Thursday, February 28, 2019

The future -- mine & Oscars

After writing Oscar reviews for over 20 years, this year’s might have been my last. Nothing's written in stone and a lot will depend on how many people log on to the podcast.  But they’re getting harder to write and fewer people are interested in the Oscars.

I seriously think the Academy Awards are losing its relevance. And I say that with great sadness. For many many years the Academy Awards was a huge cultural event. The entire country had a stake in the movies that were nominated and the entire country watched. There were upsets, surprises, streakers, glamour, and in general the Oscarcast was a rollicking entertaining once-a-year event.

The industry supported it. The movies nominated were both artistic and economic triumphs. It was not unusual for the highest grossing film of the year to also win the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year. The songs that won Best Song often became hits on their own and in numerous cases became standards. Who won Best Song in 2018?

Hollywood royalty all showed up whether they were nominated or not. The host had gravitas and guided the evening with class and humor.

And the in-home sport was goofing on the fashion disasters and lusting after the ones who looked spectacular. There was, dare I say? – body shaming. Oscar parties were filled with catty remarks – from everybody. And nobody felt guilty for being a “bad person.”

Compare all of that to now.

Hollywood makes movies for 17-year old boys. That’s their target audience. The movies that today we consider classic would never get made. Instead, studios invest in super hero movies, sequels, cartoons, action-flicks, raunchy comedies – anything to draw the young theatregoer. Then, for two months a year they roll out adult prestige films hoping to win awards. Don’t kid yourself. If there were no more Oscars, these indie offshoots like Fox Searchlight would go away. Studios would make ONLY tent pole fare for Millennials.

So there is a real disconnect between the movies most people see and the movies that get nominated for awards. And there’s nothing the Academy can do about it. They have no say in what gets made. So all they can do is watch their relevance slip away.

And it becomes a vicious circle. Ratings drop because the bulk of movie goers don’t watch or care about the films that are nominated. And members of the Academy are not going to pander to them and start nominating ANT MAN 2 as Best Picture of the year. With lower ratings, the network that paid big bucks for the exclusive rights to air the Oscars gets nervous. And what do nervous networks do?


And that’s what ABC has done. Add new categories, give out awards during commercial breaks, hire the creator of FAMILY GUY to host because kids love that show. And every time the Academy goes along and the move backfires (which most do) they lose more and more credibility.

Don’t kid yourself. ABC doesn’t give a shit about the state of the motion picture industry and preserving its excellence – they just care about ratings and making good on their investment. And if you think it’s just ABC you’re wrong. CBS, FOX, and NBC would do the same thing. Do you think Fox wants the two best teams in baseball to compete in the World Series? No. They want the Dodgers vs. the Yankees. Every year. Do you think NBC wants the best athletes in the world to shine in the Olympics? Of course not. They want American athletes to shine. Networks pay outrageous sums for the rights to these big events and understandably want their return. So look out if the event is underperforming. That’s what’s happening big time with the Oscars.

40 million people used to show up every year. This year everyone was publicly pleased because the rating went up from 26.5 million to 29 million. Woot woot! But behind closed doors they’re still saying, “We’re FUCKED and we’ve got to do something! NOW!”

So let’s look back at Sunday’s Oscarcast. Stripped down, no host, tennis players presenting awards, and a bland pleasant movie winning Best Picture. There are already articles in major publications saying it’s the worst Best Picture choice since CRASH. But it’s safe.

And safety now also counts, because in addition to network pressure, the Academy is getting major pressure from diversity and special interest groups – the winners have to be more inclusive. God forbid there’s not enough diverse winners – the Academy gets slammed. So decisions are made with that in mind.

The in-home experience is not as much fun because now if you rag on someone you’re accused of being racist, homophobic, body shaming, etc. Believe me, my reviews were better 20 years ago. It was understood I was being snarky and went for the best joke I could. And no one accused me of being insensitive. Now I self-censor. There are at least three jokes I considered putting in my review that I know are really funny. But I also know I’d get slammed and who needs the aggravation? That's a problem.  Readers even blasted me for saying something negative about poor Sam Elliott. 

SIDEBAR:  Sam Elliott.  When you are lucky enough to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting the correct response is gratitude.  It's not "Well, it's about time."   Let's get real.  Sam Elliott has played the same character in everything he's done.  He has the same smirk, delivers lines the same way, and has parlayed a nice career out of it.  And God bless him.  I like Sam Elliott in the right thing.  But to suggest that he hasn't been given the respect he deserves -- he ain't Daniel Day Lewis.  End of sidebar.

As movies continue to blur lines between theater experiences, streaming services, and television it’s becoming harder and harder to even determine just what a “movie” is. The Academy dodged a bullet this year by not naming ROMA Best Picture. It was made for Netflix and is available right now at your convenience if you’re a Netflix subscriber. Sorry AMC theatres. You know one day, probably soon, a Netflix movie will win Best Picture. And that same movie could win an Emmy. Those lines are blurred too.

So again, and it pains me to say it, the Oscars appear headed in the same direction as newspapers, broadcast television, terrestrial radio, and shopping malls. Eventually the deal with ABC will be up. And if there still IS an ABC as we know it, I doubt they’ll want to re-up.  Or if they do, they'll want full control of the broadcast.  Then what?

When I started reviewing the Oscars they were still a "thing."  I'm happy to continue as long as they still are.   Will they be?  Will they be fun again?  Can I have fun again writing it?  Will there be enough people interested in the Oscars to be interested in my review?   Let's see how many people listen and then I'll decide about next year.   Thanks for understanding.


