Did “The Slap” wake up interest in the stuffy Academy Awards? Or after last year’s audience surge, is the telecast bound to re-rebound to a new low?
Following a steady slide that over a decade saw its audience plummet by 74 percent (to an all-time low of 10.4 million viewers in 2021), viewership for the Oscars surged in 2022, with a telecast that brought back the concept of a host(s) and, yes, featured a 10 pm physical fracas between Will Smith and Chris Rock.
All told, last year’s telecast drew 16.6 million total viewers (in Live+Same Day numbers), up 60 percent from the final count for 2021 — though still the second-smallest Oscars audience on record. I n the demo, the NBC broadcast was up 73 percent, with a 3.8 rating.
This year’s ceremony is being hosted by three-timer Jimmy Kimmel and will air on ABC (but is not live-streamable anywhere), and the better-known nominees include Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water and awards darling Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Is the audience bound to rise further for filmdom’s biggest night? Or return to its pandemic-era doldrums? Review and consider the factors listed down below, then cast your vote in this poll (click here if poll not visible):
PRO: Jimmy Kimmel has lorded over Hollywood’s biggest night twice before, and is known not to hold back or play favorites when letting zingers fly. Plus, compared to last year’s hosting triumvirate of Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall and (the sometimes-polarizing) Amy Schumer, there’s bound to be less awkward banter.
CON: The last time Kimmel hosted, in 2018, he attempted multiple time-sucking stunts, including that utter groaner where a gaggle of stars sneaked into a theater across the street. That year’s Oscars wound up posting what at the time was the ceremony’s smallest audience ever: 26.5 million viewers.
Everything Everywhere All at Once leads this year’s pack with a whopping 11 nods, including a Best Picture nomination. All Quiet on the Western Front and The Banshees of Inisherin were also well-recognized, each amassing nine nominations.
PRO: There is some drama surrounding this year’s Best Picture race, with legit box office megahits like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of the Water facing off against the ambitious and buzzy Everything Everywhere All at Once (which has scooped up many awards in recent months).
In the Best Actress category, it’s a question of whether Michelle Yeoh (EEAOO) will continue to ride her wave of recent wins, or get bested by Cate Blanchett or — in what would elicit the biggest gasp of the night — To Leslie‘s Andrea Riseborough, whose grassroots campaigning strategy was accused of running afoul of Academy rules.
The Supporting Actress race, meanwhile, is poised to either give us the first winner from the MCU (Wakanda Forever‘s Angela Bassett) or see EEAOO‘s Jamie Lee Curtis reap well-earned kudos amid a stories career.
CON: Every single category is being presented on-stage this year, live, whereas last year’s telecast (unsuccessfully) experimented with pre-taping and splicing in a few of the more niche categories.
NO 'FAN FAVORITE MOVIE' AWARD THIS YEAR
In a desperate bid to draw in otherwise-disinterested and uninvested lookie-loos, the 2022 Oscars included the announcing of the winner of a “Fan Favorite Movie” award, as voted on via Twitter. Zack Snyder’s zombie movie Army of the Dead won the inaugural, not-an-Oscar prize, while a similarly fan-catering “Oscars Cheer Moment” went to Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
The experiment in catering to the masses was deemed a massive miss, not helped at all by a report that online bot voting fueled Snyder’s dual win.
Introducing nominees and handing out gold this year will be Halle Berry, Paul Dano, Cara Delevingne, Harrison Ford, Kate Hudson, Mindy Kaling, Eva Longoria, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Andie MacDowell, Elizabeth Olsen, Pedro Pascal, John Travolta, Riz Ahmed, Halle Bailey, Antonio Banderas, Elizabeth Banks, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, John Cho, Glenn Close, Jennifer Connelly, Ariana DeBose, Andrew Garfield, Hugh Grant, Danai Gurira, Salma Hayek Pinault, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Michael B. Jordan, Nicole Kidman, Troy Kotsur, Jonathan Majors, Melissa McCarthy, Janelle Monáe, Deepika Padukone, Florence Pugh, Questlove, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver and Donnie Yen.
PRO: You’re bound to recognize 90 percent of these people!
THE BIG QUESTION: Who will present the Oscar for Best Actress, which is usually handled by the previous year’s Best Actor winner — who in this case is the banned-from-the-ceremony Will Smith? The Academy is keeping that a surprise.
PRO: Four of this year’s nominated songs are set to be performed: “Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (performed by Rihanna), “This Is a Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once (performed by Stephanie Hsu, David Byrne and Son Lux), “Naatu Naatu” from RRR (performed by Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava) and “Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman (performed by Sofia Carson and Diane Warren). Additionally, Lenny Kravitz will deliver the “In Memoriam” performance.
CON: Due to her busy schedule filming the sequel to The Joker and not having proper time to prepare, Lady Gaga will not be performing “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick. There’s no word yet on whether another performer will sing the tune or if Gaga will still attend the ceremony.
DID 'THE SLAP' WAKE UP INTEREST?
PRO: As offense a moment as Will Smith’s physical assault of presenter Chris Rock in 2022 was, it did revive the notion that “Anything can happen!” during a live awards show — even one as stuffy as the Oscars. In what manner will host Jimmy Kimmel addresses or parody the infamous incident?
CON: More than 12 months later, is there anything else to say or joke about The Slap? Anything? And yet, someone who steps on stage Sunday night will try. We preemptively groan.
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