Oscars 2019 to have no host – but all the Avengers set to present – The Guardian

Oscars 2019 to have no host – but all the Avengers set to present – The Guardian

For some years, the Academy Awards have been seeking to shake up their annual telecast, in an attempt to freshen the ceremony and lure a larger – and younger – audience. Veteran producers have been let go; edgier hosts employed – and ratings continued to fall.

This year, however, a radical reinvention of the ceremony has been all but forced on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, following the decision of Kevin Hart to step down three days after he was announced as host in December.

Hart – an actor and comedian particularly popular with exactly the demographic the Oscars were keen to court – was reportedly told to apologise anew for homophobic remarks he had made in the past or quit his post.

He chose the latter, but speculation had been strong as no replacement was unveiled – and Hart did indeed apologise a few days later anyway. Last week, he appeared on Ellen DeGeneres’s chatshow and declared he would be open to a return, if only to “take a stand against the trolls” who he felt had hounded him online.

When are the Oscars?

The 91st Academy awards take place on 24 February at the Dolby theatre in Los Angeles. It is broadcast live on ABC in the US, on Sky in the UK, and on Channel Nine in Australia. The red carpet portion of the show is broadcast live by the E! network.

Who decides on the Oscars?

The Oscars are voted for by members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (aka Ampas), which currently numbers just under 8,000 voting members, divided into 17 separate branches, including actors, directors, costume designers, etc. (To join, names have to be proposed and approved by individual branches.) The Academy has received considerable criticism in recent years for the perceived white/male/elderly bias of its voters – and a drive to create a more diverse membership was instituted after the #OscarsSoWhite campaign in 2016.

How many Oscars are there and how does a film get nominated?

There are 24 categories – ranging from best picture to best sound mixing – presented on Oscar night. The Academy also gives out a bunch of Scientific and Technical awards: this year, for example, it will honour the people behind Adobe Photoshop and the Medusa Performance Capture System. Also there are the honorary Oscars: this year they are going to actor Cicely Tyson, producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, Steven Spielberg’s PR flack Marvin Levy and composer Lalo Schifrin (of Mission: Impossible renown).

Each of the main awards has its own rules and regulations for slimming down all the eligible entries – first to a longlist, then a shortlist, then the final nomination list. In most categories, to be eligible a film must have been released for seven days in Los Angeles before 31 December, and a specialist committee makes the selection for the nomination – which is then voted on by the full membership. For the best foreign language film award, each country can submit one film (89 were put forward this year), before a committee boils them down to a final five. 

What do Oscar winners win?

The Oscar statuette isn’t solid gold: it’s gold-plated bronze on a black metal base. It is 34 cm tall and weighs 3.8 kg. While the Academy doesn’t own it once it is handed over, its acceptance is conditional that recipients won’t sell them unless they have offered them back to the Academy for $1. 

Photograph: Rex Features

But the backlash to the interview was considerable, with many objecting to Hart’s appropriation of victimhood and DeGeneres’s agreement with his assessment that his detractors were simply “haters”.

Reports have now emerged in the Hollywood trade press that the telecast team have resigned themselves to the lack of a replacement and sought instead to secure the services of countless stars to act as awards presenters.

Top of the producers Donna Gigliotti and Glenn Weiss’s wish list for the 24 February show is said to be the cast of the Avengers franchise, ahead of the release two months later of the “final” instalment, Endgame.

The 2013 telecast featured a dry run for such an event, with Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L Jackson together on stage, among many others. ABC, the network that broadcasts the Oscars in the US, is owned by Disney, which also now owns Marvel.

Should such topline talent be enticed on to the stage, a host-free setup could be perceived as a win-win: audiences are reportedly increasingly bored by the political rhetoric that can make up much of the patter of an official emcee, while publicists and studios would be pleased by the diminished opportunities for the ceremony to go off-script.

Such a situation is not entirely without precedent: in 1989, producer Allan Carr and director Jeff Margolis oversaw a show that replaced the opening monologue with a now-infamous 11-minute musical number involving a duet between the actor Rob Lowe and an unknown actor, Eileen Bowman, dressed as Snow White.

The show was appallingly received by critics, audiences and all those present in the room, with Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Julie Andrews and Billy Wilder signing an open letter deriding it as “an embarrassment to both the Academy and the entire motion picture industry”.

Lowe is still attempting to live it down, while Bowman returned to her San Diego hometown the following morning, never to return to Los Angeles. Carr never worked again and lived most of the remaining years of his life as a recluse.

Multiple hosts have also been sighted through the years, with Bob Hope, Jack Lemmon, Rosalind Russell and Donald Duck sharing the billing in 1958, Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, Charlton Heston and Rock Hudson in 1973 and Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan in 1987.

The most recent example came in 2011, when James Franco and Anne Hathaway acted as co-hosts. Their efforts were widely perceived to be disastrous, with a striking lack of chemistry or humour, and had a negative impact on the careers of both.

Speaking in 2017, Franco again denied being stoned during the engagement, but did admit to having either “high or low energy. In my head, I was trying to be the straight man. I guess I just went too far or came across as the dead man … I mean, I shouldn’t have been doing it”.


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