Will Smith is not the only Oscar mess that the Academy needs to clean up

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences handed down a verdict on Will Smith on Friday, offering a decision and a mea culpa in an attempt to bring the mess that dominated the 94th Oscars on March 27th.

But make no mistake, AMPAS Board of Directors has a lot more work to do and a lot more clutter to clean up.

The 54-member board was originally scheduled to address Smith’s fate at the previously scheduled board meeting on April 18, an annual post-Oscar gathering, where the board typically reviews the final Oscar show and decides on rule changes for the coming year. But with the Academy under fire for not acting fast enough on The Slap, it moved the meeting to April 8, discarding everything else that would have been on the agenda.

All that, says the Academy, will be dealt with at a later date. The original meeting on April 18 has meanwhile been canceled.

But if Smith had done nothing but sit still in his seat throughout the show, the recent Oscars would still have raised issues that are in dire need of addressed by the Academy’s management. Here are some of the questions the group has to deal with before shorthand on a troubling show is reduced to “the show that had Will Smith and got better ratings.”

1. Should Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and President David Rubin be held accountable?
Oscar show producer Will Packer may have told Smith that Chris Rock wanted him to stay, but that was neither Packer nor Rock’s call (and yet Rock’s camp says he said nothing beyond his desire not to file a police report). ). Hudson and Rubin were in the Dolby Theater and could have acted far more decisively than they did when they allegedly raised the issue of Smith leaving with the actor’s publicist rather than with the star directly. And then there was the case of the conflicting stories that emerged in the days after the incident, and the video meeting that Rubin and Hudson had with Smith the day before the inaugural board meeting.

The academy’s final statement took responsibility for not acting quickly or decisively enough, but it also sought to mitigate this responsibility by saying the organization was “unprepared for the unprecedented.” (The same can be said of the Academy’s auditors when they messed up the Best Picture envelope five years ago, but they still had to take the plunge.) Just as much as the board members wanting to put the tailgate and demand some accountability could be a stronger conclusion .

The difficult thing is that the Presidents of the Academy only serve one year, which expires in August, so Rubin has only a few months left. In addition, term restrictions will force Rubin out of the board this summer (along with a record 10 other incumbent governors who fall victim to stricter term limits). He will soon be out of office and cannot stand for re-election.

As for Hudson, she has announced that she will not seek another term after her contract expires in May 2023, but that leaves an entire year in a term of office that has gone through a stormy and divisive time for the Oscars.

2. Will the experiment of awarding Oscars in eight categories before the live broadcast ever be repeated?
When Hollywood guilds, filmmakers and Oscar-goers slammed the plan before the show, Academy and producer Will Packer responded by saying we should all wait and see how seamless and respectable these pre-taped awards would be.

But on Oscar night, it was clear that the experiment was a failure. As everyone had feared, it clearly created a second-rate group of categories – and despite the Academy sometimes saying that the speakers would not be edited, they were in a way that often felt jarring and disrespectful. (If you want to edit a winner’s speech by unknowingly removing the punchline for one of his jokes, it’s probably not a good idea to make it the winner of best film editing unless you want him to call you out. for your sloppy edit when he goes to the press room, as “Dune” editor Joe Walker did.)

And on a basic level, it simply did not work. The whole idea of ​​the move was to trim the show so it could get in in pure three hours. Instead, the broadcast ran by a full 40 minutes, more than 20 minutes longer than last year.

3. And while we are at the subject length: Should the Academy keep chasing the idea of ​​a three-hour broadcast, or is it a foolish dream?
You can make an Oscar show in three hours if you present all the awards and keep the extra material – monologues, sketches, songs, film clips – to a minimum. You really can not do it in three hours if you want comedy and music and clips. The late Gil Cates, who produced the show 14 times, 11 of which drew more than 40 million viewers, once lamented the fact that Oscar producers were always under pressure to make the show shorter and more entertaining – “but the things that making it entertaining are also the things that will make it long lasting. ”

This is similar to a case where ABC exerts more and more influence on a show for which they pay the Academy more than 90% of its annual operating revenue, giving the network enormous influence – at least for the remaining six years on an agreement that runs through 2028, although it has typically been renewed long before its expiry date approaches. Is the Academy board OK with the network turning their show into Grammys (a handful of awards handed out in the air, the rest at another ceremony) when one of the hallmarks of the Oscars is that it’s the one big show that do not do make a version of it?

And here’s a related question to consider: If it’s so important to ABC and the Academy that the show ends before midnight on the East Coast, after which they say viewership drops, how about trimming the awful 90s to 60 minutes and the big show starts at 8:30 instead of at. 9:00 ET?

4. Should the board adopt a ban on Twitter voting?
The other big innovation you might remember was the polls conducted on Twitter that asked fans to pick their favorite movie from 2021 and their favorite “cheer moment” from any movie ever. If the relocation of the eight categories was a failure, this was a direct disaster. Perhaps thought of as a way to soak up this year’s one true blockbuster, “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the online competition turned into a war between Camila Cabelo fans (“Cinderella”) and tech-savvy dissidents who stood up for those thought, had been wronged: Zack Snyder (“Justice League” and “Army of the Dead”) and Johnny Depp (for the almost completely unseen “Minamata”, which somehow reached the top 5 for 2021). Eventually, Snyder stopped both categories, and the academy looked completely foolish.

The board of directors should not have to weigh in and publicly say “Do not do it again”, but perhaps they could make their point privately.

5. Shouldn’t the Oscars show more respect for the films it is designed to honor?
Individual departments have previously complained about comedic Oscar shows that do not respect the nominees: The Sound Branch, for example, is notoriously protective of its nominees. But no Oscar show has gone as far as this year did in rejecting the nominated films and playing them that were not (although the attempt to suck up “Spider-Man” via Twitter polls turned out to be a disaster hijacked by Zack Snyder stop).

Is it perhaps time for the board to send a message of dismissive remarks like Wanda Sykes, who says she had seen “The Power of the Dog” three times and was “halfway through it” (presumably it should be a joke that it is a slow and difficult film rather than a long one as it was the third-shortest of the 10 nominated for best film); or three Disney princesses who behaved as if the category of animated films was entirely the province of children’s films that parents had to endure over and over again (news, no doubt, for “Flee”, the animated documentary about a gay Afghan refugee) ; or Chris Rock – who admittedly had just been slapped in the face – who announced that the winners of “Summer of Soul” were “Questlove and four white guys” (there were three other guys, not four, and only two of them were white ).

I’m not saying that the nominated films should be banned for jokes – but if the Oscars are not proud of the nominees the voters have chosen, why the hell should they expect viewers to be interested in them?

6. Will the Academy take a position on theatrical vs. streaming?
Will Smith may have turned the Oscars into television to be watched (or at least, television to talk about), but there’s no doubt that some of the series’ rating problems are due to the fact that the Oscars just do not do it. It seems to be as much of an event as they used to be. And a big reason for that is that filming is not so much of an event either – especially during the pandemic, where the theater exhibition got a big hit and the studios hurried to put almost everything on streaming services.

The academy, which had originally pushed back (or at least talked about pushing back) when the streamers invaded the film industry, relaxed its eligibility rules during the pandemic of 2020, when theatrical distribution had almost stopped. The group tightened them in 2021, but only slightly. It is now time to decide whether to sharpen the justification further to stand up theatrically and try to make cinema (and by extension the Oscars) a bigger issue again, or to surrender to the blurred lines that dominates today’s entertainment landscape.

In any case, there is plenty to discuss and plenty of clutter for the Board of Trustees to take a closer look at when they come to meet about something other than Will Smith.

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