Date With Oscar: Ch-ch-anges vs. Rumors

The Academy makes news less for what it does than what it talks about

In this off-season roundup of Oscar news ‘n’ notes from around the web, the Academy makes news less for what it did than what it talked about. 

Last summer, the big news out of the Academy was the expansion of the Best Picture category from five nominees to 10.  This summer, they led with a surprisingly early choice of next year’s Oscar show producers, one of whom is a legend with a remarkable TV career but an almost unprecedented (for Oscar) scarcity of movie credits.

Oscar statuettesBut what got Oscar-watchers all aflutter and a-Twitter was the suggestion that the AMPAS Board of Governors had also talked about one day moving the show from late February into January, an idea that has been batted around in the past but one that always seemed logistically problematic.

(Last year, in an Entertainment Weekly interview to promote “Julie & Julia,” Meryl Streep went to far as to suggest moving the show to Jan. 1 to take the wind out of the sails of every other awards show.  Wanna bet they’d all move to December?)

This time, veteran Oscar watchers immediately reacted to the initial Deadline report, which erroneously suggested that the move was discussed with next year’s Oscar show in mind.  (It wasn’t; that one’s already set for Feb. 27.) 

Anne Thompson quickly explained that the ramifications of the move (eligibility issues, release schedules, etc.) made it “ludicrous to even suggest that they could pull it off for the coming awards season.”  (Thompson on Hollywood)

David Poland immediately said that the move “is not crazy at all,” and then wrote a second piece chiding Thompson (he does love to chide other journalists) for embracing “weak, self-serving” arguments in her article.

The accelerated timeline he suggests would wreak havoc with the Academy’s post-nomination screening series, giving them time to screen each nominee once rather than the two-to-four screenings now provided … but theoretically, I suppose it’s not impossible.  Far from likely, though. (The Hot Blog)

Meanwhile, Tom O’Neil says that the Oscars should move in the other direction, into April.  He thinks that’ll give more time to cast a spotlight on the nominated films, and decrease the influence of the precursor awards because it’ll give Oscar voters more time to reconsider their choices.  Somehow, he throws a comparison to the iPad into the mix as well.  (Gold Derby)

O’Neil has an exhaustive roundup of who thinks what, but here are some assorted opinions:

Dave Karger (Entertainment Weekly) thinks early February “seems like a better option.”

Kris Tapley (In Contention) considers how studios would have to react: “The calendar would have to take on a whole different philosophy.” 

Nathaniel Rogers (Film Experience) weighs the pros and cons, decides that “a January ceremony could potentially make November the month of choice for adult oriented studio releases,” but worries that less time could mean less careful voting. 

Ryan Adams (Awards Daily) scoffs at the whole thing: “This scheme is so unwieldy it’s hard to think of any way to respond except to wince at the absurdity.”

Sasha Stone (Awards Daily): “My own personal feeling about this is that every move the Academy makes smacks of desperation.”

Scott Feinberg has another idea entirely: Oscar playoffs!  He thinks that at the end of June, Academy voters should pick the five best movies of the first half of the year; six months later, they should do the same with the second half.  And then the studios might actually release some good movies before October.  But would that mean two separate “awards seasons,” with the attendant hoopla and campaigning?  Despite the money that flows to screening rooms and trade papers and websites (like this one), I think there’d be a Hollywood-wide revolt before that happened.  (Hollywood News.com)

And the most sensible comment of all probably comes from an unnamed Academy governor who told O’Neil that people are making too much of a fuss about speculation on the part of a group that is always speculating: "We talk about a lot of far-fetched things at our meetings that never materialize. Just because this idea was discussed earlier this week doesn't mean it's going to happen. You should hear some of the crazy things that get said."

Back in the land of real news rather than the what-if news, the newly named Oscar co-producer and director, TV vet Don Mischer, tells the L.A. Times that no, the show won’t be moving to January in 2011, which nobody with any sense ever thought that it would.  He says his first job is to find a host, but he also plans to go back over the past 10 years of shows to see what worked and what didn’t – and he’s also going to examine minute-by-minute ratings figures, to see if it’s true that the viewership goes down when, say, the show goes to a song or a dance number.  To say this guy is a pro would be an understatement – and judging from the email I received from a longtime Oscar crew member when Mischer was announced (it read “GREAT NEWS!”), he’s going to be well received in production circles. (24 Frames)

(Photo courtesy of AMPAS)