erik lundegaard

Monday March 05, 2018

Oscar Round-Up: Watching the Least-Watched

Last night we had the usual Oscar party with the usual folks and the usual results for the Oscar pool: my nephew Jordy, who is 16 going on 17, won. OK, he actually tied for first with his mom and dad and our friend Natalie. A four-way tie. Each got 19 of 24 correct.

That's a lot, and it leads to this question. 

Are the Oscars too predictable now? Do we have too many experts telling us who will win so no one's surprised anymore? I'm not wishing “Crash”-worthy upsets on anyone, and this year best picture seemed a bit of a toss-up. Three of the nine, everyone said, had a shot on the preferential ballot: “Shape of Water,” “Three Billboards” and maybe “Get Out.” Wound up being, yeah, the most-nominated movie, which also won the PGA and DGA. So the least surprising. 

2017 Oscars round-upEverything else played out as normal, too. DGA winner (del Toro) got the directing Oscar. The four SAG winners (McDormand, Oldman, Rockwell, Janney) got the four acting Oscars. The two WGA winners (Ivory, Peele) got the two writing Oscars. For the first time in Oscar history, an African-American won for screenplay and ... it wasn't much of a surprise. Maybe just to him. 

You know what else isn't much of a surprise? The TV ratings dropped: from the 32s to 26.5 million. According to Hollywood Reporter, it's “easily the least-watched Oscars in history.”

Why? Everyone has theories. FOX News says it's because “liberal Hollywood,” and other says because the telecast is too long, but c‘mon. It’s the box office, stupid. In the last 40 years, Oscar's highest TV ratings have occurred for the ‘82 Oscars, when the hugely popular “E.T.” was nominated (53.2 million), and the ’97 Oscars, when the hugely popular “Titanic” was nominated and won best picture (55.2 million). The lows are reserved for years when little-seen films are nominated or battle it out. 2007, for example, was seen as a fight between “No Country for Old Men” ($74 mil, 36th for the year) and “There Will Be Blood” ($40 mil, 66th), while the highest-grossing best picture nominee that year, “Juno,” still only 15th, wasn't really seen as a contender for BP. Shocker: the broadcast wound up with its lowest ratings to that point: 32 mil.

Two years later, the Academy instituted its new BP nomination system: first 10 nominees, then up to 10. And along with nominating popular films for best picture, such as “Avatar” and “Toy Story 3,” the ratings went up. Then they dropped again as popular and Oscar tastes continue to diverge. Last year, the highest-grossing nominated BP was “Hidden Figures” at 14th, while “Moonllght” (92nd) won. This year, the highest-grossing nominated BP was “Dunkirk,” also at 14th, while “Shape” (48th) won.

But you can't really blame Academy voters. Which of 2017's top 10 in box office would you choose for best picture?

Rank Movie
1 Star Wars: The Last Jedi
2 Beauty and the Beast
3 Wonder Woman
4 Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
5 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
6 Spider-Man: Homecoming
7 It
8 Thor: Ragnarok
9 Despicable Me 3
10 Justice League

Gun to my head? I go “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Still, for those who watched and enjoy serious movies, it was a fun night. Lot of laughs, starting with Allison Janney's “I did it all by myself” to Sam Rockwell's “It's grandma” story to Jodie Foster blaming busted leg/crutches on Meryl Streep.

Meryl is the new Jack, isn't she? The front-and-center, life-of-the-party rep of Hollywood whom everyone tosses jokes at. She just does it without the shades.

One of my favorite moments was James Ivory's acceptance speech—90-year-old James Ivory, the oldest Oscar recipient ever, for his screenplay from my favorite movie of the year, “Call Me By Your Name.” He called it a story of first love, and everyone goes through first love, whether you‘re gay or straight, and it’s universal in that way. And that recalled Kumail Nanjiani, earlier in the evening, talking about how he identified with white guys on screen for so long, and if there's more diversity now, well, then there's other people to identify with. Find the universal in the specific or the personal; that's what artists do.

Nanjiani, star of my second-favorite film of 2017, is also one of three or four potential future hosts I saw at last night's ceremony: 

  • Nanjiani
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Tiffany Haddish/Maya Rudolph

Any of them would raise the roof; none of them, most likely, would raise the ratings. 

Posted at 06:06 PM on Monday March 05, 2018 in category Movies - The Oscars  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard