From nominating its first indigenous Mexican actress to putting a blockbuster celebrating black culture in the running for best picture, 2019 could have been the Academy’s year to write a progressive script in the current era of film in this year’s Oscars.
Instead, it took the attention away from this year’s achievements and films and put all the attention — albeit negative — on itself.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ troubles began when it announced that it would be adding a Best Popular Film category to its show. This was an obvious attempt to reach a bigger audience after the 2018 Oscars had the lowest viewership in the show’s history. It had to pull the category due to fallout from all corners of the entertainment industry, with some critics inferring that blockbusters not deemed ‘good enough’ by the Academy would end up there. They cited "Black Panther," which ultimately nabbed a Best Picture nomination, as an example.
The Academy ended up marginalizing the people that it wanted to attract by sending the offensive message that popular films could never be the best. This, however, was only one of the divisive actions that it attempted to take.
When the Academy announced its plan to present the Film Editing, Hair and Makeup, Live Actions Short and Cinematography awards during commercial breaks, it created an even bigger rift between it and its audience. Apparently, the scheme was in an effort to cut down the show’s time in order to retain viewership. The administration backtracked this decision as well due to further retaliation, making its members look even worse in the eyes of film enthusiasts.
Alfonso Cuarón, the director of "Roma," was one of the first outspoken people in the industry. He called the Academy out on its lack of regard for the effort that goes into all aspects of film. At the 71st annual Writers Guild Awards Cuarón said he was "very happy the Academy changed their decision" and further advocated for each category to be "honored equally." The technical side of film is just as important as the acting. If these essential categories were set aside as unimportant, which categories would be the next to go?
The fact that the Academy cares more about viewership than the people who have dedicated their lives to creating art has cheapened the Oscars. After all of this controversy, it is hard to believe that any of the films will be genuinely recognized for their achievements. If viewership is all the Academy cares about, the producers will undoubtedly try to undermine the accomplishments in film once again. The current administration of the Academy either needs to set its priorities straight or let the next generation of filmmakers take charge.
In the Oscar-nominated film "A Star is Born," Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine croons the words, “Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die.” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences definitely took this sentiment too far — it’s only a matter of a few days until we see the cost of it doing so.