On Tuesday, academy President Tom Sherak announced that Oscar-winning producer Bruce Cohen ("American Beauty") and Emmy champ Don Mischer would oversee the next Academy Awards. However, the news that this pair of talented men -- who produced last fall's inaugural Governors Awards -- would be in charge of the big show for the first time was overshadowed by a report that the kudocast could be bumped up from late February to January. This potential seismic shift in the awards calendar has caused a clamor already.
Says Nikki Finke, who broke the news on Deadline, "With so many films coming out those last days of December, it leaves even less time for AMPAS members to see the movies they'll nominate. It also means the studios will have to get DVD screeners into voters' hands that much sooner, which would only make the piracy risks that much greater. Most of the AMPAS members I know watch the potential nominees over the December 25-January 1 holiday. That won't be possible."
Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly confirms that such a move would not happen until 2012 at the earliest. Says Karger, "I definitely agree that the overall awards season has grown way too long (particularly this past year, when the telecast was pushed back to March), but holding the Oscars in January would almost certainly mean that nominations would have to be announced in December, before all the movies have even opened in theaters." He thinks having the Oscars in early February is a good compromise.
Nathaniel Rogers of Film Experience weighs the pros and cons of the move. On the plus side: "Hollywood might actually release the films in the same calendar year that they're supposedly being honored for." In the minus column: "An earlier awards ceremony could also mean that we see even less discernment in Oscar nominations and winners than we do now, and even less careful consideration of merits from the critics and precursor groups."
Peter Sciretta of /Film thinks, "The move is smart as it would move the Oscars before the other important award shows of the season: The SAG awards on January 30th and the BAFTA awards February 13th, and if they set it in early January, it could even beat the Golden Globes to the punch. The move would also drastically reduce the amount of time for awards campaigning and would also effect how the studios time the release of their award-caliber films."
However, for Monica Bartyzel of Cinematical, "[a]s it stands now, members can pile up their screeners and have a nice Christmas holiday full of that year's (supposedly) top films. If the date is moved, that would certainly mean a wild rush. What's the only possible result? The winners will be even less accurate than they are now. Decisions will be rushed, films will be missed, and those who watch the proceedings will most likely have more to complain about the next day."
Writing on Awards Daily, Ryan Adams is clearly not impressed with the idea: "The main concern in staging a grand celebration is just to get it over with as quickly as possible, right? Why not move the whole slippery ceremony to an undisclosed location like the Honorary Oscars? Is New Year’s Eve convenient for everybody? This scheme is so unwieldy it’s hard to think of any way to respond except to wince at the absurdity."
On Hollywood News, Scott Feinberg posts a plea to the academy: "Personally, I don’t really care when you have the Oscars, but I do hope that you can help with another problem: we’ve got to find a way to get studios to spread out the release of awards-worthy movies throughout the year!" Feinberg's solution? "How about having TWO voting periods? At the end of June, have voters select the 5 best films released between January and June; and at the end of December, have voters select the 5 best films released between July and December."
Lane Brown, one of the New York vultures, feeds on this news and believes the move would generate surprises. As he explains, "Your will to live isn't the only thing watching a half dozen precursor awards shows destroys; there is also suspense. We knew for weeks before this year's Oscars that Jeff Bridges and Kathryn Bigelow would be making speeches. But if the ceremony had happened in January, their acceptances would have felt spontaneous and exciting, instead of just inevitable."
Fittingly, one of the pioneering Oscarologists -- Sasha Stone of Awards Daily -- has the last word as she refutes much of Brown's logic: "Large masses of people don’t really watch the Oscars for the surprises. Only awards show junkies know/care. They watch for the stars. Bring on the stars and the people will come. More popular movies winning supposedly helps too. So the best way to help ratings is to make better mainstream movies with big stars in them who might get Oscars."
Photo: Oscar statues. Credit: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences