The Oscars Have a Sloppy, Silly Week

From press-release errors to breaking with tradition for dubious reasons, the Academy has been acting strange lately

Hey, Academy: What's with all the sloppiness and silliness?

I know this is a new era at AMPAS. Online voting is on the way, the old documentary voting process has been overhauled, some new staff is in place and some of the old staff is grumbling — and it can't be long before we hear about streaming movies and moving the Oscar show earlier.

Brett Ratner even got his hands on the show, at least for a few weeks.

Jennifer Lawrence and Tom SherakAnd while many of those moves may well turn out to be for the best, a barrage of little things this week made me wonder about these new directions.

Individually, they're small, maybe even insignificant. Together … I'm not sure why, but they bug me.

I realize that harping about them might cast me in the role of an old Oscar coot yelling, "Hey you kids, get off my lawn!"

But here goes:


At the nominations announcement on Tuesday morning, I took my usual spot in the audience – an inside aisle seat toward the back of the right-hand section of the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. It gives me a good view of the stage while the 10 on-air categories are announced, and also lets me get out of the room quickly to pick up the packet containing the rest of the nominations.

Also read: The Ratner Mess: It's the End of an Oscar Era, But at What Cost?

This year, as soon as Tom Sherak and Jennifer Lawrence took the stage, I couldn't see a thing. The aisle was clogged with people standing there and taking photos.

In 17 years of attending nominations announcements, I had never seen people stand in the aisle without immediately being bounced. It just seemed so un-Academy like. Disorderly, which is something you could never have said about a major Academy event in the past.


When it came time to read the Best Picture nominees, Lawrence did it in random rather than alphabetical order.


A couple of Oscar consultants asked me this question, and all I could come up with was: "Because they want to fuck with us."

Also read: The Oscars Go Digital — Finally — With Online Voting

'One of them burst out laughing. "A studio asked me that question yesterday," he said. "And I told them, 'Because they want to fuck with us.'"

The point is, only a tiny minority of people are obsessed enough about the Oscars to use alphabetical order to figure things out while the announcement is going on.

Sure, some people from Universal would have groaned when "The Descendants" was announced and they realized that "Bridesmaids" had been passed over. And a few "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" partisans would have gotten a sinking feeling when "The Help" was announced.

I hear the Academy thought it would be fun to mix it up. But fun for who? 


When the announcement was over and the Academy mailed out its press release with the entire list of nominees, it contained two bad errors, apparently the result of sloppy cutting and pasting.

Also read: Oscar Nominations Analysis: Contradictory, and Good for 'The Artist'

The title of this year's third-listed Best Documentary Feature nominee, "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," was followed by the filmmakers behind last  year's third-listed Doc Feature nominee, "Inside Job."

In the Best Makeup category, the same thing happened: The work for "Harry Potter" was attributed to the nominees behind last year's second nominee, "The Way Back."

The Academy sent out a corrected list 45 minutes later. They called it "REVISED," but we knew what they meant. Strangely, the packets they'd given out to people at the announcement were correct.

I've spotted a mistake or two in Academy materials in the past, but I've never seen an error in a release so crucial to the organization. And it's not as if they were in a rush: Unlike the rest of us, the Academy knows the winners the night before.


Two days later, the Academy announced the first batch of presenters on the Oscar show: the cast of "Bridesmaids."

This was a rather remarkable break in the tradition that the first presenters to be announced are the winners of the previous year's acting awards. (In this case, that would mean Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo.)

Yes, I know they need a younger audience. They want to make sure we know that this is no longer your grandfather's Oscars, and maybe dispensing with every single tradition is part of that.

But will announcing Ellie Kemper and Wendi McClendon-Covey before Colin Firth and Natalie Portman really give them a ratings bump — or to persuade "Bridesmaids" fans that they should see a show at which their movie is not even in competition for Best Picture?

It's a sign of respect that last year's winners get announced first. And to do away with that small gesture for a pointless marketing gimmick seems dopey.

For better or worse, those nine movies the Academy just nominated for Best Picture are what's really going to determine the ratings of their show, not the order in which the names were read or the presenters are announced. 

These are all little things, and  I may well be making too much of them. But it just seems to me that this week has been sloppier than I expect from the Academy, and sillier as well.

What's going on, AMPAS?