Top 5 Ways to Make the Oscars Great Again (Column)

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The Oscars are at rock bottom in the eyes of the public. The good news is, there’s nowhere to go but up.

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There are great films in the running for the top prizes — yet the consensus is that there isn’t much to be excited about, nor are people looking forward to the March event. But with Will Packer producing the show and a wide-open race, the Academy can restore its image.

But it has to start listening. It cannot be overstated how amazing it is to be back in movie theaters, as is evident from guild members flooding the packed FYC events of the phase one period, which has been littered with Q&As, mixers and premieres, such as Warner Bros.’ “King Richard” and Netflix’s “The Power of the Dog,” along with last-minute buzzy entrants like 20th Century Studios’ “West Side Story” and Searchlight Pictures’ “Nightmare Alley.” Last season, awards pundits twisted themselves into a pretzel to change the narrative that “Nomadland” would win best picture. This year seems more fluid.

More consumer-friendly titles with household names like Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”) and Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) could have a significant presence at the show, which will only help Oscar ratings. But these films can’t rely solely on their celebrities.

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So how do you get viewers to watch the telecast? Here are some recommendations:

Adapt or die

For 93 years, it’s been business as usual, but AMPAS has never taken a massive swing for the fences. As the organization took overdue measures to diversify its membership, it ignored a consumer-changing landscape. Instead, it has continued to cater to “old grumpies,” who are not in the majority of the roughly 10,000-person membership. Afraid or unwilling, the Oscars have allowed a desperate establishment to overrule innovative ideas.

That goes for everyone – networks, studios, broadcast, cable and streamers. The times are changing, and the way everyone consumes content has already changed. TikTok is in the game now, which had their first submission for the Emmys this year. Find the way to reach out to your built-in fanbase, but also expand upon it.

Add nontraditional performance categories, leaving the option open for gender submission.

More, not less. The Gotham Awards announced nongendered acting categories this year. Since the industry is not yet equal, we don’t want to set them up for failure. So instead, add a fifth acting category that could be called “best performance by an actor of any gender.” This will welcome those underrepresented actors who don’t fit into the standard gendered norms of society. However, they still can submit in any of the other leading or supporting categories if they choose, but not both. Please take the opportunity to educate your members and the world about the beauty of its people.

Add awards for stunts, motion capture and/or voice work

You want ratings and you want consumers to care about your show. For years, the Academy has tried to find a way to invite the blockbusters into the fray, short of begging their members to check off a Marvel movie. So why not add an award or two for motion capture/voice performances (two areas well worth celebrating), along with stunts. Do you know what the latter prize gives you? A “best popular film” category without ever having to call it that. Now you’ll know that you’ll see Marvel, DCEU and other fanboys fare at your ceremony, and don’t be afraid to make a spectacle of it. Imagine, Imagine Beyoncé singing “Be Alive” from “King Richard” while the martial arts masters of “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” perform a demonstration on stage. Sounds like a visual treat to me.

Take a risk with your host (or hosts)

As broadcast television continues to steady decline, streamer subscriptions are growing by the household. Simulcast on ABC network and the streamers. Start working your way through them all to have fairness, and everyone gets a shot at the goal. This will also naturally feed into a more edgy host selection. We love Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and Bob Hope – the definitive era of Oscar emcees. With a future host, it’s now time to “go big or “go home.” Either lean into going for the biggest stars in Hollywood (i.e., Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or Ryan Reynolds), more profane or risque comedians (i.e., Tom Segura or Sarah Silverman) or tap into the next generation of talents that are big on YouTube or TikTok (i.e., Sarah Cooper who did all the great Donald Trump lipsync impersonations or Elyse Myers who charmingly but hilariously talks about life). Multiple people can also work.

Celebrate the movies, have fun and show clips

Besides never shying away from showing clips, the Academy should take elements of the awards show experiments that have arisen during the pandemic. For example, the Tony Awards had a set of presenters introduce three technical categories in one fell swoop. That would help the quest for a shorter run time. Giving out awards during commercial breaks is not the key to a more engaging show.

Alcohol in the aisles would surely help because tipsy celebrities always make for memorable moments. Does anyone remember Emma Thompson slurring with shoes in hand at the Golden Globes?

The celebration of movies is paramount. Revel in the achievements of the year’s films while not being afraid to look back. During the 2003 ceremony, Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland presented an “Oscar Family Album” segment that brought all the living acting winners of the last 75 years together on the stage. It was incredible and is ripe for repetition.

Or go back 20 years to Denzel Washington and Halle Berry — both contenders this year — winning their lead statuettes, a revered moment.

You love movies. Show us.

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