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ESJ's Movie Project - "Let's Fix the Oscars" Edition

To my personal shock and shame, I saw zero movies in the past seven days. Can't remember the last tim
ESJ's Movie Project - "Let's Fix the Oscars" Edition
By Eric Johnson • Issue #26 • View online
To my personal shock and shame, I saw zero movies in the past seven days.
Can’t remember the last time that happened. I did watch a lot of Downton Abbey this week because I have to get ready for the upcoming movie sequel that probably isn’t going to be very good, but which I will definitely watch regardless! But don’t worry — I’m not going to let this turn into a TV recap newsletter because I still have some dignity.
Instead, I’ll use this space to riff on an intense conversation I had this week. At a business conference party on Wednesday night, in between lobster rolls and fried mac and cheese balls, I got to talking with a fellow movie geek about one of “those” questions …
How do you fix the Oscars?

Pictured: ¡Sí, se puede!
Pictured: ¡Sí, se puede!
OK, Let's Do This.
I take the Oscars seriously, as anyone who’s attended one of my viewing parties could attest. But as one of the dwindling number of people who tune in live every year, I’ve had to make my peace with the show’s growing irrelevance. And, in what is probably some mutated strain of the Stockholm Syndrome, I’ve come to kind of enjoy (?) the Oscars’ fallibility. So many of the seemingly prestigious winners quickly become the answers to trivia questions, while the “losers” they defeated linger longer in the zeitgeist. Almost no one will remember The Shape of Water in 5 years’ time, but generations of cinephiles, critics, and students will be talking about Get Out through the end of the century.
(Please let me know if, before reading that paragraph, you had already forgotten that The Shape of Water won Best Picture in 2018. I’m sure there’s at least a couple of you.)
Anyway, “fixing the Oscars” is a fun but probably futile debate, usually litigated during Oscars season when everyone’s mad about nominees and winners and it’s too late to change a single thing. A rare exception was this past year, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences proactively tried to reform the show before it took place.
Of course, because this is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences we’re talking about (official motto: “We make the Democratic Party seem competent!”), it royally screwed everything up. Just over a year ago, on August 8, 2018, the AMPAS announced a new category, the Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film; this was widely interpreted as an attempt to shunt superhero films, such as that year’s megahit Black Panther, into a gilded ghetto, and the new category was “postponed” a few weeks later.
But here’s the thing: If the Academy had been more ambitious and less elitist, I think it might have been on the right track with the “popular movie” category.
No, Really.
If I ran the zoo that is this beleaguered awards night, I’d make it an awards week: Every night for the first five nights of the week would be smaller, shorter awards shows for different movie genres, which could change over time as genres’ popularity waxed and waned. For the sake of argument, let’s say Action/Adventure movies on Monday, Sci-Fi/Fantasy movies on Tuesday, Horror/Mystery/Thriller movies on Wednesday, Dramas on Thursday, and Comedies/Musicals on Friday. Only a select group of AMPAS members would be eligible to vote on each of these nights, based on the kinds of films they’ve worked on in the past.
Separating the genres like this would bring in fans who otherwise wouldn’t tune in, would give more attention to movies that typically get overlooked in awards season, and would open the door for one-night-only special categories that recognize outstanding achievement in genre-specific fields, like stunt choreography. However, some categories would be the same for all five shows, recognizing universally valuable traits like good acting or good directing. And at the end of each genre night, a “Best Picture” is crowned, and a runner-up is also acknowledged.
Now, here’s where it gets really interesting: After a break on Saturday, everyone convenes for the final night of Oscars week on Sunday with a glitzy live telecast, a comedian host — the whole nine yards. But now, the winners of the past week’s shows are all competing against each other in the big categories. There would be no “Meryl Streep and four others” categories — every contender in every major category would have already been vetted by her or his peers as one of the best of the best of Hollywood’s offerings from that year.
And in the final category of the night, the winners of the five Best Picture categories are nominated for Best Best Picture, along with their runners-up, making 10 nominees total. And on the Big Night, everyone would be able to vote, which means those runners-up would still have a fighting chance.
If you only care about Dramas, then fine — just tune in Thursday night and you will have your Best Director and Best Picture. But if you like all kinds of movies, then the stakes on Sunday would be super high. Anything could happen!
I mean, I would watch that, but of course I would. Would you? Reply to this email to let me know.
Every New Movie I've Seen in 2019 (So Far), Ranked
(no new additions this week)

  1. Booksmart
  2. If Beale Street Could Talk
  3. The Farewell
  4. Us
  5. Free Solo
  6. Avengers: Endgame
  7. Amazing Grace
  8. The Favourite
  9. Long Shot
  10. The Wife
  11. The Art of Self-Defense
  12. Toy Story 4
  13. Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood
  14. Apollo 11
  15. Shoplifters
  16. The Last Black Man In San Francisco
  17. Aladdin
  18. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  19. Green Book
  20. Slut in a Good Way
  21. Always Be My Maybe
  22. Cold War
  23. Rocketman
  24. Roma
  25. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  26. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
  27. On the Basis of Sex
  28. Shazam!
  29. The Lion King
  30. Fighting With My Family
  31. They Shall Not Grow Old
  32. Yesterday
  33. Mary Poppins Returns
  34. Captain Marvel
  35. Minding the Gap
  36. Tolkien
  37. The Biggest Little Farm
  38. Alita: Battle Angel
  39. The Dead Don’t Die
  40. The Great Hack
  41. Stan & Ollie
  42. Vice
  43. Bohemian Rhapsody
  44. Aquaman

Did you enjoy this issue?
Eric Johnson

I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

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