With all the buzz and excitement that surrounds the annual Academy Awards ceremony, it’s a little surprising that the biggest night of awards season has been losing viewers over the years. Since 2014 the viewership has steadily decreased, from 43.7 million viewers to an all-time low of 23.6 million viewers at the 2020 Academy Awards. The Oscars have tried to adapt over the years – more recently they have ditched having a host for the ceremony and have cut out numerous awards from the ceremony itself – but it is obvious that those changes aren’t enough to bring back their audience.
So what can the Academy do to win back viewers and produce a ceremony that film buffs can unanimously agree was a success? Read on to find out four ways the Oscars can become relevant again.
Drop the gendered acting categories
Since the very first Academy Awards in 1929, we have had separate awards for Best Actor and Best Actress. From the mid-2010’s, more and more award ceremonies (notably music award bodies) have opted to make their awards gender-less, and now it’s time for the Academy Awards to follow suit.
This has certainly been a hot topic over the years. People argue that making a Best Performance category would only let cisgender men dominate the category, as seen with other categories such as Best Director, but the pros far outweigh the cons. Firstly, Best Performance and Best Supporting Performance awards will allow non-binary actors to be recognised in the category as they truly are. Secondly, when men eventually take most, if not all, the nominations in the category, it will call out the sexism and inequality that still plagues the industry. Audiences will be more inclined to sit through a three-hour ceremony if it becomes more inclusive and representative of those watching.
Introduce Best Stunts and Best Motion Capture Performance awards
Although the run time stretches to roughly three and a half hours, it still doesn’t feel right that not every role within film is celebrated and given the spotlight. There are two awards, however, that many have called to be featured at the Academy Awards for decades now: Best Stunts and Best Motion Capture Performance.
Stunts have been featured in films from the dawn of the medium, and even in the age of CGI they are used extensively to create death-defying set pieces and contribute exciting beats to the overall narrative. The work of a stunt coordinator and their team goes unnoticed, especially after having to work with all the other departments, create action that serves the story being told, and make sure everything is tested and safe. Many films, including films that have won Oscars in other categories, would not have the reception they have without their stunts team: Mad Max: Fury Road, John Wick 3, The Raid, Mission Impossible: Fallout. So many talented, dedicated people are overdo recognition from the Academy, which would certainly inject some much needed adrenaline into the ceremony.
The same can be said for motion capture performance. Andy Serkis is certainly deserving of an Academy Award for making the industry take this kind of performance seriously through his iconic performances in the Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes trilogies, and more and more actors have breathed life into engaging non-human characters. There is the sticking point of whether the award will go to both the actor and the team of talented digital artists, but either way, motion performances aren’t going anywhere and a more modern category will bring the Academy Awards into the digital age.
Shorten the musical performances
Everyone seeks out the perfect time for a toilet break outside of the commercial break, and it always seems to be the musical performances. It’s a lovely idea to showcase the nominees for Best Original Song with some live performances, but having five performances, each lasting four to five minutes, within an already three hour show is just not necessary. The other categories certainly don’t relish in a whole scene from a film, so the Best Original Song category won’t lose anything by cutting their on stage renditions. A condensed segment – where each artist performs a minute or so of their song with the other nominees, or even a special medley from the orchestra incorporating each song, would work wonders by shortening the whole ceremony and still giving the nominees their time on the spotlight.
Change it to a Saturday night!
Come on Academy, this should of happened years ago. Whether you’re watching the ceremony stateside or staying up till the crack of dawn in the UK, it’s a tiring night of emotional highs and lows. We have work the next morning! Kids to take to school! During the biggest night of the movie calendar we should be celebrating with drinks and alcohol-fuelled Twitter reactions, and not worrying about the lack of sleep before the start of a working week.
At the end of the day, people will always debate on how the Oscar ceremony should play out. What many can agree on, however, is the systemic changes the industry desperately needs when it comes to racism, sexism, and being inclusive. Changing how the Academy works and functions will no doubt lead to a better industry and a better awards ceremony, but when it comes to producing the show itself, we’ll always have our fun of dissecting what worked and what didn’t. As exciting as it is for this years ceremony on Sunday 25th April, it is always entertaining to see the Twitter reactions the next morning on the events of the night before.