Oscar policy: inside the long difficult path of the academy towards a show without hostess

Even according to the criteria of the Oscars, it was a rise in power marked by laughable faux pas (Oscar "popular" RIP), blunders of judgment and a scandal (Kevin Hart?!) While The Hollywood Reporter made a plunge scientist in the way things have happened. away from the rails in a season dominated by political issues.

Last October, the Academy of Arts and Film Science contacted a man who, he said, could save the Oscars a notoriety and a growing sense of cultural obsolescence. A recognized box-office actor, followed by giant social media, appealing to all political levels and showy enough to wear a blue velvet tuxedo jacket with a 50-inch chest, Dwayne's "The Rock" Johnson looked like For the discouraging work of hosting the Oscars in 2019.

"We did not campaign for that, but the call was launched and I was on the moon," Johnson said. "Immediately, my brain has started functioning, we are going to do this kind of number and that." We were going to turn the Oscars into something special, unique and different and start a new era in which the Oscars will be appreciated. That was the goal – the audience first. "

Despite Johnson's enthusiasm and apparent aptitude for the task, the Academy's conversations with him stagnated about timing, he said, as the actor was determined to turn two movies, the Fast furious spin off Hobbs and Shaw and one Jumanji then during the planning and rehearsal period of the Oscars. Asking the best paid actor in Hollywood to clear his schedule after a few months' notice was not a winning strategy. The academy also did not open a seemingly promising second host, Kevin Hart, who has become a public debate about the comedian's homophobic tweets.

The Oscars are now ready to unfold without a host at all for the first time in 30 years and only for the second time in 91 years. Even by the standards of clown cars of the Academy's board of directors, consisting of 54 members, who overcame embarrassing scandals such as #OscarsSoWhite and Envelopegate, this rewards season has been horrific because a group Professional storytellers do not seem to be able to get together enough to tell a fascinating story of their biggest night. Going without a host means that the most appealing presentation of the Oscar series may be the opportunity to watch a train wreck that unfolds slowly and lasts for three hours.

The road to hostility began the day after broadcast of last year's broadcast, when ABC learned that it was the worst-rated Oscars of all time , with 26.5 million viewers and a 25% drop in the 18-49 age group. A member of the Academy's board of directors realized that various factors had an impact on the show: "Hollywood produces less than worthy films." desire of the artists to be more political, people go from television to streaming, the country rejecting us. "

For years, ABC and Disney's parent company, which is paying an undisclosed amount to broadcast the Oscars until 2028, have asked the Academy to modify the series, notably by reducing the length of time. performance and ensuring that more viewers actually see the movies. on television broadcasting. The Academy collects more than 80% of its $ 161.9 million annual Oscar revenue, primarily broadcast rights. After the network shared the fact that low ratings could affect the organization's advertising revenue bonuses, ABC found that Academy management was suddenly much more open to new broadcast ideas.

At a long meeting held in August, the Academy's board of directors approved a series of controversial measures, including the Oscar for the "popular film", which was tabled, which would have been linked to the receipts of the counters or to the vote of the spectators. When critics criticized the idea, the council retreated. Nevertheless, he pledged to implement another controversial plan, namely handing over four of the evening's 24 awards during commercial breaks and publishing the winners later. Six months later, barely 10 days before the show, a revolt of prominent members would force the Academy to reconsider this decision.

To launch all its rating initiatives, the Academy has engaged producers with bold ideas and a solid structure. Producer Donna Gigliotti – who is best known for her award-winning films like Reading book of silver liners and Shakespeare in love Glenn Weiss, who directed the Envelopegate Oscars and did what was probably the best artistic choice of the evening, is zooming in on the envelope in question. In November, when the Academy still had no organizer, it was clear that Gigliotti and Weiss had presented a show even more delicate than they expected. One option chosen by the Academy and producers after Johnson's adoption was to invite three separate hosts. "One host per hour and it does not become a burden for talent," says a source close to the conversations of the Academy.

In the end, the producers invited Hart to resume the show in early December, and the Oscars seemed to have found a host whose humor transcends politics. For a few hours anyway. Social media rumors quickly surfaced in Hart's 2009 and 2010 tweets, in which he used homophobic insults and old-fashioned talk about not wanting his son to be gay. While it was a firestorm, the comedian racked his brains by posting an instinctive video on Instagram without a nude shirt in which he said he was "in a beautiful and mature place where everything that I do is spread. "

In a desperate attempt to stop the damage caused by public relations, sources said that Academy director Dawn Hudson had called Hart in Australia, where he was on tour, and begged him for excuse for old tweets. The Academy's request – or his request, as perceived by Hart – did that annoy the comedian, who then tweeted that he was resigning from the post, before presenting the excuses that Hudson had requested.

