One of my life’s biggest regrets is missing the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony in real time. I was overseas, and sure, a European vacation was great and all, but being across the world meant I slept through one of our seminal moments in pop culture history.
When I woke up, I had texts from nearly everyone in my life that read, “WILL SMITH SLAPPED CHRIS ROCK” in all caps.
I spent the rest of the day catching up, watching clips and reading the takes on Twitter which were becoming increasingly deranged with every passing hour. And I had a great time. But I also felt a sense of loss because I had missed the actual moment when the world asked, “What just happened?” We have so few of those monoculture moments now. I don’t want to miss a single one.
This is one of the reasons why I usually watch every second of the Oscars every year. I live for the shocking moments — Warren Beatty erroneously declaring “La La Land” best picture, John Travolta calling Idina Menzel Adelle Dazeem, Bjork showing up in a swan dress — that become the center of every conversation I have for the weeks following, and the punchline of jokes for decades after that.
But I also watch because I’m hopelessly devoted to the motion picture industry. As someone who has very little interest in sports, the Academy Awards are the closest thing I have to a Super Bowl, and my favorite work in each category is my team. I root just as aggressively for them as the average sports fan does for their athletes, and am just as heartbroken when they do not win.
I assumed everyone was this invested.
But I was surprised by the results of an informal poll I conducted on social media (it’s not perfect, but it’s what I have). I asked my followers if they would be watching the Oscars. Of the nearly 1,000 respondents, only 30% said they would be tuning in.
I was shocked. And if I’m being honest, defensive, in the way I always get defensive when someone doesn’t like the exact same things I do, or doesn’t agree with me 100% on everything.
But I can’t argue with many of the respondents’ reasons for not watching. Some told me the ceremony always runs too long and is boring. Others said they would rather just read the results the next day. Some said they were more interested in watching “The Last of Us” finale which airs the same evening. Others claimed the movies awarded are never the movies people actually see (though when I asked which 2022 movie was their favorite, the overwhelming majority said “Everything Everywhere All At Once” which is favored to win best picture). Still others said the event felt too self-congratulatory and that they had no interest in watching millionaires hand awards to each other. A lot of people don’t have cable and don’t know where to stream.
The ceremony is too long at three hours minimum, and nearly impossible to watch in real time if there are children in the home with respectable bedtimes. And yes, mostly boring.
The results are available not just the morning after, but in real time on the internet. I haven’t seen “The Last of Us,” but the finale is sure to be more action-packed than the Oscars. Some of the nominated films had a total of five viewers, and yes, it is wildly self-congratulatory and no one in the Los Angeles Dolby Theater needs any more gold. The move away from cable to streaming services makes viewing the show infinitely more complicated.
I also vehemently agree with the reasons people told me they will be watching. Some said they’ve been watching every year since they were kids, and Oscars Sunday is a family event. (I discovered the Oscars while channel surfing as a child and made my family watch with me every year from that point. We still gather for every broadcast). Some said they spend all year prepping for the big event, watching as many of the movies as they can and making predictions on who will win. Another said, “It’s the one competitive event I understand,” and as someone who had to ask what a down is during a football game, I related deeply. Others said they watch for the clothes. One person simply told me, “I love movies.”
I, too, love movies and love the silly awards ceremony that celebrates movies. I love making Oscar predictions (and being right). I love when I’m pleasantly surprised. I love the humble speeches and the speeches that go off the rails. I love the bold fashion choices. I even love the “In Memorium” that pays homage to academy members who passed away in the previous year. I love it all, and I want to share the love with those who have even a passing interest in film.
But four hours on a Sunday night is a big ask. The academy and broadcasters know this is a problem, and every year ideas are thrown around to fix it. Some are better than others.
my fave thing is when the “Oscars in crisis” articles interview some 200 year old moron who has ideas like this pic.twitter.com/bh5qz6456J— David Sims (@davidlsims) March 8, 2023
But until the powers that be figure it out, I have some suggestions for anyone looking for a less daunting viewing experience.
Use a live streaming service
Much of the reason the telecast drags on for so long is the number of commercial breaks between awards. Wait an hour or so after the ceremony begins, then start from the beginning and zip through the commercials (YouTube TV, Hulu Live and the ABC app will all be streaming the ceremony).
Treat it like baseball, not basketball
While basketball requires constant, uninterrupted attention, baseball leaves plenty of room for conversation, snack-getting and phone-checking between occasional glances at the game. The Academy Awards should be approached in the same way (especially during the best original song portion).
Make it competitive
For the unathletic among us, this is a chance (our only chance?) to win at something. Ballots are available online, and you don’t even have to see all the nominated movies to make predictions. I go with a mix of what the critics are predicting, what I liked and what my gut tells me will win. Yes, I always lose, but I have a great time.
Just watch the back-half
While there are some bigger awards handed out toward the top of the show, most of the anticipated categories are announced in the final hour and a half. And most of the shocking moments transpire amid those categories. Not much will be lost by just tuning in for the final portion.
While the Oscar attendees have to make it through the ceremony without any sustenance, you don’t. Themed food makes the experience that much more engaging: Cate Blanched almonds, Top gum, steak tartare, etc.
Even with these tips implemented, the Academy Awards won’t be for everyone. Nothing is.
But as for me, if there’s another slap, or waterfowl-shaped dress, or name mispronunciation or huge upset, I won’t be missing it.