After two marathon back to back Board of Governors meetings last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning (one to choose 2018 Governors Awards honorees and the other in which it was decided to “postpone” the recently announced Popular Movie category), Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President John Bailey made his way to the Toronto Film Festivalm where the fest and the Academy hosted a reception promoting the upcoming Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Two Baileys actually made speeches to the packed crowd of Academy members and other guests gathered at the elegant sixth-floor space at TIFF Lightbox, headquarters of the festival. Artistic Director Cameron Bailey made some welcoming remarks promoting the relationship between TIFF and Oscar’s home before he had to rush off to introduce the world premiere screening of Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk .ater, John Bailey talked about the museum and the ever-changing nature of the Academy, which is going global with some 48% of this year’s new member class alone from outside the U.S. Museum Director Kerry Brougher also was part of this outreach in Canada on the part of the Academy’s most ambitious project in decades. It is planned now to open in the fall 2019. Guests were impressed.
In between their remarks I had a nice chat with the Academy chief about plans for the 2019 Oscar telecast and of course the current demise of the Popular Movie idea. The new category was one Bailey had supported from the start, but he thinks it failed because they didn’t explain it properly in the first place, causing an immediate media and industry backlash. Bailey points to Oscar’s history of honoring so-called popular movies and said he realized it was important for the future to be all-inclusive, even though his personal tastes run to early silent films and Bela Tarr movies, he laughed. Despite the Academy’s release saying the idea is on hold pending further studies, Bailey tells me it will take some real effort on the part of others to revive it, and he believes it certainly won’t happen during his term (which is up next summer).
So there won’t be a Popular Movie category on the February 24th Oscar show, but other changes are being implemented including the commitment to keeping the show to three hours. Period. As part of that effort, several crafts categories (to be determined) will have their presentations taped during commercial breaks, and then edited for airing later in the broadcast, but still including all the nominees and the winner’s speech. I told him this was a radical idea considering most of the board that voted for this is made up of members of the affected crafts including cinematographer Bailey, who is one of the few Academy Presidents ever elected from one of those crafts.
When it was announced in August, I wrote that it was like Richard Nixon opening up U.S. relations with China: No Democrat could have gotten away with it. He agrees that it probably took someone like him to make the case, and the Cinematographers led the way in arguing for this change by showing how it could be done. Bailey’s co-Governor in the branch, in fact, cut together an example of what it would look like and convinced other board members that it actually was an improvement, without losing any of the dignity of the presentation or downgrading it. The categories that are most affected would be rotated each year, and it hasn’t been decided which ones would be first. Bailey said it is possible that Cinematographers and Film Editors (his wife and fellow board member Carol Littleton is an Editor) could be among those leading the way. AMPAS is waiting to bring in a new Oscar show producer before deciding on how this will be accomplished.
Speaking of producers, he said they are “nearing” a choice to produce this year’s show, and that his personal preference is to have someone who has a large degree of live television producing experience, especially considering the goal of a three-hour Oscars and the editing of some categories. As for a host, he indicated that the Academy is further away from that announcement. “It doesn’t have to even be one host,” he teased. Certainly there is precedent for that in Oscar’s 90-year past, where some producers opted for a “Friends of Oscar” approach to the hosting job. However, perhaps in an effort to keep the Oscars politics-free, Bailey says it likely will not be a stand-up comedian. I am pretty sure this rules out the host of the past two shows, Jimmy Kimmel, who also is an ABC star and that is the network that airs the Academy Awards. However, it wouldn’t necessarily rule out comedian Ellen DeGeneres, whose past two Oscar hosting gigs were ratings successes. Time will tell.