New from Robert Daniels on 812 Film Reviews: 6 Improvements to the Academy Awards

I know there are a few takes out there like this, but like most, I was taken aback by the Academy’s announcement that they will be adding an additional category for “Popular Films.” In one press release, the Academy became a punchline.

At its best, the Awards show is a demonstration of grandeur. At its worst, it’s stuffy backslapping. Well, I’ve got a few changes that the Academy could institute to improve the awards experience:

1. The acting categories should be extended to 6 nominees

I think there should be 6 acting nominees, if only in Best Actress and Best Actor. Give stars a better chance to get nominations. People may not tune in for the Best Picture nominees, but they will if some of their favorite actors and actresses are up for awards. Also, adding one nominee wouldn’t devalue the award either. In fact, it would give not only the bigger stars a chance to compete, but also people of color.

2. Make Best Sound Mixing and Editing into one category

I know tech people are going to hate this one, but honestly, looking at the last 20 years of Academy history, more often than not, the same film wins both awards. And yes, each category honors separate teams, but the two can be combined into one. You’d eliminate a whole category and trim at least a little fat off the category list.

3. Eliminate the Best Original Song category

Is there any bigger snore than Best Original Song?

The category is a relic from when musicals dominated film. Now, it’s used solely as a marketing tool for, often, sub-par films. Much of the time, the songs that are nominated aren’t remotely integral to plot of the film. They’re slapped on during the end credits.

Not only that, but we then have to sit through cringey performances of songs that most people haven’t heard of and don’t care to hear. Cutting that category, I’m pretty sure, would trim half an hour from the ceremony.

4. Bring the Honorary Oscar back

It used to be that the Honorary Oscar was presented during the ceremony. Now, it’s done separately. But honestly, what was the harm?

Yes, you had some embarrassing moments and long speeches, but for the most part, it was amazing to see Hollywood royalty back. It was always a special moment when the long awaited Oscar was presented and the theater would give a standing ovation to the recipient. The Academy needs more of those magical moments.

5. Find better hosts:

This one is easier said than done, seriously.

The host needs to be young, unpredictable, and somewhat controversial. However, they also have to be respectable, known, and funny. The list of possibilities is incredibly short. It’s made even shorter by most of that list being embroiled in controversy, from Chappelle to Louis C.K.

But there are some people who could fit the bill: Tiffany Haddish, John Mulaney, and Bo Burnham to name a few.

6. Best Picture should be a full 10 nominees:

Finally, I’ve seen a few say that the Academy should bring Best Picture back to 5 nominees. While I can see some reasoning, I think we’d only be saving time while insulating the Awards.

Lately, the Academy has been recognizing a wide swath of work from diverse backgrounds, and while films like Lion, The Post, The Martian, Philomena, American Hustle, War Horse, Extremely Close & Incredibly Loud probably shouldn’t have been Best Picture nominees, Call Me By Your Name, Arrival, Room, Nebraska, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Help, District 9 are all films that might have missed the cut if Best Picture was only 5 films deep. I’d rather see some films undeservedly honored than see deserving films left out.

Having 10 full nominees also would protect against genre bias, would ensure that diverse films aren’t left out in favor of typical Academy fodder like Darkest Hour, while giving big budgets a chance to compete. Reducing it back to 5 makes the category less dynamic and causes the general public to be less in the know.

And yes, the Academy’s core audience is film lovers, film lovers who will watch no matter what, but that audience is shrinking. The gold fish bowl is getting smaller-and-smaller, and pretty soon the Academy Awards will be the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

That is, films shouldn’t be unreachable and nor should the awards honoring them. Film was the people’s medium first. Keep it that way. Reverting it back to a 5 film field will only harm the Academy and its diversity push.

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