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Commentary | There's no reason to make the Oscars more accessible

You can’t present a full night dedicated to the fine arts if you continue to water it down for the masses. Every category should be broadcast.
Credit: Searchlight Pictures

ST. LOUIS — What if I told you there was a big meal coming your way? Big steak, mashed potatoes, asparagus cooked right, and a big bottle of red wine. The works. Would that interest you? I bet it would.

But first, I am going to water it all down. Before you can eat a bite or even taste the outside portion of your plate, a bucket of water will be poured all over it.

That’s what ABC and the Academy are doing to the Oscars. With each passing year, the event and presentation continues to change.

Multiple hosts? Check. 

Shorter speeches? Check.

Cutting more of what the audience gets to see? Yep. 

Trying desperately to make the whole thing shorter? Constantly.

Next, we should make the Super Bowl shorter. Cut half the festivities for the big event. Make it less than the ordinary week of interviews, stretching, practice, and other random nonsense that happens leading up to America’s BIG GAME. If you start messing with that, so many people would get mad. How can we live without our corrupt NFL all-or-nothing action?

Please, just leave the Oscars telecast alone. That’s something ABC and The Academy can’t seem to do. Two days after announcing that eight major award categories (including two of my favorites: editing and score) were slashed from the live broadcast, Variety has reported that members aren’t too happy about it, and that's about as surprising as a winter storm hitting St. Louis in February.

Movie fans aren’t thrilled either. I’m not talking about the people who get into a car every time a Marvel film or horror retread is released; the real hardcore film addicts despise this news.

Try and find me a great movie that wasn’t boosted by the editing and the music. Think of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, which bridged the gap between a summer blockbuster and a high-minded action thriller. Take out Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s score, and the movie value drops. Remove the crisp editing-even for three films that all cleared 135 minutes in their running times-and it gets even worse.

So, why should the acting and writing be honored during the live telecast, and not the entire fleet? Instead of the people and minds behind the editing (something that shapes the sharpness of a film) and the music (an empathy and excitement-generating machine), we will instead be shown the ones that generate the most tweets, likes, debate, or show a strong viral future.

Here’s the thing. If those so-called ratings have taught us anything since the 90s, it’s that you can’t try to make the Oscars more popular. You can’t present a full night dedicated to art if you continue to water it down for the masses. Every category should be broadcast, and not given away in front of the audience during a commercial break or before the TV broadcast begins.

If the show goes four hours, who cares? The Super Bowl goes that long and believe it or not, more people like movies than football.

If speeches go long, let them be. For most of these winners, it’s their first time in front of their peers and in front of a live audience. Think about being the mom who helped design the costumes for “Cruella” and now you won’t be able to accept the award in front of that huge audience for your kids and family to see? If I was a nominee for next month’s show and my category was being handled offscreen, I’d make so much noise that they would put it back on the table.

I hope the Academy members-the ones who vote on the awards-continue to make noise. They absolutely should. Watering down the telecast does nothing but destroy the relevancy of the evening for so many around the world. Somehow, I like to think casual movie fans learn a thing or two if they tune in for the whole show. If not, they just won’t watch.

The people who decide not to watch the Oscars shouldn’t get to decide what kind of show that the real movie lovers get to have--much less, determine which nominees get their moment in the sun. That’s a sure sign for even worse ratings and more bad press.

Stay on that path, Academy, and you’re heading for Golden Globes Avenue.

Once a year, the film world simply needs to let its freak flag fly.

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