It’s gotten to the point where one feels sorry for the producers since they are in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Don’t do full productions of songs and get criticized. Do full productions of songs and get criticized. Interrupt an acceptance speech for running too long and get criticized. Don’t interrupt acceptance speeches and get criticized. It’s gotten to the point where there are critics who will lambast the Academy for the dance number between Rob Lowe and Snow White and then years later the same critics will say, “Why don’t they do things like the Rob Lowe/Snow White number? That’s what makes the Awards so entertaining, when they do kitschy and tasteless things we can make fun of for years to come”.
In the end, though, no matter what ideas are considered, the producers of the Academy Awards have to realize they will never be able to please everyone. No matter what changes one makes to the system, some group is always going to be upset that a deserving film was overlooked. For proof of this, all one has to do is look at the Foreign Language Film Category, which has undergone several changes in the last years in an attempt to get only the “right” films nominated, and still can’t seem to do it (Gomorrah, anyone?).
But how to change the show and please all four criticisms mentioned above? There probably is a way to achieve most of them, and it’s actually very simple: bring back the award category for Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production (won by Sunrise in 1929) and run it alongside the Best Picture, Production (won by Wings in 1929). If the Academy did that, it would be far less likely that films like The Dark Knight and possibly even Wall-E would be overlooked. Of course, this wouldn’t make the show any more inherently entertaining or make it come in at an agreed upon length, but it might resolve the issues of reflecting the average movie goer’s taste, while still awarding the truly best in a category, while helping to improve the ratings. (Of course, wouldn’t it be hysterical if the Academy did this and The Dark Knight still didn’t get a nomination? What would that say about Academy voters?)
Another possibility is to do what the Golden Globes do and divide the Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress into comedy and drama (and not comedy/musical—why, oh, why does the Foreign Press Association think that just because something has a lot of songs in it, it belongs in a category alongside comedy). There are several problems with this. The first is that there is no guarantee that movies like The Dark Knight would receive a nomination (it didn’t at the Golden Globes) and thus would defeat the purpose of putting in such a change. The second is that one would then have to not go through with the Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production suggestion (which would probably have guaranteed The Dark Knight a nom) since one wouldn’t want to award three best pictures of the year. At the same time, it might be worth considering having the Best Picture divided into Best Production and Most Unique and Artistic Production and then divide the top acting categories into comedy and drama (which would please the people who feel comedy performances are often overlooked). However, the coming in at an agreed upon time would probably put a kibosh on the whole idea (three extra categories? Yeah, right.), but what a list of nominations this would make.
And as for the length of the telecast, in the end, the only real way to make the show come in at an agreed upon time is to award certain (dare I say it) more “minor” categories (sound effects editing, anyone?) at an earlier ceremony (as the Tony’s have learned to do). But every time this suggestion has come up, the idea has been shot down faster than that guy who went hunting with Dick Cheney. And the only way to make it more entertaining is to…well, make it more entertaining (of course, any actor who has received an acting instruction of “be funnier”, knows how useful a comment that is). But of course, if making something entertaining were that easy, we wouldn’t have movies as bad as The Love Guru and The Happening.