Every year during this time, the Oscar frenzy sets in. I eagerly await the nominations so I can start my frantic movie-watching rounds of the Best Picture nominees before the awards ceremony and my annual Oscar party. This year, though, the sparkle and glitz of the show has dimmed to a dull luster.
Ever since a dark cloud rolled into Hollywood on Nov. 5 when the Writers Guild of America declared a strike, rumors have been rampant as to what effect it would have on TV show renewals to the annual string of award shows. That shadow of doubt has never been more sinister than it is now, after the Oscars nominations were announced last Tuesday.
The debacle of the Golden Globes was a huge embarrassment to the industry. Since the WGA created a picket line that couldn’t be crossed, the Screen Actors Guild backed them up and actors refused to attend the ceremony in solidarity. With no actors and no writers to pen presenters’ speeches, the telecast was scrapped and the winners were announced in a brief news conference with no one there to accept the awards.
The Oscars certainly provide free worldwide publicity for the nominated films, but they also create quite a bit of revenue through advertising for the networks. ABC charged $1.6 million for a 30-second TV spot at last year’s Academy Awards. The disaster of the Golden Globes was a huge blow to the studios that make millions of dollars on award ceremonies from advertising alone.
The Golden Globes was an enormous triumph for the WGA, however, which I fully support. The corporations and networks should pay the writers what they are due for their work on the Internet, the big issue at the heart of the strike, however long that takes. Yet that same triumph has made everyone else nervous.
There have been rumors that the Oscars would not be televised for the first time in history. Floods, wars and assassinations haven’t managed to do that. The idea of not being able to have my annual Oscar party and see the excitement firsthand grieves me the most. The Oscars are where memories are made, and the threat that only those who physically attend will be able to hear those historic acceptance speeches is simply upsetting.
I would not be alone in my disappointment. Last year, the Oscars had 40.2 million American viewers, not counting viewers from around the world. The Oscars are second only to the Super Bowl in ratings.
Producer Gil Cates is insisting that the show will go on. What kind of show that will be, however, is still up for debate. There will be no writers penning monologues or presenters’ spiels. Many nominated actors are threatening to not attend if the strike isn’t resolved. And the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences posted a blurb on their Web site in December saying that the WGA won’t give them a waiver to show film clips or excerpts from past Oscar telecasts. Song-and-dance numbers can’t fill up the entire program.
But since the strike negotiations that have been postponed since early December are set to resume this week, there is nothing but optimism in the air for those in charge of running the Oscars. They are planning the ceremonies to air on Feb. 24 in the hope that the strike will be settled before then.
“We’re moving forward with all of the plans to do the show as we normally do,” Academy spokeswoman Leslie Unger said in an interview. “It’s our fervent hope that we’re going to be able to do that.”
Yet many Oscars fans like me are asking the worrying questions about what will happen if the 11-week-long strike isn’t resolved. Some hope that the ceremony will be postponed until the end of March, when it used to air. I’m right there with them.
If the Oscars are seen as a reflection of the times, what would it mean for this year’s ceremony? If the strike is resolved before the ceremony, then it will be a time of celebration. But with the strike still looming, if the Oscars proceed anyway without much of what’s made them notable in the past, the show could serve as a dour forecast of things to come and a horrible reminder of corporate greed.