Arthur Mee said...

Enjoyed the podcast, even though I couldn't possibly care less about the Oscars. But if next year it gets replaced by "My Bitchy, Snarky Review of the Nobel Prize awards"? Or "...of the MLB Rule 5 Draft"? Or"...of the Sunday night line-up of shows airing on the Public Access Channel"? Fine by me. I know you'll find a way to make it funny -- which is why I listen/read!

Peter said...

I think I speak for most readers/listeners when I say: please tell us those three jokes you omitted!! Fuck the PC social justice warriors! Don't censor yourself!

Most of us aren't of the virtue signalling snowflake generation who need safe spaces and trigger warnings. Let's have the jokes. Anyone who doesn't like it is welcome to stop reading.

Sean said...


Sad to say, I agree with pulling the plug. I couldn't care less about the Oscars anymore. It used to be appointment television. My friends would have an Oscar party. We'd cheer, jeer, and snark our way through the night, usually screaming at the TV when a movie we didn't like won something. Now I don't even know the film nominated. I only heard of Green Book because there are places where I live in the original Green Book. One, here in Waco, TX is still in operation. That local hit on the news was the first time I really heard of the movie.

Not only should you pull the plug on the review, but the Academy should pull the plug on the show. It has lost all relevance, with or without a penis joke making host.

Rudy said...


Dhruv said...

I respect your decision Ken. I will certainly miss your reviews.

Gary said...

When you give Oscars to undeserving movies and actors and prolong the crappy ceremony, who will come back the next year.

Oscars is dead.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

It would be wonderful to read your words without concern of the culture police, snowflakes and the hypersensitive. Hell, make those if us who might agree subscribe somehow with that understanding. Best wishes with all of this...

Ted said...

Being PC gets you the press. Barbra knows that and so ditched "A start is Born".

Spike Lee and Barbra best buds forever!!!

McAlvie said...

I think they shouldn't bother broadcasting it anymore. There was a time, right? when it was a prestigious thing that the public only read about in glossy magazines after the fact. If it stopped being a media ratings thing, maybe it could go back to being about celebrating the best of the industry. And maybe it would go back to being a classy event. And it would stop being an apology for the state of movies in general.

There were one or two good movies, movies that weren't, as you said, geared towards adolescent males. Not great movies, certainly not worth the price of admission these days, but good enough to be entertaining. They are actually better than the Oscar-baiting films.

Oh, and wanted to say thank you for explaining what that ugly yawning blue thing was. I would have guessed a giant oyster had swallowed Lady Gaga's dress and hair.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ken,
I re-read your Oscars' review from 2005, and apart from network not mentioned, it was not that much different in its style and snark that is. So, don't give up, I awaited your podcast on Monday eagerly, and would miss it next year. And you never know, things might get better (probably not, but one must hope). I am a life long fan of Cheers and Frasier (Cheers was really popular in the old Yugoslavia in the 80s and I don't think we were far behind in the showing schedule) and I truly enjoy your podcast. Do not give up, even on Oscars'.
Fan from the UK (where we really need some laughs right now)

cityslkrz said...

Agree agree agree. Especially on your podcast about: Where were the movie stars?
If ABC truly cares about number of viewers, then get Brad Pitt to give out a category. I did enjoy it without a host, and thought it went along at a nice pace. And I love the 3 women who started the show, wish they would host everything.
So, we’re all still talking about it. And I love your reviews if you’re still interested in giving them!

therealshell said...

The splendid Gary Sassaman used to live blog the Oscar telecasts, and it was great fun, but he stopped doing that many years ago. I will miss your appealingly witty Oscar reviews, but, as we are no longer allowed to be funny, I must agree with your decision to stop doing 'em.

Jim said...

I skipped through the Oscars column even faster than I skip through the baseball ones. Actually I bet I could recognise more current baseball players than I could Oscar nominees. I think the last big winner I would watch again is The Artist. Hats off to whoever sneaked in a RomCom and disguised it as art.

P.S. if you want to see how far PC still has to go, try Googling the term 'cotton ceiling' Nowadays, if a man wants to change his gender he doesn't need to go in for that life-changing surgery. He just self identifies, and that's it (although Priscilla, Queen of the Desert stype make-up seems to be de rigueur). But a significant number of these transwomen also identify as lesbians. The old-fashioned sort of lesbians are getting bullied, demonised, and labelled transphobic for not wanting to have sex with the sort of lesbians who have penises. What sort of joke would you have to come up with to make a person who genuinely believes stuff like that laugh.

Gary said...

I agree with every word you wrote. But I've been really surprised by the level of negativity toward GREEN BOOK. A friend recommended it, saying it was the best movie he'd seen in ages. I saw it and totally agreed. It was everything I want in a movie -- good old-fashioned storytelling, great dialogue, terrific acting, feel good finish. And best of all, it was NOT a CGI/comic book/spaceship blockbuster. Every so often a "small" movie like that, written for adults, should win some awards.

Dixon Steele said...

This year's edition seemed particularly snakebit, with the Kevin Hart debacle and the attempted sidelining of the 4 BTL categories and the resulting uproar.

And for the first time in memory, it seemed hosting the Oscars was a problem. people backed away from it.

Also I can't remember all the other award shows that rolled out this year. When did the Broadcast Critics Awards become a TV event? Even the Golden Globes seemed off this year.

