Variety editorial

The Academy has plenty of reasons to be satisfied with Sunday’s Oscar telecast.

Chris Rock got people talking. The show was a half-hour shorter than last year’s. And though its ratings slipped 5%, kudocast roped in 41.5 million viewers — more than the Grammys and the Golden Globes combined.

But Hollywood has three hours a year to demonstrate the magic of film to the public. And it’s not clear this goal was met.

Even though the 77th Academy Awards had a provocative host and added a few gimmicks, it’s still a throwback to an era when movies were the dominant form of entertainment in America, when TV viewers had seen the films and had a vested interest in the outcome. Now, someone who goes to movies once a month is defined as a “frequent” moviegoer by the MPAA.

Sunday’s telecast featured a few emotional moments, such as Jamie Foxx getting misty-eyed as he spoke of his late grandmother. But TV viewers may recall three or four other occasions in the past two months when Foxx similarly wept over her.

By promising viewers something edgy and daring, and then not delivering, the Academy risks alienating viewers further.

The evening is supposed to be about movies. And, aside from the opening montage and the segment of Rock venturing to the Magic Johnson multiplex, it turned into an evening about gowns, laundry-list thank-yous and deja vu emotions. The show offered political jokes, a tribute to Johnny Carson and musical numbers. But the picture business wasn’t always front and center.

Rock’s amusing repartee with filmgoers at the multiplex had a serious message: The Academy Awards are an elitist tradition and the movie audience is more fragmented than ever.

But the implication for the Academy is clear: If the Oscar ceremony tries to be all things to all people, it risks losing its identity altogether.

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