The two-headed statuette
Is it industry recognition? Or is it a TV show? Millions of dollars are riding on the answer….
Several entertainment industry luminaries, including people I normally like and respect, are throwing a hissy-fit because the producers of the Academy Awards telecast are moving the full presentation of a few awards categories out of the TV ceremony. (The winners, as I understand it, will still be acknowledged during the broadcast.)
The argument used by those who are objecting to the change is that those creative fields are every bit as valuable, and every bit as important to the success of a movie, as the stars, director and writers are. That’s true; moviemaking is in every sense a collaborative effort, and in a great movie, all of those elements — from costumes to sound design to cinematography to the actors’ performances of the brilliant dialogue — come together to create magic.
But the argument misses the point. What makeup artists do is valuable — but so is what teachers do, or police officers, or nurses, or researchers, or sewage treatment plant workers. Many professions have some sort of recognition, some sort of awards banquet at which plaques or trophies are presented. And yet, the teacher of the year ceremony isn’t broadcast on ABC television.
The reason the Academy Awards are broadcast on television is because the American public enjoys watching the spectacle — although that seems to be changing, with ratings for the Oscar ceremony in freefall over the past few years (even before the pandemic).
In a post last September, on the night of the Tony Awards, I noted some of the reasons for the decline in awards show ratings. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I will plagiarize myself and repeat those reasons here, with slight revision:
- A widening gap between the kinds of movies, plays and TV shows favored by the Academy voters and those favored by the general public. In the glory days of Hollywood, the Academy voters tended to give some weight to successful films, films that had captured the popular imagination. But now, many of the top Oscar contenders are, whatever their artistic merit, simply not things that the vast majority of the American public goes to a movie theater to see. Nowadays, when…