Friday Film : 5 ways to improve the Oscars

Let’s start with basics:
A. Movies are about fantasy. They star impossibly attractive or highly charismatic people. They are set in unreal worlds. Even in ‘social realism’ movies the drama is heightened, the language and behaviour of the characters is exaggerated.
In short, movies are NOT real life.

We respond to them not because the actors look and sound like us but because we relate to the emotions they experience.
We love the Wizard of Oz not because we sing and dance in our daily lives and can follow the yellow brick road to a magical land but because we understand Dorothy’s yearning for something ‘more’ and her eventual realisation that ‘there’s no place like home’.

How hard is it to understand this?

Films about ordinary lives and the struggles of every conceivable minority group in the world are called documentaries. Movies are not documentaries.

b. Awards are prizes given to the best. They are merit based. Since movies are not sport where rivals can fight to the death, someone has to decide who is the best.
Demanding that someone declare you the best when they simply don’t think you are is stupid. It’s like demanding that someone be your friend even if they don’t like you.

c. The Oscars are about movies, accomplishment, movie stars, glamorous clothes and entertainment. They are not meant to be about identity politics, political agendas, platforms for lecturing the world about grievances.

d. Diversity in the film industry is about creative people of different backgrounds coming together to produce movies that unify people. It means sound engineers of Pakistani origin, Russian editors, Chinese cinematographers etc creating an industry where talented people are given opportunities so they can do quality work that can win awards, if it’s good enough.

Diversity is to be encouraged.

Patronizing tokenism is giving people awards for being a particular colour, gender or sexuality. No self respecting person would want that. Tokenism is not to be encouraged because it’s insulting.

e. Hollywood is the only film industry that reaches every country in the world. Bollywood doesn’t. Chinese cinema doesn’t. So, Hollywood must be doing something right.

In 2016 a Mexican won best director for the third consecutive year (a fourth Mexican is favourite to win this year). A Pakistani woman won for best short documentary. An Italian composer who doesn’t speak English won for best score. Filmmakers from Hungary, Chile, Poland and many other countries won because they deserved to. That should be the only criteria.

The Oscars need changes but affirmative action isn’t one of them. Ratings are getting lower each year. They will be lower still in future years if the Academy panders to divisive political agendas.

f. The most watched Oscars were in 1998 when Titanic swept the board. Love it or hate it, Titanic was seen by hundreds of millions of people around the world who flocked to the cinemas for it. Millions continue to watch it when it is shown on television. People, including minorities, saw the film, then watched the Oscars because of it.

Titanic is an epic set on a luxury ship and features a romance between a white, heterosexual couple both of whom remain superstars two decades on. Think about that.

5 Suggested Changes

1. Cut the ceremony down. Drop the categories viewers don’t care about: Sound editing/sound mixing (sorry guys, you’re very important to a movie and no doubt talented but sadly no one knows the difference between these categories or cares about). Short animated whatever. 5 dullest songs. Live action short whatever. Even hair and makeup and costume design can go. There’s a technical categories ceremony, put them all there.

2. Add categories that people actually would like. Best comedy performance. Best blockbuster/ box office hit – hundreds of millions of people watch movies like Star Wars, The Dark Knight etc but the Academy resolutely refuses to recognise them. Even extending the best picture list to 9-10 films was half hearted. A proper category would recognise the people who keep Hollywood going and help ratings too.

3. Curb the campaigning before the ceremony. It’s getting ridiculous. Either your film/ performance is good enough or it isn’t. Filmmakers and actors aren’t politicians running for office. Let the work speak for itself. Disqualify anyone who campaigns for a nomination. Once the nominees are announced, allow one week of active campaigning and that’s it.

4. Have a cut off date for submissions then have the awards shortly after. This will cut out the dozens of ceremonies that litter the awards calendar currently. There are just too many awards shows in the build up to the Oscars. By the time we get to Oscar, there are no surprises left because we’ve seen the same winners honoured time and again making the same speeches over and over.

5. Cut the red carpet circus. Have 2-3 major media outlets on the carpet only. Let them interview the nominees properly. At present we have hundreds of outlets asking stupid questions.
Stagger the arrival of the stars. Currently the C listers arrive early, hog the screen for hours and the big stars we actually want to see arrive 10 minutes before the ceremony starts and we get a 5 second flash of them before they rush in.
During the ceremony don’t just use the orchestra to cut off long winded speeches by winners, actually threaten to usher off anyone who starts to reel off thank-you’s to people the audience doesn’t know or care about.
Do the same to any winner who uses the podium to push a political agenda.

5a, b, c……z Cut out the damn politics!