Couldn't agree more about ABC's toxic influence on what use to be one of the country's "best" evenings.

Talk about a cheapening of the Brand.

I actually thought this year's show was pretty good without a host. Keep it that way, and for Gods sake, do we really need the President of the Academy coming out and delivering the same pablum year after year.

Oh well. There's always the terrific finale of THE NAKED GUN 2, with Leslie Nielson's Frank Drebin crashing and destroying the Oscars...

John said...

Bring in a host who will rip Hollywood a new one and keeps us entertained. Everyone hates them stars, so get him to take shots at them. We all can laugh and the ratings will shoot up.

Stars wont mind. Why would they? They are the center of attention if it is ridicule and they get free food later.

Who else but Ricky Gervais is the man for the job.

tavm said...

Let me add my own rant: Do you think any major network want the best NFL teams to compete in the Super Bowl (like the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs)? No, they want the LA Rams and the NE Patriots, dammit!

BobinVT said...

For all the criticism of the studio era, it produced the classics seen now on TCM. In those days each studio had a stable of A listers and a bunch of supporting character actors. The bigger the studio, the more stars they had, but even at MGM, the number of A listers was very limited. These were stars on the level of Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, James Stewart, Katherine Hepburn, etc. They tended to be in movies for their entire adult life. They were known by just about everyone in America. They were true celebrities, movie stars. They was no competition from TV, and even after TV appeared, movie stars would never deign to appear on the small screen, it was beneath them. So when the Oscars were televised, it was the one time viewers could see these stars on TV appearing as themselves, not in a movie role. The fact that the movies nominated were good and had been seen by many millions helped ratings too. Now, with a few exceptions, the “celebrities” that are nominated, or trotted out to present are unknown by the vast majority of the American public. And they are here today gone tomorrow, no staying power. Yet we are told by outlets like Entertainment Tonight that these are celebrities, meriting first name only treatment. But they have devalued the currency. If everyone’s a celebrity then no one is.

Few people have seen the nominated films, which as you point out, are only being made as Oscar bait. The tent pole movies rely heavily on CGI, not star power, and even the stars of these, such as Robert Downey Jr. are most prominently featured with their faces covered by masks. I used to see a lot of movies at the theatre each year, and made it a point to see all the best picture nominees. But over time, Hollywood abandoned adult audiences, and my wife and I limited trips to the multiplex to those films “you had to see on a big screen” like Titanic. Now films meriting big screen and surround sound are pretty much super hero flicks. I have no interest. It’s so much easier to wait and watch movies at home, where most people now have a big screen and surround sound. You’re right, the Oscars are moribund.

Dhruv said...

'hire the creator of FAMILY GUY to host because kids love that show' - that really ended badly for everyone.

Seth MacFarlane seems to be so hated by the Academy that till date they haven't uploaded any video of his opening monologue or jokes on their official YT channel. All videos that exist are private ones.

Now James Franco and Anne Hathaway's opening was bad too, but that has been uploaded and so has every one of Billy Crystal's old 90s opening. They love Billy Crystal so much that his 80s clip for some award is also uploaded.

So this is the conclusion : We hate Seth so much that for us he doesn't even exist.

Seth MacFarlane must have got a lot of stick after the show, that he made a cutaway gag on Family Guy apologising to everyone

But personally I think it must be humiliating for anyone to be treated like that. By uploading everyone's monologue and leaving out yours.

And his apology through a cutaway gag was painful to watch. He never apologises for any jokes, not even the meanest ones about mentally challenged kids which he makes a lot on Family Guy and also 'Ted'. But here in order to ingratiate himself to the Academy and Hollywood he has apologised.

Recently after Kevin Hart dropped out, Seth told that they had requested him and he had refused. Whether he was saying the truth or just trying to sound important I don't know.

Andrew said...

First, I agree with Peter. Please share your dangerous jokes, and let the critics be damned. We've got your back, all 100 of your commenters.

Concerning the Oscars, everything you said is accurate. It has no relevance anymore. I don't know a single person who was watching them. Not one person at work talked about them the next morning. I have two teenage kids - neither they nor their friends paid the Oscars any attention. No one cares.

Here are the Best Picture nominees from the years I was in high school. Honestly, they look like they came from an entirely different country. I look at this list, and think that it's no wonder the Oscars don't have an audience anymore. The movies simply aren't of the same quality or significance. Read them and weep.

1984: Amadeus, A Passage to India, A Soldier’s Story, Places in the Heart, The Killing Fields.

1985: Out of Africa, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Prizzi’s Honor, The Color Purple, Witness.

1986: Platoon, A Room with a View, Children of a Lesser God, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Mission.

1987: The Last Emperor, Broadcast News, Fatal Attraction, Hope and Glory, Moonstruck.

Carson said...

From what little I watched, I thought the Tina Fey line about "the next thing you know my microwave will be making films" was my favorite moment. There are going to have to be some rules about Netflix. The films on Netflix are irrevocably "Made for TV /Device movies." And the last time I checked, "Made for TV Movies" are not eligible for Oscars.

Mike said...

I bet one of the jokes was about Billy Porter's dress. You might have held it back because he is gay.

lyle e davis said...

Just read your review, Ken - and agree with it.

