A question for the producers of this year's Oscars ceremony: how dare you?
Last Friday, Deadline reported that the winners of last year's acting awards had yet to be contacted about presenting those same awards at the 2019 ceremony, a long-held Academy tradition. "It breaks my heart," wrote America's relentlessly cool and undeniably talented aunt, Allison Janney, in a now-deleted Instagram comment. On Wednesday evening, the Academy tweeted that Janney, who won Best Supporting Actress last year, will, in fact, be part of the telecast along with previous winners Frances McDormand (Best Actress), Sam Rockwell (Best Supporting Actor), and Gary Oldman (Best Actor). While we sincerely hope this helps mend Janney's wounds, it's unclear in what capacity she and the other acting honorees will be participating. Dave Karger, who covers the Oscars and the Academy for numerous outlets, tweeted in response to Mark Harris, another Oscar expert, that it "looks like" presenter duties will be shared among last year's winners and that they will not be presenting in the acting categories.
This is the latest in a series of hastily-made, announced, then retracted decisions by the Academy in preparation for this year's broadcast.
A brief timeline:
August 8, 2018: Academy announces new category for "popular" film
September 5, 2018: Academy announces it will not present "popular" film award
December 4, 2018: Kevin Hart announced as host of 91st Oscars
December 7, 2018: Kevin Hart drops out of 91st Oscars
January 24, 2019: Variety reports that only two of the five nominees for Best Original Song will be performed during the telecast
January 31, 2019: Academy announces that all five nominated songs will be featured (albeit, for only 90 seconds each)
February 1, 2019: Deadline reports a potential acting award-winner snub
February 6, 2019: Academy tweets that acting award-winners will present (likely not acting-related) awards
The high-level flip-floppery can all be traced back to that first August announcement. In addition to the potential popular film category, the Academy also announced a shorter version of the telecast (now a svelte three-hour event). Aside from the host situation, most of the decisions that followed appear to be an attempt to pare down the traditionally long ceremony. They also appear to be the Academy's effort at drawing in younger, perhaps less film-obsessed viewers. Producers are also relegating some award presentations to commercial breaks and pushing last year's honorees aside for bigger names. It's no secret that industry awards can feel staid and lay viewers are probably not as invested in the race for Best Sound Mixing as they are for Best Director. It makes perfect sense that Oscar producers would want to modernize a 91-year-old ceremony to appeal to the widest possible audience, but the Academy needs to decide who that audience is, and stop making decisions at the expense of the people they claim to celebrate.
Rebecca Linde is a writer and cultural critic in NYC. She tweets about pop culture and television @rklinde.
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