Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of film and TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?”, can be found at the end of this post.)
What is one thing that you would change about the Oscars?
Richard Brody (@tnyfrontrow), The New Yorker
The awards turned out far better than usual last night, but the event was just as stage-managed and reined-in as ever — at a time when a little wildness would have been more than welcome (and which ultimately came, entirely by accident). I’m still waiting for Eddie Murphy to host; but at the systemic level, the most absurd injustice in the Oscar system is the one that allows each country’s official committee, even one under government control, to choose its entry for Best Foreign-Language Film.
The best filmmakers in China (to pick one example), who are often the subject of repression along with their politically defiant films, are in effect permanently banned from the Oscars. It’s nice that Asghar Farhadi won another Oscar, but Jafar Panahi, a better filmmaker, is still under house arrest and officially banned from filmmaking; his clandestine films, which fiercely denounce the repressions that he and other Iranians endure, will never make it to the Oscars either.
The Academy should find members willing and able to watch the year’s foreign-film releases and make some suggestions; it works in the documentary category; why not for foreign films?
Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevasse), Freelance for Rolling Stone, Vulture, Vox
Last year, all the “thanks to” bits of each acceptance speech ran on a ticker at the bottom of the screen, so the winner could have a chance to say something more substantive during their brief allotment of time. Why did the Academy move away from that? It streamlined time, kept speeches interesting, and seemed like an all-around win. I’d bring that back.
Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic), Nonfics and Film School Rejects
It’s hard to have any complaints about the awards themselves this morning, seeing as the most deserving film of the two doc categories won, and I don’t know the last time that happened. Plus my favorite movie of the year, “Moonlight,” won Best Picture. I don’t know the last time that happened, either.
Instead, let me focus on the show itself, which is really why we tune in rather than just reading the news of what won the next day. Even before the Best Picture blunder, this year’s Oscars were having some embarrassing difficulties and awkwardness from my perspective sitting at home. They put a living woman’s picture in the In Memoriam segment! And I know it’s very hard to direct a live show like this, but there are so many weird camera angles these days. And winners being literally pushed off stage rather than having music playing them off. And Auli’i Cravalho getting beaned in the head by her background dancers.
But that’s all technical. They also need to finally figure out what viewers want to see during an Oscars telecast. I don’t think it’s starting with one of the Best Song nominees being performed. Or any more food gags of any kind in response to attendees being hungry. Producers are paid too well to be so oblivious and imperfect with one of the biggest nights on television.
Tomris Laffly (@TomiLaffly), Film Journal, Film School Rejects
Yesterday’s ceremony was a great step towards the right direction in terms of what I’d like to see changed at the Oscars. Plenty of deserving winners aside, it reminded me why I love this annual telecast at the first place. The show was funny, moving and in touch with its past. I loved the montages of past winners and artists reflecting on the films they love. More clips like that please that celebrate cinema. That’s my first wish. Others:
1. Bring back honorary Oscars to the telecast. I don’t care if that makes the show five hours long. It’s once a year and we can handle it (in the interim, televise The Governors Awards).
2. Split costumes into A. Period/fantasy B. Contemporary. This is desperately needed (also, YAY “Fantastic Beasts” and Colleen Atwood!).
3. It would be great if we can just have 10 Best Picture nominees. I still haven’t warmed up to “any number between 5 and 10.” Why not have 10 and call it a day?
Christopher Rosen (@chrisjrosen), Entertainment Weekly
What is one thing I would change about the Oscars? Well, the entire concept of campaigning for Oscars as we know it. Awards season is an unforgiving slog of hot takes and backlash, and every year it swallows whole good and great movies without prejudice. Remember when “Argo” was a movie everyone really liked until they absolutely hated it? Same with “Birdman” and “Boyhood” and “Gravity” and “The Social Network” and, obviously and recently, “La La Land”?
The entire concept of awards season is mostly unnatural: we’re forced to talk about “Oscar movies” for literal months, at which point all that’s left is the horse race. I’ve felt this way for a while — since “Argo,” in fact — but this year cinched it for me. That “La La Land,” a wonderful, joyous movie that everyone LOVED in August and September (and will stand as one of my personal favorites from now until the end of time) was reduced to grist for the outrage mill by the time Oscar night rolled around is too bad.
The Oscars ceremony remains the best celebration of movies that movies has to offer; if only we could get there without the preceding six months.
Tasha Robinson (@Tasha Robinson), The Verge
I’ve said this over and over, including in our own “How to improve the Academy Awards” round-up: What I want is to see the focus where it belongs, on the winners and their speeches. Every year, we see people who’ve spent two or more years creating something spectacular, and then given 30 to 45 seconds to babble out a stressed-out series of thank-yous about it. If the Oscars ceremony was a fleet two hours, that would be fine. But when it’s four hours because we’re wasting so much time limping through the setup for Jimmy Kimmel’s weak “tourist at the Oscars” gag, or film appreciation that’s really just a shaggy-dog setup for another Kimmel dig at Matt Damon, or a particularly limp edition of the “Mean Tweets” segment, it’s impossible to miss that we’re sidelining the actual purpose of the show in favor of bad, forgettable comedy.
Last night’s ceremony got off to the perfect start, with “Moonlight” co-star Mahershala Ali spending a full two minutes on his thank-you speech, which gave him enough time to make a joke, talk sincerely about the purpose of acting, make a sweet statement about his family, and still get to the laundry list of thank-yous. It wasn’t that much longer than the standard speech block, but it felt gracious, unrushed, and personal in a way so few Oscars speeches do. More of this, please, and fewer attempts to reproduce the host’s familiar comedy routines for a larger audience.