I read it rather than listened to it on our podcast for several reasons:
a. I'm old (80 years)
b. Even at my advanced age I still publish a weekly newspaper so time is my most valuable asset.
c. Reading our podcast(s), no matter how well done, takes longer than reading the text version.
d. As much as I love you and your body of work (you're a must on my morning computer read) I just don't have the time to invest in reading a podcast.
e. Don't feel bad; I don't read any other podcasts either, basically the same reason.
f. I'm an early morning riser so am concerned about the volume of the podcast waking others in the household. And, no, I don't think I need to buy ear buds to overcome that obstacle.

You do great work and I admire you. I have no idea how much my comments might reflect others who have not subscribed to your podcast - but I suspect a few are in the same boat.

Keep up the wonderful work. You're one of my morning treats!

All the best.


Jeff Maxwell said...

Before Instasnap, Facechat, Youtootube, Huluflix, etc., audiences had only the Academy Awards to watch their movie idols be their glamorous selves.

It’s 2019. Why should I watch a dull TV show when a quick Google of any star’s name will instantly produce everything from porn tapes to video of them whipping up their favorite recipe for spicy corn pudding? And all on my phone!

I’m an Oscar junkie. It’s in my DNA. But the constant, often very intimate exposure to our stars has, for me, diminished their mystery, excitement and appeal.

I’ll watch Oscar’s antics next year and, if you’re up for it, read Ken’s wonderful snarky review. I can’t help my self.

Anonymous said...

Ken - I think the real point is where you note that it is hard to decide what a movie is. A movie used to be a cultural event that started and stayed in a theatre for a good long time. It has become hard to determine what television is (YouTube? Hulu? Netflix?) but movies had escaped that for a few years longer. Not anymore. Now, if one misses a movie in a theatre, it's on iTunes / Netflix / PPV before one blinks. And then it rolls out on more platforms.

As a business, we are turning filmed content (both TV and movies) into radio. It is so common, it is available anywhere and everywhere... there is nothing special. And specific audiences can watch what they want, whenever they want. That's not a bad thing necessarily, but it makes content less special and it is likely to mean less profits and lower pay for the creators whenever the inevitable shakeout happens.

blinky said...

Maybe next year Apple will sponsor the Oscars and Siri can host from an Apple Watch.
"Hey Siri who won best picture?"
" Sorry I can't find Bass Fissure. Here are some things I found on the web for Bass Fissure."

Unknown said...

I love you Ken, but the one thing almost as boring as the PC police is people complaining about the PC police. After all these years in the business, I would have thought you to be inured to opinions. And you know what they say about opinions and a-holes? If you get too fixated on them they just lead to dark places (and you should probably see a psychiatrist or a proctologist.)

As for the Oscars, I hope you do continue. Yes, it’s going into a death spiral, but documenting the death of an institution has value in itself.

Stuart Best said...

I really enjoyed reading your Oscars review this year. I had no inclination to watch the show, so reading your review provided the entertainment that the show didn't, and helped me not regret my decision while making me smile. So, hope you do it again next year.

The only point I'll disagree with you on is movies made for Netflix. Not only disagree with you, but say that if the Oscars are going to become relevant again, they have to embrace this. In the last several years, I watched most Oscar nominees on DVD. It gets to a point where it doesn't matter if it's in a theater very long -- this is how most people have been watching movies for the last several years, including myself.

Everyone has a big, wide flat-screen TV in their living rooms now. It's not as though we're watching these streaming services on those old square low-res tube-boxes. We can appreciate cinematography, musical scores, and the works in the comfort of home. The shared experiences of the theater has become a myth now -- every time I've gone to the theater in the last few years, there's talking, texting, light from phones, young people acting up, old people chatting. Given the quality of the media today, the "size" of the screen from your couch is about the same as from the back of the theater.

The Oscars risk slipping further into irrelevance if they continue the arrogance of shutting out Netflix. They will be disenfranchising mainstream audiences who either find it more pleasant to watch a quality movie at home, or who don't live in places where Oscar-bait movies play in the cineplexes. As for the Emmys, I hope they also come around to distinguishing feature films from "TV movies" so that the two forms don't get mixed up.

Frank Beans said...

I really don't enjoy saying this, because it sounds like salting wounds. That isn't my purpose, but we have to just face reality.

A lot of American institutions are simply over. I lament it too, but I can't justify merely to keep griping, because there is really no point in trying to turn back. I sincerely hope there is a way for a cultural consensus to emerge that will move ahead into something better that can evolve into new standards and shared experiences. But certain things have far outlived their significance:

1) Yes, The Oscars, and the Hollywood film industry in general as we have known it. It is dominated by comic-book CGI lowest-common-denominator fare, and very few people of taste want anything to do with it anymore

2) Top 40 radio and the popular music industry. This a particularly painful one for me, because I grew up with it in such a deep and profound way. However, it's been long over and irrelevant to anyone with any taste. You have to seek out good music in other ways. I would direct people to certain YouTube channels and online independent radio, and just to find it in yourself what good music really is

3) Do I even need to say this?--The Republican party, the senate, and the electoral college. Honestly, we are dying every day that greedy fascists get to dominate and negate the will of the majority of people. I admit I don't know what the solution to this might be, but we have to acknowledge that we are going to be hitting our heads against the same brick wall until democracy is fundamentally fixed

4) Social media as we know it today, namely Facebook and Twitter, and "apps" that have turned us into brainwashed gossip junkies. It doesn't help anyone ultimately, it's an abortion of what the information superhighway and free sharing of media was supposed to be, and we are literally seeing it destroy our ability to communicate, because we are flooded with inane garbage, and even our (I hate to even say this word) president is a fool who issues edicts by Tweets. We need to get a grip.

