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.