By James R. Janowsky
There has been a considerable amount of controversy on social media regarding the Academy’s approach to its Oscars® award show. Through the rancor, no one, in my estimation, has supplied a viable option. So I thought it would be fun to come up with my own solution. But please keep in mind that my plan is not definitive, but rather an attempt to move the conversation beyond the number of hosts or any other cosmetic that retains the show’s basic structure, and hopefully instead expands ideas that are bold, creative, and inventive. My first idea is that I don’t want an Oscar show, but rather an Oscar season. What does that mean? It means I don’t want one show, but four shows, and each would have its own unique tone and feel, and reflect the Oscars® being awarded that particular night. It also means that I want those shows to take place over a four or five week period mainly in January. Not February. Not March. January. The first event (I like to think of this as the Oscars® equivalent to the Olympics opening ceremony) would take place on New Year’s Eve. It wouldn’t be an awards show per se, but a concert celebrating the great music from movies that were released that year. There would also be moments where the show would highlight Oscar winning songs or songs from past awarded films. I would also want the show to take place outside at a place like the Hollywood Bowl. The objective is to have fun, to dance, to celebrate … and, oh by the way, two Oscars® would be awarded at the end of the night. In mid-December the Academy would announce the nominees for best song and score. During the concert, after the ball drops in Times Square, Oscars® would be awarded for best song and score. Afterwards, to lead into the next event, the nominees for the year’s best short films and best supporting actor and actress would be announced. The following event would take place a week to 10 days later in a city outside of Hollywood. I want the Oscars® to go on a tour! Each year the second event would be in a different city: Austin, Texas, one year, another in Miami, then Nashville, Cleveland, and so on. Leading up to the event, the Academy would set up an extensive film exhibit in the designated city from its newly established museum for people to visit--think of it akin to Baseball’s All-Star Fanfest. The best supporting actors and actresses nominated at the concert would be the hosts and presenters at the show. After each winning short film is announced, the short would then air at the event and on the live-aired television show. I realize that there might be a rights issue, but this should be addressed at the submission level with the understanding that if your short film wins, your film will be screened. That said, the filmmakers would not only receive an Oscar, but money for broadcasting the short film (if the film was already sold, then the distributors would get the money). I would also want to include one or perhaps two of the year’s Student Academy awarded films to screen. At the end of the night the nominees would be announced for all the below-the-line categories along with the best actor and actress categories. The next event would be a formal dinner and it would take place in Hollywood. I would even consider rolling the Academy’s Governors Ball into the awards dinner. The hosts and presenters would be the nominated lead actors and actresses previously announced. All the below-the-line category winners would be announced during the dinner along with the presentation of honorary awardees. At the end of the evening the remaining Oscar nominees would be announced for the final event. The closing ceremony would be very similar to the current Oscars® format. However, I would eliminate the Best Picture category and replace it with the following: Best Drama, Best Comedy, Best Action/Adventure, Best Sci-fi, and Best Horror. I realize this is controversial, but the Academy already differentiates feature length films with the categories animation, documentary, and international film. I’m just taking it a step further by including more populist films that I think are just as well crafted and entertaining as the long-standing tradition of nominating what is considered an “Oscar film.” Take for example Jordan Peele’s 2017 film GET OUT. Yes, it was nominated for Best Picture that year, but it never stood a chance to take home the top prize because horror doesn’t win Oscars® for Best Picture. Another example, EX MACHINA, perhaps one of the best sci-fi films of this century, received nominations for original screenplay and visual effects. With the new categories EX MACHINA would have been battling it out against Ridley Scott’s THE MARTIAN for the Best Sci-Fi Picture of 2014, and GET OUT would be 2017’s Best Horror Film. Each of the new categories would have a minimum of three nominees and a maximum of five. Oscars® for each winner in the best film categories would be given to not only to the producers, but the director, main cast, and the head of each of the film’s departments (camera, sound, editing, etc.). After all, creating films is a collaborative art, and each department should be honored for creating a year’s best film. Here are the closing ceremony Oscar categories: Best Action/Adventure Film Best Animation Film Best Comedy Film Best Documentary Film Best Drama Film Best Horror Film Best International Film Best Sci-Fi Film Best Director Best Cinematography Best Adapted Screenplay Best Original Screenplay Best Lead Actor Best Lead Actress Best Supporting Actor Best Supporting Actress The week leading up to the closing ceremony, the public would vote online for their favorite film from the list of all of the best film nominees (similar to the way baseball fans vote for the starting lineup for the All-Star game). The film receiving the most votes from the fan balloting would be announced during the ceremony. That’s it. That’s my plan. I certainly hope it stirs the Academy’s creative juices to be more inventive with its Oscars®. If not, then there is always my plan B—the two top vote-getters in each category would wrestle free-style (none of that Greco-Roman stuff) for the Oscar. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see Steven Spielberg and Jane Campion wearing singlets and grappling center stage for the Best Director Oscar? P.S. My money’s on Campion.
James R. Janowsky has taught film business and screenwriting at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and screenwriting online for Comics Experience. He has been a screenwriting judge for the past four years for NYU’s Purple List and was a Region 3 Student Academy Award judge for two years. For seven years he was the Creative Director and Student Grant Committee Chair for the NBRMP. He has been hired by major studios to moderate Q&A’s with Hollywood talent and has moderated over 200 Q&A’s since 2005. He is hired yearly to teach moderating to SVA students for their After School Special Film Festival.