This past week, when Christopher Nolan’s smash hit, The Dark Knight, was snubbed for a Best Picture nominations, the first thing that happened was the chatter on the web turned to the continually sagging ratings for ABC and their Oscar telecast, once one of the biggest television events of the year. American Idol is bigger. The Superbowl is bigger, but the Oscars still have the potential to be must-see TV, provided the films presented there hold even a passing interest to the public at large.
The Dark Knight would have been a ratings boon for ABC, and now that it’s out, there is even talk of a boycott. Perhaps that’s taking something as ultimately pointless as the Oscar race too far, but it does shine a light on the question of what the Oscars mean anyway and whether the Motion Picture Academy ought to consider ratings when making their choices.
Here’s the thing. Even if they don’t want to consider ratings, shouldn’t they consider the bigger picture, as in, their refusal to acknowledge this very popular film says that they, as a voting body, don’t consider their bread and butter worth while enough for awards consideration. The Dark Knight earned 8 nominations but failed to earn a Best Picture or Best Director nomination, even though it was one of the most well reviewed films of the year and ended its run with $530 domestic take.
The Academy chose more traditional fare for their awards and now everyone is wondering just how bad it will be on February 22. The telecast is being produced by Laurence Marc and executive produced by Bill Condon. The host will be Hugh Jackman. The producers are doing something unique this year by withholding the names of the presenters to help build anticipation.
This is a risk, as one of the reasons for announcing the presenters in advance is so that people will want to watch to see their favorite stars in those fancy threads. Maybe they’re hoping for online guessing games. It is a gamble that could pay off if the stars who do show are big surprises.
The Oscar show itself is always a source of criticism. It’s too long, some people say, the speeches are boring, the jokes are unfunny and there are way too many obscure stars no one knows. On the other hand, for what it is, there is simply nothing that comes close to the suspense and the, how shall we say, glamour or glitz of movie stars in their finery.
Winning an Oscar itself is one of those things everyone wishes they could do once in their lives, and yet so few do. That is probably, more than anything, why people watch. It’s American Idol without the annoying judges. Perhaps all anyone in America wants is a their place in the sun after all.
It is a shame that the Academy opted out of honoring a film that was so popular with the movie going public, you know, the ones who actually shell out money for their films? Critics don’t have to, bloggers don’t have to – the public? They pay the full price. Maybe the Academy would prefer they stayed home and waited to Netflix the films. If you ask them they’ll shrug and say they just didn’t like that one over this one. But to do that, to rely on one’s own fleeting affection is to miss the bigger picture. Still, no one has ever been able to tell the Academy voters what to do. They vote with their hearts and the heart wants what it wants.
The 81st Academy Awards air on February 22 on ABC.