If the last week of awards-related turmoil has highlighted anything, it’s that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. have two very different sets of priorities when it comes to golden trophies.
Both say they’re interested in ratings, but one of these orgs is not like the other.
While the Academy desperately wants to keep ABC happy about its $80 million spend by attracting a younger demo, AMPAS is equally eager to uphold tradition and maintain the serious, staid luster that has become Oscar’s calling card.
Exhibit A: Appointing Brett Ratner as producer for the 2012 ceremony, then being shocked (shocked!) when his well-documented rough edges become headline news. Yes, Ratner’s comments were idiotic, but it wasn’t hate speech and it was by no means out of character.
Tom Sherak wanted attention when he appointed Ratner, and he could have still achieved that with some damage control. Instead, the Academy distanced itself, hoping its dalliances with hipness would fade, wiped clean by easy-listening stylings of Brian Grazer and Billy Crystal. It’s almost as if the Academy stepped outside, saw that it was raining, and decided never to leave the house again.
By the way, it’s pretty difficult to get the young kids interested in watching a three-hour ceremony that honors films they haven’t seen while celebrities thank people they’ve never heard of.
Meanwhile, the HFPA is capitalizing on its reputation for being the “more fun” version of the Oscars (even though it seems to have reined in the free-flowing Champagne in recent years in favor of a little decorum) by welcoming back Ricky Gervais for round three in the ring.
Not only is it crystal clear that ratings won out over hurt feelings, this year is bound to be just as withering for any celeb who’s been in a bar fight or been photographed under embarrassing circumstances in the last 12 months. Standards and practices might blunt his edge, but Gervais likely signed on with the caveat that no celeb or subject matter is safe from his ridicule. It’s not like he needs the work — he’s doing this just to see how far he can go.
Yes, it’s important for the Oscars to remain Hollywood’s highest honor, which gives the Globes a little more leeway. But it’s equally important for the Academy to decide who the Oscars are for: a TV audience or the industry. It’s pretty difficult to serve both well.