This morning Hollywood Reporter award-season analyst Scott Feinberg offered five suggestions that would make the Oscar awards “even better” — i.e. less infuriating, less old-fogeyish, a little speedier. Here they are along with my yay-nay remarks:
1. Guarantee 10 best picture nominees culled from two separate periods — January 1st to June 30th and July 1st to year’s end. Right now almost all award-contending films are released after Labor Day, in part because the blogaroonies are often reluctant to favor any award-quality films released in the spring or summer (Ex Machina, Love & Mercy, Mad Max: Fury Road). Feinberg says this would “incentivize studios to release quality films throughout the year, since a movie would have just as much of a shot at being remembered for a best pic nom in March as it would in September.” HE comment: Good idea but how many nominees would come from period #1 and how many from period #2? HE correction: The first period should be from January 1st to August 31st, and the second from Labor Day to New Year’s Eve.
2. Tighten the Academy membership rolls by withholding voting priveleges to members who haven’t worked in ten years. This addresses the same old “get rid of the deadwood” problem that has dogged the Academy for decades. HE reaction: Taking away voting priveleges would be seen as disrespectful or even insulting to veterans. Two or three years ago I suggested that all members should be allowed to vote, but that ballots should be weighted based upon work history. If a member has worked within the past decade, he/she gets three points per vote. If he/she hasn’t worked in over a decade but less than 20 years ago, he/she gets two points per vote. If a member is a major-league dinosaur and hasn’t worked in over 20 years, he/she gets one point ver vote.
3. Implement sensible restrictions on second-round voting by (a) removing across-the-board voting by all Academy members on all categories and (b) allowing only informed voting by branch members about their particular speciality. HE comment: Agreed. As Feinberg writes, “What possible argument could there be against limiting members, in the second round, to the same categories they were limited to in the first?”
4. End category fraud by enabling the actors branch of the Academy to determine screen-time rules about what constitutes a lead vs. supporting performance. HE reaction: It seems reasonable to make some kind of attempt to discourage category fraud. Feinberg’s suggestion, which allows for appeals, would probably improve things slightly.
5. Get the shorts off the telecast by downgrading them to a non-televized portion of the broadcast. HE reaction: No — leave them on! Allowing unknowns to claim Oscars for films that 99% of the viewing public will never see allows for much-needed bathroom and kitchen and chit-chat breaks. And besides, what’s wrong with unknowns getting a little network TV time? What’s wrong, really, with a three and 1/2 or four-hour Oscar telecast? They’ve always gone long. So what? Who cares?