Not just about the host

Awards shows are due for a makeover, in­sid­ers say


Change is afoot for ma­jor film awards shows on both sides of the bor­der.

As Os­cars or­ga­niz­ers grap­ple with a host­ing snafu, de­vis­ing a new cat­e­gory and short­en­ing the no­to­ri­ously long show, the head of the Cana­dian Screen Awards is also tin­ker­ing with the for­mat for the event this March. “We’re look­ing at how we can shake up the tra­di­tional awards show for­mat,” Beth Jan­son, CEO of the Academy of Cana­dian Cin­ema & Tele­vi­sion, teased in an in­ter­view this week.

In a dig­i­tal age of frac­tured view­er­ship and de­clin­ing rat­ings, awards shows have been try­ing to find new ways to lure in view­ers and ap­peal to younger au­di­ences. A host could be a big piece of that puz­zle, but as Jan­son and oth­ers in the in­dus­try at­test, it’s tough to fill the role.

And, as the Os­cars re­cently found out, it’s an even tougher chal­lenge in a po­lit­i­cally charged era of old social me­dia posts that could haunt con­tenders. The Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences has not named a re­place­ment for Kevin Hart, who backed out of host­ing the Feb. 24 show af­ter anti-gay tweets and stand-up jokes he had made in the past resur­faced.

Now Va­ri­ety is re­port­ing this year’s Os­cars won’t have a host at all, which also hap­pened in 1989.

“I don’t ac­tu­ally think the Os­cars does need a host,” said Toronto pro­ducer J. Miles Dale, who won an Os­car last year for “The Shape of Wa­ter.”

“I think ABC might feel that they need a host, be­cause part of be­ing the host is hyp­ing the show in ad­vance - so all the pro­mos that hap­pen and ev­ery­thing else.” Cameron Bai­ley, co-head and artis­tic direc­tor of the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, also doesn’t feel a host is nec­es­sary.

“I watch the Os­cars to find out who’s win­ning and to see my favourite di­rec­tors and ac­tors on­screen,” Bai­ley said. “The host is a nice bonus but it’s not re­ally all about the host, in my view.”

This year’s crop of po­ten­tial nom­i­nees - in­clud­ing “Black Pan­ther,” “A Star is Born,” “Green Book” and “Vice” - had big box­of­fice ap­peal and could be all the lure the academy needs, said Los An­ge­les-based film critic Anne Thomp­son.

“I know they’re try­ing to use the host as a way to get bet­ter rat­ings, but that’s re­ally not where the rat­ings come from - they come from the movies,” said Thomp­son, IndieWire editor-at-large.

The Amer­i­can academy wanted Hart “re­ally badly” be­cause he’s a movie star with a huge social me­dia fol­low­ing and main­stream au­di­ence, said Thomp­son.

“It’s just the kind of peo­ple younger, hip­per, di­verse - that they want to bring into the show,” Thomp­son said.

But Hart didn’t work out and it seems a near-im­pos­si­ble task to re­place him.


Kevin Hart ar­rives at the Los An­ge­les pre­miere of “Ju­manji: Wel­come to the Jun­gle” in Los An­ge­les in 2017.

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