What Are the Pros and Cons of Moving the Oscars to January?
By now you've no doubt read the news that newly chosen Oscar producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer might be asked to start working on the telecast a little earlier than initially expected. Movieline sister site Deadline reports that the Academy Board of Governors is meeting to decide whether the 83rd Academy Awards should air sometime in January instead of the previously staked out date of Feb. 27, 2011. And while a few weeks might not seem like an earth-shaking decision, you'd be surprised at how many people are not cool with this. As Awards Daily scribe Ryan Adams wrote, "I only wonder what the hell has the Board of Governors squirming so restlessly that they suddenly want to overhaul and bastardize 83 years of tradition?" Um, bad ratings? But is that reason enough to make this change? Ahead, Movieline offers some pros and cons to the whole sordid affair.
PRO: It makes the Oscars more important...
Never mind the falling ratings -- this year's slight uptick notwithstanding -- the Academy Awards have become analogous to network television: They face too much competition to matter as much as they did previously. It used to be that the Oscars were the only chance to see the stars get awards. But now with the Golden Globes, the SAG awards, the BAFTAs and whatever else programmers can find to stick on television, their impact is muted. A move to January would -- in essence -- c-block all the other awards show and render them even more culturally irrelevant.
CON: ...but isn't competition a good thing?
It's not a leap to say that any Oscar telecast improvements that have been made over the last five years have been to keep up with the Joneses: The Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, etc. If the Academy Awards slide into January and effectively end the other telecasts, how would they ever improve? Isn't this just the first step toward creating a monopoly?
PRO: It makes the year-in-film more important...
Aren't you tired of waiting until the last two weeks in December to see all the good movies come out? Hollywood needs to start thinking year-round with its release schedule and dispense with the notion that calendar dates mean anything. A good movie released in January is the same as a good movie released in December. An earlier Oscar broadcast would blow that tired notion to bits -- writing that may have been on the wall already. For proof, look no further than the release of George Clooney's The American on Sept. 1, a time usually reserved for Final Destination sequels.
CON: ...but it won't help much in 2011.
Unfortunately, The American is the exception to the rule. As usual, the major studios plan on waiting until the fourth quarter to release their most prestigious affairs. Meanwhile, audiences have had to sit through seven layers of crap, to the point that when something decent shows up -- hey, Toy Story 3! -- they rush to the theater like a stampeding mob. Maybe wait to make this switch until 2012 so everyone can get their ducks in a row?
PRO: It forces Academy Award voters to work...
OK, so Academy Award voters don't get paid compensation to do their job, but it still allows them to see free movies. So, wash? The point is, an earlier Academy Awards telecast date would push voters to actually work year-round rather than just wait to burn through a pile of screeners the weekend before voting closes. Unless they'd like to do it between Christmas and New Year's. Didn't think so.
CON: ...too bad they aren't capable.
Says an anonymous source to Nikki Finke: "There's a ZERO percent chance that the Executive team can figure out how to logistically coordinate voting that soon, especially with all the old people who don't do electronic mail. And especially because [executive director] Bruce Davis won't do anything that utilizes technology." Seriously? If the voting block can't coordinate earlier voting because they don't know how to use "electronic mail," the Academy Awards are more doomed than I thought. Do the world a favor: Just shut them down completely.
PRO: It will slow down the rampant Oscar campaigning...
The amount of energy spent on Oscar campaigning is exhausting to watch, but it gets spent for good reason: Campaigning works. Too well. Every year, by the time the Academy Awards roll around, the favorites have been all-but-anointed and give their well-worn speech one more time. A shorter window, though, would allow for more surprises. And everyone knows that the key to good television is in surprising the audience.
CON: ...but it won't allow memes to develop.
If it wasn't for the lengthy Oscar season, would Sandra Bullock have won for The Blind Side? Probably not. And part of the joy that goes with following the Oscar season is in watching who rises to the occasion and who doesn't. This is a Catch-22: The Oscars need surprises, but they need time to develop their narrative. The earlier date would cripple that key goal.
OVERALL: If the Academy Awards do move to January, it will only be about four weeks earlier than they were initially planned. And even the most navel-gazing Oscar pundit would have to admit that four weeks isn't much. Best answer: Move it to January 2011. What's the worst that can happen: Eclipse voted Best Picture? You know, on second thought...