Have the Oscars Become Obsolete?

by Kali Tapper

The Oscars drew a viewership of 23.6 million in 2020, then an all time low. Last year, the show only garnered 10.4 million viewers.

At one point, The Oscars were the highest award a filmmaker could receive. The excitement leading up to them was so great, that the months from early November to Mid-March were deemed “Oscar Season,” where the best films from the year would compete against each other in various smaller award ceremonies, eventually leading up to the highly prestigious Academy Awards. They were created to celebrate the best of the best in various filmmaking disciplines, with the winners voted on by other industry professionals, rather than the general public.

The months leading up to them were filled with speculation and anticipation, and they were almost always the most viewed award show in America. However, in recent years, The Oscars seem to have lost their sparkle. Between a lack of diversity in nominees, accusations of bias, and a dwindling number of televised categories, both excitement, and viewership for the Oscars seem to be at an all-time low, leaving the question, what do filmmakers really think of the Oscars? 

The general consensus seems to be – no one really cares. Chair of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) film department and independent filmmaker, Mr. Gubin, says he has not watched the Oscars in several years.

“The year I realized they were too predictable, I stopped watching them. The films that usually win and are nominated are all connected to the corporation that actually runs the Oscars. If the only films that win are made by the company giving the awards, it’s like you’re giving awards to yourself. What’s the point,” he said. 

Ian Thomas, a senior film major, shared similar apathy for the awards show.

“I don’t ever watch award shows. I don’t have cable. But, I do think they encourage people to create films just for the sake of winning awards, which shouldn’t be considered cinema. The point of film is for the filmmaker to make things that they want to see happen, that they’ve never seen done before,” Ian said. 

After one of the worst years for Oscars ratings and viewership, the Academy decided to pull the categories for film editing, sound, makeup and hairstyling, original score, production design, documentary short, animated short, and live-action short off-air, which has been met with much backlash in online filmmaking communities.

“This just proves how corporate the Oscars have become,” says Mr. Gubin. “I mean there is no film without editing, and production designers are crucial. They just want the glitz and glam, and to not give an award to people like that, it’s elitist.”

Another reason film majors don’t like the Oscars – it’s lack of diversity. 

Alyse Gonzalez, a senior film major said the people selecting the nominees are all 60-year-old white men.

“They’re extremely biased towards who they choose, there’s no inclusivity, and when there is, it’s performative. They nominate token people of color for the awards, and never actually let them win,” she said.

While a lack of diversity has been a major issue with all award shows, The Academy has been making strides to include more foreign films in all categories, instead of just Best Foreign Film. Up until Parasite’s 2020 Best Picture win, this was unheard of. This year, Drive My Car (Japan) has been nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Directing and Best International Feature, and Worst Person in the World (Norway) has been nominated for Best Original Screenplay, as well as best International Feature. 

“The Oscars have definitely encouraged me to watch more foreign films that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. It’s good that not just the rich, white, American men are being credited for their work, and that these foreign films are getting attention in not just their countries,” said Haeyeon Kang, senior film major.