Does awards season need a czar?
In the booming sports business, commissioners orchestrate scheduling and negotiate network megadeals. In the movie business, however, there is no one managing all the confusion that reigns during awards season and festivals.
With CBS laying an egg with its inaugural telecast of the Nov. 14 Hollywood Film Awards — the new “official launch” of awards season, we were told — the kudos derby now encompasses one third of the year, a veritable sprawl of self-congratulation. And everyone seems to be bumping into everyone else.
The Academy’s efforts to regulate the kudos sprawl have been pathetic. Each year sees new constraints on the number of cocktail parties or dinners. This may impact the caterers, but has left the rest of us with an interminable ritual of screenings, handshaking and awkward Q&A encounters. Stars and star filmmakers have been cast like political vote-seekers — a flotilla of John Boehners pumping the flesh and checking their makeup.
I know these glitterati are amply compensated for their promotional efforts, but I still feel sorry for those who trek from theater to theater, patiently fielding pedestrian questions about how they prepare for their roles or select their fashion tie-ins. Actors seem naked up there without their writers feeding them lines. And how will, say, Eddie Redmayne manage to repeat his acceptance speech for portraying Stephen Hawking perhaps 30 times between now and the Oscars?
Shouldn’t the industry appoint some parental figure who will be charged with bringing order to this chaos — someone to set rules and allocate dates so that festivals and award shows wouldn’t keep colliding with each other? Say an authority symbol like the NFL’s Roger Goodell — oops, bad casting.
It’s ironic that the melee has intensified at a time when the experience of communal viewing — of both film and TV — seems to be fading. Moviegoing is on the decline in the U.S. and much of Europe as that treasured young demo opts to imbibe entertainment on its iPads, the Web and smart phones, or turn its attention elsewhere entirely.
At the same time, TV viewing has been impacted by cord-cutting, viewing on new platforms and other phenomena. Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said ratings for its networks — which include Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV — have declined by 15%, a drop ominously similar to that afflicting the movie business.
Hence the instinct of film marketers to support yet another network awards show seems all the more futile. The CBS program drew about 4 million viewers at its peak, one third of the audience of its regular Friday-night slate. TV’s non-attentive audience may not be much help in bolstering the size
So can anointment of a czar help all this? On second thought, no one would take the job. That’s a shame, because such a potentate might be successful in thwarting the further proliferation of award shows. And maybe he or she can reschedule some upbeat cocktail parties to lubricate those lugubrious Q&A sessions.