Belfast Telegraph

Oscars will have to up its game to hold interest

By Aisling O’Connor

Just as the term 'Oscar bait' was coined for movies tactically chasing gold, the Academy Awards itself has arguably changed tack. What has been one of the highlights of the entertainment calendar for the glitterati and we plebs alike for decades, seems to be morphing into a celebrity-led ratings effort.

Though Sunday's broadcast from the Dolby Theatre was watched by a reported 40 million people in the US, producers have struggled to settle on a format and consistency in hosting in recent years.

The erratic casting of hosts in the past decade points to an old dame trying to meet the demands of the next generation of viewers. Billy Crystal, Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg shared the unofficial revolving gig for nearly 15 years before a more diverse line-up was instituted.

Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and James Franco, Alec Baldwin and Ellen DeGeneres were all called upon to have a go at modernising the Oscars.

But despite DeGeneres's efforts to update this year's awards with her signature self-effacing humour and relaxed rapport with celebrities, the problem with the audience's waning interest is perhaps not just the event itself.

Is the changing role of celebrity, fashion and the art of film-making watering down what was an esteemed parade of the most talented Hollywood had to offer?

The over-exposure to, and consequential obsession with, the rich and famous has made the formerly exclusive 'red carpet' a run-of-the-mill affair.

What constitutes a star has changed, as television drama has undergone a transformation, with higher production values, increased budgets and crossover appearances by film stars on the small screen and vice versa.

So the Golden Globes, the Grammys and the Screen Actors' Guilds are year-on-year rising in profile and viewership as audiences tune in to pre-event red carpet coverage and the awards themselves in the depressing post-Christmas window.

Actors, directors and producers use these events and associated Press and after-parties to campaign for the big one – the Oscars. However, by the time March rolls around, we are sick of the sight of silk and chiffon, and the main prizes are all sewn up – Cate Blanchett and Matthew McConaughey for best actors, Lupita Nyong'o and Jared Leto for best supporting roles and a Best Picture gold for Brad Pitt as producer of 12 Years A Slave.

So if we know who is going to win, why are we watching? It was, in a way, a whole lot of nothing that was over-reliant on the guest-list and what they were wearing. Unfortunately, the fashion didn't pay off, with most celebrities playing it safe in a series of couture jellyfish gowns.

So DeGeneres ordered pizza for everyone and took a megawatt, celebrity-packed selfie which crashed Twitter. It all came off as more of a show of Hollywood clout than a celebration of anything, with the remainder consisting of Ellen bringing the cameras into the audience to provide as many shots as possible of the likes of Bradley Cooper, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Bono and Angelina Jolie.

If the Oscars want to match the reputation of the ceremony with the weight of that ever-coveted statuette, producers must deliver a quality show. Showing off with talk-show tactics just can't sustain an audience for over three hours. There's only so much work a gown and a few million worth of diamonds can do.

Belfast Telegraph

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