The Oscar Nominations Press Conferences: In Memoriam

Salma Hayek and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis announce 79th Oscar nominations.
Photo: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Wednesday’s announcement that beautiful brides Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas will host the Monday morning Oscar nominations was met mainly by a flurry of treatises on the couple’s relative levels of fame and prestige. Are they worthy enough actors to be so closely associated with the Oscar contiguity, or are they just the two most photogenic faces ready to be in front of the camera at 5:00 a.m. on Monday morning after DST? But these are not the important considerations. Or, these are just secondary considerations. While the Priyankas and Nicks of the world are being asked to put on some zazz (™ Prom 2020) on the morning of the Oscar nominations, it is important to collectively mourn what we have lost as the Academy has strayed so far from the ideal morning nomination scenario: the President of the Academy and an Oscar-winning actress presenting the nominees. from a podium in front of some video monitors. Every evolution away from this format has sacrificed tradition and gravity for cheap sparkle, and we should take a moment to commemorate its demise.

By the late 1980s, announcement of Oscar nominations had moved from trade newspapers to television. Broadcast on the network morning shows such as Today and Hello america, as well as on the cable, where E! made as many meals of the event as possible at the time, rewarding “experts” and landing immediate reaction interviews from the nominees, they were – and remain today – a glorified reading of a press release. hurry. And as the format of the press event has remained the same for over two decades, it has taken on the luster of tradition.

The elements were simple but very cohesive: At the unholy hour of 5.30 a.m. PT, the then president of the Academy would join a Hollywood artist on a podium, in front of a quintet of video screens, and begin read the nominees in the major categories (Image, Director, the four categories of actors, screenplays and Foreign language film; possibly joined by the animated feature film). Far more often than not, the performer joining the president of the Academy was an Oscar-winning actress, imparting gravity and glamor to the moment. Anjelica Huston, Shirley MacLaine, Sigourney Weaver, Kathy Bates, Mira Sorvino, and Marcia Gay Harden have all accepted the assignment at one point or another. The dryness of the format was a feature, not a bug, and it allowed the little fleeting things to crop up. And if Oscar-obsessed like anything, it’s that the ephemeral makes a big deal out of it. The Way Weaver opened the 76th Academy Awards press event with a directive from “Hang on to your hats” (she wasn’t kidding either, as this year’s announcements included shocks like Whale rider‘s Keisha Castle-Hughes in Best Actress and City of Godby Fernando Meirelles in the Best Director category). The way the press and publicists gathered in the peanut gallery yelled in approval when Javier Bardem got his very first nomination for Before nightfall.

In 2007, announcing the nominees for Best Films of 2006, Salma Hayek (not an Oscar winner but a former nominee for Frida) took the stage and gave what is to date the finest performance by an actress reading Oscar nominations in history. There were dramatic breaks, outbursts of elation (like when her best friend Penélope Cruz got a Best Actress nod for Volver), and an emotional climax full of tears and emotion when Mexico Pan’s Labyrinth was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film (followed immediately by a return to tongue-in-cheek stoicism for the final nominee, Canada’s The water). It was a brave trick from Hayek, and I submit to you that his heightened air of great drama in a bureaucratic context would not have been possible in the modern nomination format.

The contemporary history of the Oscars is a story of nervous pivoting in the hope of avoiding audience erosion. Attempts were made to add new questionable categories, pack the show with a youthful appeal, catch every Avengers possible to be a presenter, and dispense with a host in order to make the telecast as short as possible. Unsurprisingly, morning appointments stoicism became a DIY target before too long. the Announcement 2013 saw this year’s host Seth MacFarlane joined by Emma Stone for a 10-minute affair that moaned under the weight of all the tunes, jokes and comedies forced upon their captive audience before sunrise. MacFarlane opened with a monologue, and Stone managed to kill the suspense of the Supporting Actor category by noting each nominee somewhat as a previous winner.

The Academy has since pulled out of anything resembling live theater that year, settling into what for the past few years has been a pre-recorded streaming video presentation hosted by Tiffany Haddish, Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae. And while there should be zero complaints about the talent involved – especially when discussing the backspin that Haddish put on the phrase “Call me by your name” – there is something too produced and airless in the new format. Look no further for proof than the fact that the most memorable moment in the last ten years of Oscar announcements came when they reverted to the old format for the 2015 announcement: Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, joined by Chris Pine (not an actress, but so pretty!) Reading nominations for best picture and bad reading Mr. Turneris Dick Pope as Dick Poop.

One of these days, the Academy will eventually pull the trigger on a special all-round nominations broadcast in prime time. It is a virtual certainty. It will be an hour and will feature six pieces of Man on the Street by Jimmy Kimmel, and the identities of the nominees will be guessed. Masked singer–Style by hosts of View. It’ll be a circus, and we’re all going to hate watching it, but we’ll have lost something. A moment like “Dick Poop” only happens once in a generation. The devastating “… and of Canada” by Salma HayekThe water”Is a comet that crosses the night sky. These are moments of madness and fabulous against the backdrop of a morning chore. You won’t have that with Priyanka and Nick making prerecorded jokes on YouTube.

About Kelly Choos

Kelly Choos

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