The Jury Talks Back


Members of the academy…

Filed under: Uncategorized — aunursa @ 8:40 pm

The New York Times reports that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is concerned about the relative lack of interest in the upcoming Academy Awards show.  Last year’s broadcast drew a record low 32 million viewers, and the Times notes that the five contenders for best picture “together have accumulated less than half the box office of ‘The Dark Knight,’ which was snubbed.”  Frantic producers are considering various ways to liven up the show in a desperate attempt to increase viewership.

I sympathize with the academy, which, according to the Times, “depends almost entirely on the success of the Oscars for its roughly $70 million in annual revenue.”  I would like to offer a few ideas that would entice lost viewers to return to the show.

1.  Include the public in selecting the nominations.  Major League Baseball has used this gimmick for decades to promote the All Star Game.  I realize that the academy would not want to relinquish your control and would be concerned that unpopular films would have no chance.  But there are two easy solutions.  You could proportion the voting.  For instance, academy votes could count for 50%, with the votes of moviegoers counting for the remaining 50%.  That would still give each academy member a million times more influence than each of your customers.  Alternately, the academy could select two or three nominations for each of the major categories, and the public vote would determine the other two or three.

2. Nominate movies that conservatives like.  Each year most or all of the nominees have politically-correct premises.  This year’s crop is no different, with “Frost/Nixon,” “Milk,” and “The Reader” all promoting liberal or morally-equivalent themes.  I notice that you didn’t nominate “Gran Torino,” which was highly rated at conservative websites like National Review, Hot Air, and Debbie Schlussel.  (The highest-grossing movie of Clint Eastwood’s career, “Gran Torino” also received high marks from the New York Times film critic.)  You want to increase viewership?  Toss a bone to the large number of your customers who share Sarah Palin’s values.  (Then again, you could try something truly revolutionary — actually seek out more films with conservative appeal.)

3.  Nix the political speeches.  Because I like you, I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Nobody cares what actors, directors, and producers think about any political issue!  We would rather you just shut up and do your job.  It may be trite, but it’s true.  And when you geniuses expose your moral decay throughout the year with intellectual gems like these…

Sean Penn: I am not disturbed by Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s.  You know, there’s not a lot of cleaner pictures of karma in the world.

Sally Field: If mothers ruled the world, there would be no *** ****** wars in the first place!

Tom Hanks: A lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop 8 happen… [T]hat is un-American.

… don’t complain when nobody wants to watch you lecture us and rant on about your pet causes.  And don’t display any silly political symbols either.  Just give your stupid thank-you’s and be done with it.  Better yet, get rid of the speeches entirely — just accept your award and get off the stage.  If you enforced this rule, you might actually retain viewers’ interest for the entire show (which would fit into a 2-hour time slot, rather than the typically unbearable 3 1/2 to 4 hours.)

I guarantee that if you took these suggestions, you would breathe new life into the Academy Awards show.  But don’t worry — I won’t hold my breath.


  1. Except that the viewer can’t possibly understand nuance or the art of film like the professionals hence I don’t see the academy welcoming votes from the little people.

    I would add two things: It’s critical for winners and presenters to remember there are no teachable moments at the Oscars – so don’t even try, and the goal of every winner and presenter should be nothing more and nothing less than just standing on stage all dolled up and looking gorgeous. That’s all we want. Is it too much to ask?

    Comment by Dana — 2/2/2009 @ 9:15 pm

  2. Gran Torino was excellent, full of nobility, moral muscle and lacking squishy sentimentality. No wonder it was shut out.

    Comment by Dana — 2/2/2009 @ 9:30 pm

  3. Dana, I enjoyed this film too (immensely) !

    Clint Eastwood is in that “I don’t give a…” zone. He does not have to worry about his career. What a great work.

    No-way was it going to be nominated for any significant award in Hollywood. In addition to the qualities you cited, it also lacked the required deference to the dogma of political correctness (in fact, it kind of mocked those beliefs).

    Comment by Pons Asinorum — 2/2/2009 @ 11:55 pm

  4. Even if they accepted all of the above, I still wouldn’t watch… is all so collaborative anyway; it isn’t like any actor could do what they does by themselves.

    Comment by Jack — 2/3/2009 @ 4:59 am

  5. There’s one sure way to attract more viewers:
    Wardrobe malfunctions – lots of ’em.

    As for including the public – there’s already an awards show for that – The people’s choice awards – not something to emulate.

    You pretty much nailed it, though. When you openly support a political agenda that not only leans in one direction, but spends every waking moment attacking half your audience, then people will stop paying attention. But then Hollywood has never made any sense anyway.

    Comment by Apogee — 2/3/2009 @ 8:42 am

  6. Apogee’s on to something, but they would have to take the AA show to cable to get away with it.
    Why don’t they just book the show on Comedy Central – it has about the same degree of relevance to everyone’s life?

    Comment by AD — 2/3/2009 @ 8:18 pm

  7. I’ll tell you how to get good ratings: Have Scarlett Johansson on as a host, and arrange a costume malfunction.

    Comment by Steven Den Beste — 2/4/2009 @ 3:51 pm

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