Is anyone actually watching the Oscars anymore? Until ‘The Incident’ between Messrs Smith and Rock last year the direction of travel was clear. Between 2014 and 2020 the televised Academy Awards lost almost half their viewers, the number falling from 43 to 23 million. This year, in March, they were at 18 million with punters only tuning in perhaps to see some bitch-slapping between Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep.
The first Oscars were presented in front of 270 people with tickets costing five dollars and a ceremony which ran for 15 minutes; now it’s – as the 1979 host Johnny Carson quipped – ‘two hours of sparkling entertainment spread over a four-hour show’. This may be classic over-compensation; in 1930, 65 per cent of Americans went to the cinema weekly, while now it’s less than a tenth.We still watch films, of course, but no longer in reverent silence in public places of worship; instead we mock them, pause them, talk over them and sexually gratify ourselves over them in the privacy of our homes. Modern film stars know this; it stings to be merely a component of an evening’s entertainment alongside Deliveroo.
As the importance of cinema has dwindled, the po-faced self‑importance of the film industry has grown. Now the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that from next year films will not be nominated for Best Picture unless they meet two out of four rules listed here. These rules include featuring more actors from minority ethnic groups, more female lead characters, having visible ‘hard of hearing’ actors and crew – and having LQBTQ interns.
No one wants to go to the cinema to watch a bunch of over-privileged white folk indulging themselves – that’s what we have the televised Oscars for.