The Oscars Are Going to Be an Embarrassing Disaster—and It’s the Academy’s Fault

The Oscars Are Going to Be an Embarrassing Disaster—and It’s the Academy’s Fault

The last time the Oscars aired without a host, it was 1989, and the ceremony opened with Rob Lowe and an actress dressed as Snow White performing a duet of “Proud Mary.” It is widely considered to be the worst telecast in Oscars history, which should not come as a surprise to anyone who just read the previous sentence.

Given the conveyor belt of controversies and humiliating flip-flopping leading up to this year’s Academy Awards, Snow White showing up at this year’s ceremony would be a welcome delight. Maybe she could present an award to a cinematographer.

The Academy wisely reversed the most outrageous of its many ham-handed changes by agreeing that four categories—cinematography, film editing, live-action short, and makeup and hairstyling—will no longer be relegated to commercial breaks and will instead air live as usual, reacting late Friday to the intense and nearly uniform backlash to what most felt was a disrespectful decision.

It’s yet another head slap that may leave a permanent bruise not only on next Sunday’s telecast, but on what is considered to be the most respected awards organization.

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A series of decisions made by both producers of ABC’s telecast and the Academy—from the host to cutting categories from the live telecast and ending several long-held traditions—has created a sense of chaos and ill-will toward the show. It has transformed the usual excitement into a palpable sense of frustration and, from some members of the industry, even dread.

All in the name of keeping the telecast to a concise three hours and staving off a ratings decline suffered by all live TV events—problems of varying degrees of merit and questionable solvability.

Through big and frantic changes, the Academy has alienated members of the industry, angered members of certain branches, confused the very viewers they’re attempting to court, put the relevance of one of the most hallowed institutions in question, and generally embarrassed itself, repeatedly. With each successive decision, and then the backtracking from that decision, the Academy has telegraphed incompetence and insecurity, conversations that have drowned out nearly all talk about the worthiness of this year’s nominees and the art the show is meant to reward.

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