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February 22, 2019

What is wrong with the Oscars?

If we were really going to answer that question, we would need a much bigger blog, but if we were to focus on the televised history of the annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards ceremony, we would point to the sheer tediousness of the production.

All the creative talent available to Hollywood, and somehow, when they celebrate themselves and their achievements in the past year, they manage to make it into a boring train wreck. Every year. And they know it.

This year, the writers at the Wall Street Journal forced themselves to watch over 18 hours worth of the Academy Awards ceremony, much of it from last year, where they identified several aspects of the low-rated televised ceremony that just drag on and on for viewers, and found one in particular that stood out.

Last year’s Oscars show was the longest telecast in years, and also the lowest-rated one ever. Coincidence? Doubtful.
Such long nights—last year’s ran nearly four hours—help explain why the length of this year’s show is one of Hollywood’s biggest preoccupations.

Amid this awards-season angst, The Wall Street Journal set out to calculate precisely why the Oscars are so long. In the amount of time we spent viewing Oscar shows from 2014 to 2018, logging the number of minutes eaten up by speeches, songs, crowd shots and other staples of the annual broadcast, we could have plowed through the entire “Godfather” trilogy. Twice.

Which activities take up the most time? One of the most surprising revelations: Walking. Viewers watch an average 24 minutes of celebrities and winners walking to and from the stage. The figure is made primarily of victors ambling up to receive awards, as well as the generally quicker strides of presenters strolling to the microphone and guests heading offstage. This year, the academy is trying to curtail the walking shots, which can include cutaways of clapping celebrities, by urging winners to move more quickly.

Short of using a time delay and then speeding through ceremony's many time-filling Roger Corman-esque walking scenes the way the Keystone Kops were featured in films over a hundred years ago, which admittedly would be more entertaining, especially if they brought the Keystone Kops back to accelerate the action, it's not going to work. There's just too much else that's wrong and makes the ceremony unbearably long. Not having a capable host is going to hurt, to name just one new problem the Oscars will have this year.

They really owe an apology to Kevin Hart.

Previously on Political Calculations

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