Sorry for the length of this, but I need to let it out. I hope that at least someone reads it.

Astroboy said...

There's still the Tonys. Best awards show on TV every year. And Broadway has a real community spirit. EVERYONE shows up for the awards. Great multi-talented hosts with usually a fantastic opening number. Wonderful musical numbers. The best acceptance speeches. My favorite two hours of TV every year. (Yes, only two hours! Now here's an awards show I wish ran long every year). I don't even care that I never see any of the plays or musicals nominated.

Mike Bloodworth said...

One factor you didn't mention is that the Academy Awards© impact and significance has been diluted by all of the other award shows that have sprung up over the years. By the time the Oscars© are handed out the ceremony is anticlimactic. When they were the only game in town you'd watch even if you didn't see a nominated picture.

Yes. Super hero movies dominate the box office, but that has as much to do with modern technology as it does the target audience. That is, we now have giant 4K TV's in our homes. (Not me. I'm still watching 1080 and an analog TV) So, there's really no point in going to a theater to watch a "talker" or other slow paced, close quarters type of film. In order to draw people to a theater you have to give them an experience that they can't get at home. Sadly, that's movies like "Star Wars" or the Marvel films, etc. This isn't new however. Movies have been trying to out do television since the latter was invented.

Speaking of "Star Wars," I think ABC does have an indirect interest in motion pictures. Since DISNEY owns ABC, Pixar, MARVEL, et al, you would think that the parent company would want a certain synergy between all its divisions.

In the Oscars'© heyday popular movies did get nominated. "Rocky" is a good example. But, a lot of the movies...uh, excuse me, FILMS were the pretentious, self indulgent, ego projects that no one except critics and movie snobs went to see.

With any luck, next year I should have a computer and/or Wi-Fi so, I'll be able to listen to the podcast. Unless I have to pay for it, of course.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Actually, though, Ken, you raise a point that concerns me: if, you say, the Academy Awards are discontinued, Hollywood won't bother making "prestige" pictures any more - its output will be entirely superheroes, comic books, and other stuff for teenaged boys. What happens then to movies for grown-ups? Call it a Friday question.


Mike Barer said...

Miss America kind of went by the wayside, also. A column about institutions that are gone would be great!

Terrence Moss said...

They lost credibility when Glenn Close lost.

Jeff Boice said...

The problem is both me and the industry. I'm getting old- in the past the nominees were people like Gene Hackman, George C. Scott, Joanne Woodward. In 1970 the top four grossing movies were all nominated for Oscars (M*A*S*H, Patton, Airport, Love Story- OK nominating Airport seems weird in retrospect). We lived in the sticks, but we could go in an see all the nominated pictures (sometimes at the drive-in!) and then we could argue over which one we thought was best. Harder to do that today.

Used to be that the only time you saw a top movie star on television was either when their movies aired on TV or they appeared on Carson. You can see this year's Best Actor starring on a USA Network show and this years Best Actress starring on a Netflix show. The glamour of the industry has faded.

The media is changing with Netflix and all the other streaming services taking over. Movies aren't the same anymore, but then like the old line goes, what the hell is?

Dave Logan said...

The Oscars are no longer must-see entertainment for several reasons.

1. Too self-indulgent. No one at home wants to see or hear winners prattle on with thank yous, prepared or free associated, for anonymous people who have no relevance to the audience. We want to hear you talk about the movie making experience and what it meant to you. Basically, that’s it. Save the gushing for those people at the post parties.

2. Everyone on stage to accept the award. Please, designate one representative and have them speak for the ensemble. Waiting for your posse to amble up to the stage and then having multiple people try to thank everyone they know is a sure fire tune out.

3. They’re missing mega-star power. Ironic, right? That used to be the essence of the Academy Awards. Where are the big stars, young and old, on what’s supposed to be the industry’s biggest night? MIA.

4. Lack of clips. For an industry based in film, there’s a ridiculous scaricity of actual movie clips. Younger viewers in particular would welcome more presentation of snippets from the nominees and the films themselves. It’s the world they live in.

5. The goddamn red carpet. It’s turned into an hours-long suck-up Infomercial for designers. There’s as much, if not more, time spent quizzing actors on who they’re wearing than talking about their actual acting. Again, who cares? The only good part of the red carpet was Joan Rivers and her “Fashion Police” post mortem. Unfortunately, that’s not coming back.

6. The host. When done right, they add both creativity and continuity to the broadcast. Snark is NOT needed. Ditto for political preaching. Humor and savoir-faire are the essential elements to great hosting. To that end, the Academy should beg Steve Martin to be their permanent host for the next decade.

The Academy could turn their decline around in short order. Unfortunately, they seem rooted in their own royalty and care only for themselves and their peers. If that’s their choice, fine. Broadcast media should skip the live show and present an edited 90 minute special the next evening.

Andy K said...

I didn't bother to watch. I've completely lost interest because it doesn't matter anymore. It is dull and boring. I miss Johnny Carson and Bob Hope hosting. Or David Letterman.

Anonymous said...

Why please people? You're in it to play to the crowd, but only to a degree. There needs to be a line. If you have three great jokes that you aren't sharing even though 93% of your readers would find funny and 7% would pitch a hissy fit over is that a decision you want to continue to make?

