that even Cassie from “Euphoria” would blanch. I understand the desire of a patient this venerable to go under the knife. But isn’t the goal of all good plastic surgery to still look like yourself in the end?

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