From fame to infamy: the fall of the Oscars

by | Mar 20, 2023 | Opinion

The Oscars started as a live show for the Hollywood elite in 1929. They wouldn’t broadcast through the radio until 1930. The 1934 broadcast included the “Best Film Editing” category. The category would be a part of the broadcast for 87 years until 2021. I’m among the many who’ve criticised its removal.

On-stage violence, vulgarity from the audience and the host making fun of illnesses, these are just a few of the problems the 2022 show had. 

But this isn’t new–the Oscars have been declining for the last few years. 2021 had a record-low viewership of 9.1 million viewers. While there was about a 50% rise in viewership in 2022, there was still a noticeable decline from the 22.3 million viewers in 2020. Even if the 2023 Oscars see a rise in viewership, many of those people are tuning in for the drama. But let’s face it, the Academy is playing it safe with host Jimmy Kimmel this year.

The Oscars have been facing other problems outside of the waning viewership, though.


I remember watching the Oscars as a child. I sat, mystified, as I watched Buzz and Woody from Toy Story on the podium announcing the Best Animated Film category. Preceded by the Best Cartoon Short (now Best Animated Short), this category has existed since the 2001 show. They used to respect animation as well. Walt Disney even created a short film to introduce it to the Oscars in 1931.

In recent years, they’ve made a joke out of the medium. The Academy doesn’t take animation seriously unless it’s Disney, Pixar or DreamWorks. Even then, they created the category to avoid Shrek’s Nomination for Best Picture in 2000. It would take another ten years for an animated film to receive this nomination with Toy Story 3

Another problem is that Disney is a sponsor. So they tend to win. Of the 21 films that have won in this category, 15 are from either Disney or Pixar (a Disney-owned studio).

But that leads us into our next topic.

The Old Boys Club

Throughout its 94-year history, only eight women have received nominations for Best Director. Of those eight, only three won the award (Kathryn Bigelow, Chloé Zhao and Jane Campion).

This isn’t to say anything about Best Picture. Even if they win in this category, their male colleagues often overshadow them.

An example of this feminine erasure is the 1986 Best Documentary award that went to Down and Out in America. While she directed the film, Lee Grant went unnamed during the ceremony. Even though she was onstage, the Academy only recognized Joseph Feury and Milton Justice.

That isn’t to say women haven’t seen success at the Oscars or in Hollywood. Kathleen Kennedy made her Oscars debut with E.T. in 1982. She’s now a major producer working on franchises like Star Wars.

That said, women have had a history of winning awards in traditionally feminine jobs. Editing, costume design and hair/makeup are all almost exclusively held by women.

But god forbid they come from another country because the Oscars are…

Exclusively American (Almost)

Another contributing factor to the fall of the Oscars is the nomination requirements.

Your film needs three daily showings in a Los Angeles theatre over a week. Additionally, at least one of those daily showings needs to be between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. With the advent of streaming, these base requirements for the Oscars are being met less often. 

Each country can only send a single film to receive a nomination for Best International Film. If they hadn’t considered Parasite for this category, it wouldn’t have won Best Picture in 2019. So any non-American film has to jump through extra hoops to be considered for Best Picture.

These strict requirements have led to many non-theatrical or international films being denied entry. For them to stay relevant, the Academy must relax the grip the US has a bit more. Even relaxing the theatrical requirements would make it a more inclusive show. Making it more inclusive would serve to bring in more viewers.

With  Bong Joon-ho’s (Parasite) win in 2019, the South Korean film industry started to gain a lot of steam. This created strong competition for Hollywood, allowing audiences a peak through the cracks. 

So, in the end, the recognition of Joon-ho’s capabilities ironically instigated the slow death of Hollywood glamour.

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