Is that right? Is that according to your principles? Or are you selling yourself out? Are you selling comedy out? Just some questions I would hope to ask myself if I had the same talent at humor that you have.

PS Perhaps you wouldn't be as upset if you made different decisions along these same lines.


Brian said...

No mention of Mel Gibson's joke by Trevor Noah in your podcast?

You missed that moment?

Brian said...

Trevor Noah took a swipe at Mel Gibson and also white people. You didn't know Ken, neither did I.

Here's the joke

Now that's a politically correct joke. Taking shots at white folks and then that becomes viral after 2 days.

Jake Mabe said...

Ken: I don't know if you want this as a Friday question or not, but: As I write this, today is the 36th anniversary of the last "M*A*S*H." I just wondered what your thoughts/musings are on it. Some love it; some hate it. (I love it.) I can't help but shake my head at how much the national zeitgeist has changed after all these years, and not for the better. Robert Altman said the show was the antithesis of his picture. If so, I' take the series.

Peter said...

In the opening of the 1993 Oscars, Billy Crystal did his song about the five nominated films for best picture. One of the films was The Crying Game and Billy sang some funny lyrics pertaining to the twist that - SPOILER ALERT - the woman in the story was actually a man in drag.

If he did that today, Twitter would have gone into meltdown, multiple opinion pieces would have been written condemning him, and he'd have had to issue a long statement apologizing and vowing to be a better human being and ally.

The current state of affairs can be summed up as follows.

The World War II generation, what did you do? We fought the Nazis.

The 60s generation, what did you do? We protested the Vietnam war and fought for civil rights.

The 80s generation, what did you do? We raised awareness about AIDS in the face of silence from the Reagan administration.

The millennial generation, what did you do? We killed comedy.

BobinVT said...

I forgot to mention that I did listen to your podcast. It was my first one, for many of the reasons listed by commenter Lyle Davis I don’t normally do podcasts. But this one was only twenty minutes and entertaining as you usually are. Plus your reviews are always favorites for me. Am I suppose to subscribe for you to get credit, or do they somehow already know I listened to it?

MikeN said...

Sam Elliott was nominated because people confused his name with William Hurt.

I have a solution for the Oscars ratings.
1) ABC renews contract, with Disney taking over production.
2) Get Conan O'Brien to host.
3) He did a skit of :60, like 24 where each episode was one second. Hold on to that.
4) Conan talks about Ken's complaint of why Oscars are not doing well, needing to cater to teen boys.
5) 'As an attempt to solve this ratings problem, we are implementing the following changes'. Jokes follow.
6) One of the items is 'At random times we will show clips from Avengers:Endgame a few seconds at a time.'
7) Show clips of upcoming Marvel/Star Wars, with preannouncement that new trailer will appear.

Anonymous said...

The Oscars are on life support. Why?
Many reasons.
When plot and character development are no longer as important special effects.
When having diversity is more important than having talent.
When melody has lost its importance to songs.
When virtue signaling is important in movies and more important at the Oscars.
When Hollywood's history is pretty much tossed in the corner.
When the movie audience becomes so Balkanized, there is no such thing as a picture for everyone.
When there are other venues for watching a movie to the point that movies are now made for those venues.
When television dictates the terms of the show.
When there is no percentage to being a host of the Oscars.
There are probably about ten more reasons some of which have do with the audience and some of which have to od with the product, but you can be pretty sure when an industry insider like Ken Levine is writing a near obituary, it's time to call the family and give them the bad news.

Phil said...

You might like this

Anonymous said...

I agree that Sam Elliott can be a damn fine actor when he wants to be - but for the most part, he seems content to be this generation's Arthur Hunnicutt.

Bob said...

1) I am not familiar with the term tent-pole movie. Does this have something to do with masturbation?

2) Death of Institutions. This is what happens when we get old. Can't be stopped. What's the alternative, bring back the Spanish Inquisition?

Andrew said...

"The 80s generation, what did you do? We raised awareness about AIDS in the face of silence from the Reagan administration."

Are you familiar with C. Everett Koop?

Probably a better approach would be, "The 80s generation, what did you do? We brought the Cold War to a non-violent conclusion, and watched the Berlin Wall come falling down. (Thank you Ronald Reagan.)"

giantsizegeek said...

I stopped watching the Oscars years ago. But, since I started listening to your podcast and knew you would have a snarky commentary (I love a good snark), my wife and I watched the full Oscars. Of course, using a DVR to skip around boring parts like the tennis player. It was worth it to hear you go off on things. I agree, where were the stars? Awkwafina?

Max Clarke said...

I look forward to your skipping it next year. When nobody in Hollywood will host the show, the balloon has popped.

When I was a kid and we had a black-and-white television, watching the Oscars was an event. It was like watching Hollywood royalty coronate more members of their royal family. And then I turned eleven.

Did not watch the Oscars this year.

By the way, your podcast interview with magician Bruce Kalver was fun. Thirteen hours of card tricks. Most impressive.

Coram_Loci said...

Why be so sure that Cary Grant and Bette Davis could draw today like they did then?

People have more options. How many people watched the Oscar's simply because it was the best thing on, or to do, rather than because they loved, loved, loved it?

We can bemoan people's bad tastes, or assume some generation gap. But maybe it’s as simple as more choice gives people more power. Rather then being herded into a shared cultural event, they exercise their power by siloing themselves.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I've confused William Hurt with John Hurt, and John Heard, and even Mississippi John Hurt, but never with Sam Elliott. Is he the narrator in THE BIG LEBOWSKI?

