“And the Oscar goes to….” Everyone who is involved in filmmaking in any capacity dreams of hearing his/her name after this sentence. That is because winning an Oscar (Academy Awards) is enough to catapult one into the heavens of superstardom and prestige. Such is the kind of influence this ceremony has. Oscars 2019 was the 91st edition of an award show which began as a humble 15-minute ceremony in 1929. Little did the originators of this award show know that, in the coming decades, it would morph into a source of outstanding validation for actors, directors, cinematographers, music composers, etc. Every year, the world watches in awe as their favorite actors, actresses, and films gain a much-deserved pat on the back for their quality and skill. However, despite the overwhelming popularity of Oscars, it still has some major problems which need to be rectified.
The first problem is the lack of diversity. The Oscars claim to be the biggest movie award night in the world. However, this global glorification is not justified considering that it limits itself to Hollywood. Although there is a foreign-language film category, it is mostly ignored as audiences wait for the biggest awards of the night. Apart from this, this category only has about 5 to 9 slots. Such a low number of slots is not enough to encompass the huge number of quality of non-English films that are produced every year. For instance, there was widespread agreement on the fact that, if My Name Is Khan and Chak De India had been produced by Hollywood-based studios, then Shah Rukh Khan would have scooped up the Best Actor award quite easily. Slumdog Millionaire scooped up many Oscars including that of Best Picture. However, it is a well-known fact that there are many Hindi, India-based films that depict the theme of Indian poverty in a much more nuanced and effective manner. But Slumdog Millionaire won because it was produced by a Hollywood-based studio and directed by the much-loved Danny Boyle. If Oscars really wants to appeal to the world, then it must scrap its policy of glorifying Hollywood as the only platform where quality films are produced.
The second problem is that of voting. The voting procedure to decide nominees and winners is quite straightforward. Members of the Academy vote their preferences (From best to worst) in each category. These sets of preferences are then compiled after which the winner is decided. However, this system is riddled with problems. For starters, the composition of the Academy is surprisingly one-dimensional. The Times did a survey in 2014 in which they found out that 94 percent of all academy members were white. Moreover, 77 percent of them were male. The Academy has taken steps to diversify its membership but a lot still needs to be done. Apart from this, it is a well-known fact that many of the academy members vote randomly. One member also went on to say that he did not understand the difference between Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing so he voted for The Hobbit because he liked the film. Moreover, many Academy members do not even watch all the Best Picture nominees. They just vote for the film that is already expected to win. The Academy must address these problems. It is important for them to release precise criteria for each award and also ensure that members of the academy exercise their votes responsibly.
The third problem is the lack of diversification in terms of genre. According to a report at Collider.com, 85.2 percent of the total Best Picture nominees belong to the Drama genre. This is quite surprising considering that genres like action and comedy are the best at capturing the popular imagination of the audience. Despite this, they do not get any effective representation at the Oscars. This year, Black Panther was expected to break the monopoly of drama films in the Best Picture category. But, its winnings were limited to the not-so-significant (Sad but true) technical awards. The same goes for Mad Max Fury Road. Being one of the greatest action flicks of all time, it scooped up many technical awards but again fell short of the Big 4 (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, and Director). This is partly the reason why the viewership of Oscars has gone down in recent years. The comedy and action genres rule the conscious of viewers through both social and print media and yet the Academy chooses to ignore them and settles for films who people haven’t even heard of. So, conventional moviegoers do not have any incentive to watch the ceremony. It is important to state here that this article does not claim that Drama films are bad and do not deserve recognition. It just argues against their glorification and the demonization of other genres by The Academy.
Finally, the biggest problem with Oscars is that it is held at the end of the Awards season. The Award season effectively begins in November while the Oscar Ceremony is held in February There are more than 15 awards shows; such as SAG, Satellite, Golden Globes; that are held before the Oscars. Most of these award shows pick the same winners in the Big 4 categories. So, by the time the Oscars arrive, an average movie fan has a concrete idea about who’s winning which award. This reduces the credibility and the curiosity factor of the Oscars by a lot. Couple this with the huge running time that the Oscars have, and you’ll get to know why the viewership has fallen in recent years. Why would a person watch a 4-hour telecast of an award show when he already knows who is likely to win? The first Oscars ceremony which was telecasted was held in 1953 and it was only 92 minutes long. Compare that with today where the ceremony always exceeds the 3 hours 30 minutes limit. To solve this problem, the Oscars must move itself to early November so that the people are actually excited about who is going to win. It should also cut down on its running time by eradicating the overly politicized and pretentious monologues by presenters and hosts. As of yet, nearly all Best Song nominees perform their song on the day of the ceremony. Instead of allowing this, The Academy should keep a 15-minute medley window where all the artists perform a small part of their respective songs.
The Oscars used to be an invincible force that filled every moviegoer with a sense of awe. That effect has been fading for a while as the audience at large is getting more observant and diverse in terms of ethnicity and language. People have gratified the awards and pegged the possibilities of global recognition through this platform to such an extent that coming up with such flaws in the limelight will lead to its immediate vilification. If the Academy wants to uphold its legendary status, it must seriously consider the aforementioned reforms otherwise the Oscar ceremony will soon become a relic of the past.
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The one word that defines him is curiosity. Always looking for new things to explore and learn. Apart from this, he is an avid debator which largely stems from his habit of reading voraciously. Currently pursuing Political Science (Hons.) at Ramjas College, Manraj is a movie buff and a huge football fan.