As the Academy entered the new year, still without a host, one of its former Oscar presenters resurfaced with a ploy to save the day. In January, Ellen DeGeneres had Hart in his talk show during a reserved appearance for the promotion of his film. The rise but used the moment to conduct an interview in which she defended the comedian and pleaded for her return to the Oscars. The interview was misinterpreted on social media, but at the time, at least one member of the Academy's board of directors, LGBTQ, said: THR that she was open to the possibility. "We can all make mistakes," said beginning January the director of the Academy Kimberly Peirce, pointing out that she did not speak for the Academy. "Let's all assume that he has made a mistake in the past.I do not say that he did it, but he did it and think that it's all right." he did it … is there a chance to approach it honestly? it's what culture needs to consider. "

The crop was perhaps ready to observe it, but Hart was not there, and four weeks later, on the occasion of the Oscar nominated luncheon, the Academy s & # 39; He was resigned to a show without a hostess. The producers, meanwhile, were playing almost every week with a new controversy over other attempts to shorten the series, such as a plan to play only the name of the best-known nominated song, as the leader Lady Gaga could kibosh threatening to walk. Producers' efforts to prevent actors from also running the SAG Awards were also unfortunate when SAG-AFTRA issued a statement describing the Academy's "ruthless pressure tactics".

All this noise has created an atmosphere of everything that could happen around this year's show, which ABC is trying to turn into a virtue. "Ironically, I found that lack of clarity around the Oscars had kept them in the conversation," said ABC President, Karey Burke, at the Television Critics Association. "The mystery is really convincing, people are really concerned."


Oscars hosts can get a credit or blame for the ratings of their show, but it's not clear that they have a lot to do with that. Billy Crystal presided over the most watched Oscars in 1998, when 57.25 million people listened to the box office sensation. Titanic win the best picture. It also welcomed the previous year, while 17 million fewer people were watching The English patient won. If it is the nominated films that attract the viewers, 2019 should be a winner of the ranking, with three best nominees – Black Panther, A star is born and Bohemian Rhapsody – having earned more than $ 200 million in the domestic market and a fourth, Roma, available for millions of people on Netflix since December 14th.

As presenter this year, Gigliotti and Weiss will draw on a star-studded list of presenters, including Daniel Craig, Brie Larson, Chadwick Boseman, Samuel L. Jackson, Melissa McCarthy and Jason Momoa. One of the stuntmen that the producers hope to seduce the young audience is to gather several Avengers Marvel on stage, just two months before the release of Avengers: End of the game.

In this sense, Gigliotti and Weiss will deploy a strategy used in 1989, the year when producer Allan Carr opted for hostility by its design. It will be best remembered for its disastrous 11-minute musical debut starring Rob Lowe and Snow White, but less for the story Carr was hoping to build around its presenters, artists who have something in common, like the married couple Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith. , or the three James Bond actors, Michael Caine, Sean Connery and Roger Moore.

"A host slows you down," said Jeff Margolis, who directed the 1989 Oscars broadcast. "You have to give them something to do at the opening and give them at least three seats an hour. so decided to try to make a show in which our presenters would be our hosts. "

Hosts, however, perform key functions, providing them with both promotional strength and stimulation capabilities. "Sometimes you need a policeman," says Margolis. Historically, hosts also served as a proxy for the local audience, reacting to real-time events, such as when Jimmy Kimmel, puzzled, approached the mic after blending the best photo in 2017 and said, "I'm blame myself for this. " Renowned entertainers like Bob Hope (7 pm) and Crystal (9 am) gave a heartening continuity to the show.

But as pop culture becomes more politically conscious – and social media offers a way to break the audience – the Oscar Organizing Concert is more controversial than it was Hope's time. Host Chris Rock had to attack the presidency of #OscarsSoWhite, Kimmel the Trump and #MeToo. Academy-run focus groups indicated that the public had begun to discover that Kimmel's increasingly political character was a turning point, said a source close to the research.

For 2019, the Academy hoped to be free from any contempt for its plan to distribute four awards during commercial breaks by showing representatives of different branches a video demonstration of the proposed format. The strategy failed. On February 11th, when the Academy announced the categories concerned – cinematography, film editing, live short film, make-up and hairstyle – the membership revolted. Filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee signed an open letter calling the decision "an insult to those who have dedicated their lives and their passion to the profession of their choice" and effectively encouraged the council to reconsider their decision. decision. Four days later, the plan was abandoned.

This is the kind of snafu of the awards season at which the Oscars are waiting with a soothing joke in the monologue … if only there was an animator to deliver the typing line.

Chris Gardner contributed to this report.

This story was first published in the Feb. 20 issue of Hollywood Reporter. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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