I'm surprised you want to discontinue your Oscar review/snark, since awards shows have been invitations to snark at least since the Middle Ages. Remember the incredulous presenter reading out the name "Sonny TUFTS?" I wish there was video of that, as well as Billy Wilder tripping Leo McCarey, and Jack Warner shoving past Hal Wallis to grab the award for CASABLANCA. That's the stuff that keeps us die-hards tuning in, not whether IRON MAN 6 wins Best Editing. Where were the "comedy" sketches we were promised this year, which would certainly have fallen flatter than the Netherlands? I loved the LALA LAND/MOONLIGHT foul-up. Admit it, Ken, you did, too. I can hear that it's hard work telling all these cookie-cutter actors apart and remembering whose speech was the most bathetic, but please please reconsider. Oscar needs you.

Peter said...

This year's Oscars will shortly be forgotten, because in the coming days the public's attention will rightly turn to the horrifying revelations in Leaving Neverland that will expose to the world that Michael Jackson was a serial child molester. After this weekend, no club on the face of the planet will play his music ever again and it won't be long before it disappears from radio stations too.

Ed Pepper said...

Seems like Putin is doing a great job of knocking the US out of world leadership with non-violent methods, while our leader just made a fool of himself with North Korea and his followers are baying for their own Berlin Wall. (Thanks for nothing, Donald Trump).

Andy Rose said...

@Dhruv: Maybe that Family Guy cutaway about the Oscars doesn't quite translate all over the world, but I assure you, that was the opposite of an apology.

BobinVT said...

There have been many good reasons listed for the fading away of Oscar. Here are a few more:
Stupid looking gowns that are just trying too hard to get attention for their talent deprived wearers.
Trying to get attention by showing skin, nipples, etc. In a nation drowning in internet porn, no one is even slightly shocked.
Idiotic shows like Entertainment Tonight that fawn over these dopes.
Giving $100,000 gift bags to presenters and “reporters” who breathlessly list the contents. Looking at you ET.
OK, I’ve officially entered “get off my lawn” territory, but damn this feels good.

Mike Doran said...

In re "Sonny TUFTS?!!":

There's no video, because it was a radio show - not an award show.

Joseph Cotten was the guest star of the week on a radio drama (Suspense, I think - correction welcomed if needed).
One of his duties was to promote the following week's episode and its star.
While Cotten was recording his show, there was a last minute change: the star Cotten was to announce was replaced by Sonny Tufts, while the existing intro (which Cotten had read at rehearsal) was otherwise left as it was.

Came the episode's end, and Cotten was handed the new copy to read cold.
The intro was loaded with praiseful words that Cotten had read with the other name at rehearsal -
- and then he saw the change:
" … one of Hollywood's favorite stars … Sonny TUFTS?!!!"

Full disclosure: I've never heard an actual recording of this (my "quote" is approximate).
It is a fact that both Joseph Cotten and Sonny Tufts told this story on themselves for years afterward.

Charles Bryan said...

Ken, I enjoyed listening to the podcast and had some good big laughs, but I understand your POV completely. When the fun is gone, it's gone. I rarely see the movies nominated for awards, or most other movies for that matter, so I have no rooting interest in the show any longer. I just watch it, like the Daytona 500, in case there's a fiery crash.

Scott Mumford said...

Ken, thank you for articulating something that's been nagging at me for the last few years.

For decades the Oscars were the more important and exciting "religious" holiday of the year for my family. Both parents worked in The Biz--and were avid film lovers. (Dad eventually became a voting member of the Academy.

It was so exciting to gather 'round the tube and root for your favorite films and actors.

This year was the first Oscar telecast I purposely skipped.

For me, it's the films that just aren't that special anymore. Most of the movies with "universal acclaim!" these days are boring, or at best unremarkable.

I don't go to the theater anymore (those prices for those movies??)--except for "anniversary" screenings of films that I loved from decades past. Seeing them again on the "big screen" thrills me in ways that NONE of the films of the last decade have.

Unless the films get better, I have zero reason to watch the Oscars in the future.

What a sad state of affairs...

Marty Fufkin said...

Frank Beans: As to your point #3, America might one day soon want to look at a parliamentary system with proportional representation, a system in which many parties are represented and the Prime Minister (aka your president) can easily be removed by the government when things head south.

Phil In Phoenix said...

As far as "The Unholy Three" jokes you held back:

One had to do with Spike Lee's outfit. It might have contained the name "Steve Urkel".

Another had to do with "menstrual equality". Perhaps next year's Oscar attendees wearing red cotton ribbons with a string hanging from them.

I wasn't paying close enough attention to figure out the third.

And I'm sure within the next 5 years, a Netflix film will win Best Picture. But that's OK. Because by then, Netflix will be the exclusive viewing home of The Academy Awards.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

I did read your comments, Frank Beans, and agree with every word. Ditto Mr. Levine's remarks, although I hope he'll continue his entertaining and thoughtful Oscar reviews.

Ed said...

I think you are right about the Oscars losing relevance. But I always enjoy your snarky behind-the-scenes commentary, so I hope you will change your mind. Until I listened to your podcast I didn't realize that so many "big stars" weren't there, like Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, etc. My friends and I watched the Oscars and kept remarking, "Wow, it's not as boring this year!" It's sad, but that's the best we could say.

Matt said...

I understand what you are saying.

But the upside is TV is better than it has ever been.

