By Dom Serafini
A battle is rumbling in Hollywood between the film and TV industries.
In the past, film imposed the law, since it was considered the nobler art, while TV was thought of as pedestrian. Plus, it came from Madison Avenue.
But things are decidedly different today. TV seems like it has successfully conquered Hollywood with its populist movement. But that’s not to say that film is taking that loss lying down. The movie industry is in fact fighting back, but it appears to be losing the battle and, perhaps, the war.
The cognoscenti say, “If film studio executives wake up from the torpor of the super heroes, franchises, tent poles and other ‘sure bet’ categories –– and return to producing meaningful movies –– an armistice could perhaps be reached.”
But Madison Ave has its needs and they have to be fulfilled, too, like getting people to watch the Oscars telecast, which, has experienced record-low ratings in recent years (26.5 million U.S. viewers in 2018, versus 32.9 million the year before, and 55.25 million in 1998).
Yes, the Academy Awards (popularized by television as the Oscars), that great invention of the Hollywood-based American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, have to be re-Touched by an Angel of television. And this is what TV proposed:
*A new category for a Popular Film Award (grandiosely, this is officially defined as outstanding achievement in popular film).
*An earlier airdate for 2020: mark your calendars for February 9 (while the telecast will air on February 24 in 2019).
* A more globally accessible three-hour telecast (which means that some wins will be awarded during commercial breaks), instead of the current four hours. In 2002 it ran for four hours and 23 minutes!
Some kind soul of a movie critic could point out that at the very first Academy Awards ceremony (the nickname “Oscars” didn’t arrive until 1939, while the first telecast wasn’t until 1953) on May 16, 1929, there were two best pictures: The Most Outstanding (won by Wings) and Most Artistic (won by Sunrise). These two categories were combined in 1930 as “Best Picture.” (The history of the Oscars’ telecast can be found here: www.videoageinternational.com/articles/2014/05/oscars.htm).
But, at the same time, other critics could insist that the Oscars are not the Golden Globe Awards, or even worse, the Independent Spirit Awards. The Oscars are the “Nobel Prize of Film Art,” they insist, noting that it represents the noblest of the arts, and should not be confused or lowered to the level of other movie awards.
Now, what could be the implication in caving to television? For one, it implies that the winner of the Best Popular Movie couldn’t compete with an artistic film winner, thus diminishing its impact in the creative community. Second, if history has taught us anything, after the first Academy Awards ceremony, the two “Best Film” categories were eliminated so as not to diminish the value of the “Outstanding Picture.”
So, to all the film purists out there, do not despair, since history tends to repeat itself!