The future of the Oscars for 2023 and beyond

Critics love “TÁR” and Cate Blanchett, Martin McDonagh is an Academy rock star – but to be cool, the Oscars need blockbusters.

It’s tempting to see the bright side of the Oscars’ future. The happily competent CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Bill Kramer, fresh from his early success in founding the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, along with energetic new AMPAS President Janet Yang, continues their month-long campaign to create Academy To involve members far and wide.

Talking to potential Oscar nominees is one thing. Getting the best of Hollywood to appear at the Oscars — let alone host the show — is another. Not to mention winning back a global audience who are staying away from aired awards shows in droves.

While ABC’s live broadcast on March 12, 2023 promises a return to a stylish, controversial show presented by veteran television producers with all 23 prime-time awards, the Oscars just aren’t cool anymore.

Sure, the Oscars attracted a galaxy of stars who glittered on the red carpet at the Academy Museum’s $10 million fundraiser on Oct. 15 — but that’s the problem. You can lure the likes of Tilda Swinton, Julia Roberts and Sir Steve McQueen, along with glamorous presenters, to an elegant rooftop dinner with a performance by Diana Ross. Convincing stars to appear on live television, where anything viral can happen, is perhaps another matter.

Movie stars have always maneuvered their way through press junkets and worldwide release tours, talk show stints and gleeful public appearances to work at the box office and win awards. You still want both. (The return of the Golden Globes will show how much. Who will play with the HFPA?) But social media has changed the metrics of success, the risk of unwanted disclosure, and daily access to once-distant stars who are now constantly popping up on video feeds with her latest candid confession. The Oscars take that risk to another dimension.

That Will Smith’s team nominated him for Antoine Fuqua’s historical slave drama “Emancipation” (AppleTV+) earlier this year shows just how much Smith’s manager, agents, lawyers, publicist, and his alpha wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, believe the depraved world star needs redemption , who can only give a great, stirring performance. Their first goal: restore its shine to its fans and followers through stellar reviews and huge want-to-sees. But will the Academy’s acting department forgive him? Unlikely. You can nominate Smith, but he can’t appear at the Oscars for ten years.


Courtesy of AppleTV+

The actual topic for the Oscars broadcast, according to Academy Executive Director Bruce Davis, 22, is author of the just released – and dead accurate – The Academy and the Award: The Coming of Age of Oscar and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the difference between the top movies and the Oscar-winning films.

There used to be a nationwide conversation about “Ben-Hur,” “Titanic,” “Ordinary People,” or the third part of The Lord of the Rings,” Davis said on a Zoom call, at a time when “The theatergoing experience was widely carried by the general public, as was always necessary in order to obtain a list of interesting candidates for the Oscars. The large images that are seen tend to be images with many explosions. And that never interested the Academy voters, except in the technical categories.”

Davis doesn’t stop there. “We have a more fundamental question here than the Oscars,” he said. “Will there still be movies in 10 years? Kramer faces much more difficult questions than the academy leadership has faced in 10 years.”

And how long will broadcast television survive? Right now, ABC still raises around $100 million in royalties to show the Oscars, which support the Academy and its programs. Facing a less secure future without a deep network, AMPAS must scale down. (Kramer’s team is developing alternative sources of funding.)

With 10 best picture contenders guaranteed, ABC is hoping that 2023 Oscar voters will include blockbusters with mainstream rooting interest like “Top: Gun Maverick” ($1.5 billion worldwide), which saved the summer box office and still does chugs into autumn. Other possibilities include The Woman King ($76.5 million), which produced 57-year-old Oscar winner Viola Davis as an action star, and Baz Luhrmann’s musical biopic Elvis ($283 million).

TOP GUN: MAVERICK, (aka TOP GUN 2), Tom Cruise, 2022. © Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Top Gun: Maverick”

©Paramount/Courtesy of the Everett Collection

In 2009, hoping to add more commercial titles to the Best Picture race, Davis asked Price Waterhouse to research the Best Picture nominees more closely. “How were the votes distributed among the 10 nominees for best picture?” he asked. “Don’t tell me the names of the pictures; tell me what percentage of the final vote they collect.” The numbers told the story: “Every year there was one, two, sometimes three that had only trace elements of votes,” he said. “It wasn’t what a best picture vote should mean.”