The stories that movies no longer tell are still being told, but often better.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

First...I really liked Ant Man 2. One of the better Superhero movies.

There is another reason why people aren't watching the Oscars. People just don't like the celebrities themselves.
For years the people at these award ceremonies have been talking down to the public as if they are all saints. Preaching to us about women, minorities, the environment etc., when in reality the people in Hollywood are more likely to be treating women poorly, minorities for granted, and flying around in their private jets to go to a climate change summit it Zurich.
We know they don't tend to be good people.

We dislike celebrities.
We dislike their weekly award ceremonies for themselves.

They want to give awards and preach to each other. Great.
Just don't expect us to show up.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Marty Fufkin: The US has a different meaning for "proportional representation" (it means number of representatives in the House of Congress being evenly distributed by population), so your first step there is to rename the voting kind of proportional representation. Then you might get that through.

To switch to a parliamentary system in which the PM can be removed, however, first you have to rewrite the Constitution. It would take a series of amendments, I think, each of which would have to pass the Congress and Senate with a 2/3 majority - and then each would have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states. I doubt it's possible. Most Americans - this one included - have been brought up to believe that the balance of powers offered by executive, judicial, and legislative branches is an important safeguard.

I think PR is a genuine possibility, but eliminating the independence of the presidency is not. Not sure which parliamentary country you're from, but I live in the UK, where right now the parliamentary system is not making a good case for itself.


Jeff said...

Movies have become irrelevant to me, for the most part. My wife and I enjoy long-form TV more, with its in-depth stories. For an evening out, nothing beats local theater. Two hours plus of live theater provides real bang-for-your-buck evening out entertainment whereas movies play just as well on the living room big-screen. We're lucky to see a new production every six weeks or so.

Frederic Alden said...

Like another comment said, I enjoy what you do because of how you do it, not so much the topic. I gave up on baseball when people started moving around every year(who is Randy Johnson playing for this year?, etc.) When the teams lost their identities, they lost me. Same with TV, I lost interest when the commercials got so long that I couldn't remember what show I was watching. And when the movies started being nothing but comic books, that about did it for me. I have been to exactly one movie theater in the last twenty years to see a real stinker that I can't remember the exact title of, but it was a heavy CGI tale about somebody in the 1930's who was Captain Somebody against the giant robots and flying aerodromes in a story that made absolutely no sense.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Mike Doran, thanks for clearing that up. I could hardly believe they gave an Oscar to Sonny Tufts. And then I'd think, "Well, George Kennedy..."

KB said...

Instagram & Twitter have played a major role, I think, in the decline in interest in the Oscars and most award shows. Once upon a time tuning into The Academy Awards or The Grammy Awards was special because we'd see these stars all gather in special outfits, and hear them talk about things we don't usually get to hear. And now everybody knows everything about every celebrity all the time. We've seen them all wear fancy clothes in their 10,000 pics on Instagram. We know their opinions because of their drunken tweets. There is nothing special about seeing them at Awards shows.

Couple this with the fact that most awards shows are insufferably long and the presenter banter is cringe worthy, why watch? Whatever I wanted to see will be on YouTube hours later anyway.

thirteen said...

Fifty years ago, there were few things on TV more important than the Miss America Pageant. And now look.

All things must pass. I don't think there's anything to be done about the Oscars any more than there's anything to be done about Miss America.

Anu said...

I have been a diurnal reader of your blog since 2008. You are the best blogger on the internet. You are witty and sage. If I met you I would probably faint because you have had a profound impact on my world view and my taste in art.

However, your Oscar podcast took me over 20 minutes to listen to. Your Oscar blog post took me 5-7 minutes to read. I found the text much funnier--I'm not that into stand up comedy. I feel like your Oscar podcast is an opening monologue for a late night talk show.

I prefer you blog over your podcast simply because I can read much faster than I can listen to your delivery. Generally, podcasts are not conducive for consumption at work. I've tried listening to Joe Rogan and Bill Burr's podcasts but I find I can't multi-task and don't have the time to invest. Is there a reason, you are hawking your podcasts so much?

This year everyone at work was talking about the Oscars, particularly Lady Gaga. Please keep up the writing

Mike Doran said...

Ken, old friend:

You and I were both born in 1950 (you have several months on me).
What's happened to both of us is that we've aged out of the System.
Thing is, neither of us knew that there was a System - or that we were on the clock.

The last thing I want to do is rehash my standard speech on the Evils Of Demographics, which is at the root of just about all the troubles in this country (and not just in the entertainment business).
Suffice to say that the idea that movies and their awards can somehow be custom-tailored to a preferred section of the populace is what it has always been:
"I say it's spinach and I say to hell with it!"

And by the way:
George Kennedy deserved his Oscar.
So There Too.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Love it.

Lauren said...

Many comments on this Oscars show topic: I skimmed through so I hope I'm not repeating.
Years ago when I worked for an ABC affiliate The Oscars were called 'The Academy Awards' and they had no competition. Also because theaters did not want people to watch it on a theater going night the show was always on a Monday and it was still a big deal.
Then it was set in late March or sometimes early April.
ABC wanted the show during the sweeps so they made the change. I think they need to put it back on Monday and move it out of the sweeps. Perhaps they would stop tinkering as much. The Academy should have more say (I know I'm dreaming), and if the contract is up find another channel. I could be done in a whole new way.

Justin Russo said...

God, I miss the days when Jennifer Jones beat Ingrid Bergman.