The Academy Award nominations for films released in 2011 will be announced early in the morning on January 24, 2012. Perhaps not coincidentally, January 24 also happens to be Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day. In the words of Elastica “somehow the vital connection is made.” The Academy Awards not only are the grizzled old prospector of movie awards, but they seem to enjoy that role.
By the time the nominations for the Academy Awards are announced on January 24, the leading contenders in every category that the bulk of viewers tune in for will already have been known for some time. It was not that long ago, really, that the Academy Awards pretty much had the cinematic honor roll all to themselves. The Screen Actors Guild was not yet invented. Most people outside New York and Los Angeles could not have told what film won any of the major film critics’ awards. And the Golden Globes? Two words: Pia Zadora.
Those were the glory days of Oscar. Even back then, of course, Oscar buzz would build and build and most nominations were a foregone conclusion. The days when a nomination for one of the four acting categories, directing or Best Picture rarely brought any kind of hushed silence or outcries of shock at their initial announcement are probably gone forever. True, shock and awe were never anything less than rare, but rarity has been replaced by neverity.
It need not be so, of course. The Oscar telecast still draws hundreds of millions and is still the awards show by which all other awards shows are judged, but it ain’t what it used to be. You can lay some of the blame for this drop in attention and relevance to an unending parade of uninspired hosts and entertainment as well as to the fact that, especially during the early part of the 21st century, the movies eligible and likely for nomination were, to up it charitably, just not too good.
The elephant sitting in a pink tutu in that room where the Oscar nominations are announced, however, is undeniable: lack of surprise. Forget the actual telecast where the awards are actually announced: even a full month earlier when the nominations are announced are too late for shocks. By the time the nominees receive their early morning wake-up call from Good Morning America, everybody but those British guys demanding a refund because they didn’t know the “The Artist” is a silent black and white movie already knows the leading contenders for those nominations and the likely winner.
If the Academy Awards wants to shed its persona as the grizzled old prospector of movie awards then, dagnabbit, they need to stake a claim earlier in the year. Announcing nominations prior to the Golden Globes would initiate Oscar’s comeback, but the longer the Academy Awards telecast continues to play the role of merely being the entity that confers official authoritative tradition upon those who have already collected a handful of statues, they will continue to lose the last remaining vestiges of relevance they have.
For more from Timothy Sexton, check out:
Billy Crystal, Number 7 Box Office Draw of 1991, Brought Back to Host 2012 Oscars
Memo to Oscars: Bring Back David Letterman!