When the Academy expanded from five to ten nominees for best picture at the 2010 Oscars, expanded nominees included Coens’s “A Serious Man” and Lone Scherfig’s “An Education”—not the Academy’s goal. Because of this, Davis persuaded the Board of Governors to adopt a five to ten weighted best picture vote that the Academy used from 2011 to 2021. It produced seven, eight or nine nominees for best picture every year.

The academy board ignored that hard-earned wisdom when they reset the best film to a guaranteed 10 last year. The results may have drawn more viewers (16.6million) than 2021’s 10million woeful pandemic Oscars – but it’s still a far cry from 2020’s 23.6million. The list of praised art films was for most Not particularly important to consumers, including eventual winner “CODA” and Oscar-winning Best International Feature Film “Drive My Car.”

All of this could be repeated in 2023 – or not. Now the second phase of the fall festival season begins as regional festivals add to the noise surrounding films. (The Academy portal’s menu is still thin, as activists want voters to see their films in theaters; they also want recency bias to kick in late in the season.)

Several critics’ favorites are poised to dominate the year-end critics groups as well as the Oscars: Todd Field’s portrayal of a nervous orchestra conductor, “TÁR” (Focus), starring Cate Blanchett, front-runner in the Best Actress category, already took off at the Oscars special box office, while Searchlight Martin McDonagh’s very Irish The Banshees of Inisherin will open on October 21st. Both filmmakers have received multiple Academy Award nominations, while “Banshees” star Colin Farrell and supporting actor Brendan Gleeson received their long-overdue debut credits.

The Oscar Fates of The Woman King; #MeToo Harvey Weinstein investigation “She Said” (Universal, November 18), starring Oscar 2021 nominee Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan; and Sarah Polley’s Mennonite ensemble drama Women Talking (December 2, MGM/UA) will all depend on the goodwill of the Academy’s most dominant segment: the older male voters known as “steak eaters.” The actors department will support the exceptional performances and the writers should give credit to the scripts. But broad mainstream support may be patchy.

For now, ABC and the Academy should take heart: the race for best picture could be dominated by mainstream films. November’s AFI FEST in Los Angeles will feature Steven Spielberg’s TIFF Audience Award-winner The Fabelmans (November 11, Universal), the director’s latest collaboration with Tony Kushner, based on his own coming-of-age Cinephilia. It’s hard to predict how the film will play outside of film festivals, but Oscar voters should be excited about this origin myth from the most popular filmmaker of our time. Spielberg gets points for daring and authenticity, and the actors should reward the long overdue Michelle Williams with a Best Actress spot for the role of Spielberg’s mother, along with supporting actors Paul Dano and Judd Hirsch.

she said

“She said”

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Movies like ‘The Fabelmans’ could help increase the potential for the 2023 Oscars to re-enter audiences, along with Oscar long-time favorite Damien Chazelle’s scandalous portrayal of early Hollywood, ‘Babylon’ (December 25, Paramount) with box office magnet Brad Pitt, Ryan Coogler’s Marvel entry Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November 11, Disney) and James Cameron’s long-awaited Avatar: The Way of Water (December 16, Disney). The Academy often looks down on Marvel comics movies, sci-fi adventures, and sequels that don’t demonstrably advance their originals. But both Coogler and Cameron are respected for their cinematic skills. While both “Black Panther” and “Avatar” were nominated for best picture, they each only won craft awards.

It’s possible that Wakanda Forever, which begins screenings this month, will grow beyond its comic book roots as the story revolves around the grief for Black Panther, originally portrayed by the late Chadwick Boseman. And we must never underestimate Cameron’s ability to change the rules of filmmaking, from Terminator and Titanic to Avatar. This sequel promises not only groundbreaking 3D VFX, but also a strong and timely environmental message.

Even without these blockbuster sequels, the race for best picture looks more robust than it has in years.

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Lindsay Lowe

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