Last year’s Oscars ceremony won its director an Emmy. This year’s might not turn out so well.
The latest drama surrounding the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences centers on a statement released Monday by the Screen Actors Guild, which hosts its own awards show each year. SAG-AFTRA accused the academy of exerting “extraordinary and unwarranted pressure on talent to hold them from appearing at other award presentations,” including the SAG Awards, before presenting at the Oscars.
“Actors should be free to accept any offer to participate in industry celebrations,” the statement reads. The academy hasn’t returned The Washington Post’s request for comment.
The SAG Awards, set to air Jan. 27, have yet to announce anyone making on-screen appearances other than host Megan Mullally and actor Tom Hanks, who will present his “Bridge of Spies” castmate Alan Alda with a lifetime achievement award.
But that’s a step further than the academy has gotten.
Comedian Kevin Hart dropped out as Oscars host in December after his past homophobic tweets and jokes resurfaced in response to the academy’s announcement. And while he has declared several times now that he’s “over it,” he has continued to address the controversy throughout the press tour for his new movie, “The Upside.” This hasn’t done the academy any favors, given that finding a host was already an uphill battle before the Hart debacle. (Which gig is harder to fill — this one, or the Super Bowl halftime show?)
As for the contested presenters, this doesn’t appear to be the only time the academy has been accused of pressuring celebrities into exclusively presenting at its ceremony. Margot Robbie is said to have been among the actors who chose the Oscars over the Golden Globes, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which also reported that the academy will probably rely on a “rotating cast of stars” to introduce segments in lieu of a traditional host.
That apparently translates to the Avengers. The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg wrote last week that the Oscars producers are “lining up appearances by as many big-name cast members from Marvel’s sprawling Avengers franchise,” many of whom were reportedly also asked not to present at the Golden Globes. It wouldn’t be the fictional superhero team’s first time on the Oscars stage: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo all showed up together in 2013.
But an Avengers appearance might be viewed more cynically this year, given the academy’s clear efforts to boost its declining ratings. It announced in August that it would limit the televised ceremony to three hours and create a new category recognizing achievement in popular film to “keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world,” according to an email sent to academy members by President John Bailey and chief executive Dawn Hudson.
The academy got a great deal of flak for the popular film category, with critics such as Vanity Fair’s Katey Rich writing that it had been deemed the “Black Panther” award. The category’s creation seemed to suggest that the movie wasn’t worthy of a best picture nomination. While perhaps true of other Marvel movies, Rich told The Post in August, this certainly doesn’t apply to “Black Panther,” which received an overwhelming amount of acclaim.
And so the academy delayed the institution of its popular film category — “by popular demand,” Variety quipped in a September article that claimed many academy members viewed the August announcement as “another botched PR episode for the organization.”
Four months later, the SAG-AFTRA statement appears to be more of the same. Will the Oscars recover in time?