The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just announced that late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel will be back to present the Oscars for the second year in a row. I truly love Jimmy Kimmel, I really do, but I feel forced to share my very unpopular opinion with the world: I think this is a huge mistake and I simply can’t understand this decision. These are my reasons (personal AND factual).
I’m going to admit it, this is purely based on my personal opinion, but I thought the latest Academy Awards were one of the most boring of the past…several years (Ellen raised the bar too high, let’s face it). Of course, most people loved the show (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this) even though it was tainted by the Best Picture scandal, the biggest mistake in Oscar history. But now, getting back to the host’s role, I think the ceremony was too slow, jokes were too repetitive (how many times do you have to parachute food to the audience to make your point) and the only joke that was somehow funny, the tourists that were brought in without them knowing (kudos to the production team behind it), was too long and proved that no background checks had been made: as it turns out, the beloved Gary from Chicago had been released from jail just two days before after being arrested on several accounts, including rape. This was a totally avoidable mistake. I love Jimmy Kimmel Live so couldn’t we get something like “I told my kids I ate all their Halloween candy” in a Hollywood style (if that is even possible, I don’t know, I’m not a screenwriter, but I hope you get my point).
Second of all, if you like the “late-nigh show host”, there are so many options available that may turn out to be just as great, really. Kimmel is obviously a safe option, but Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers or Trevor Noah could do a great job too (although I wasn’t the biggest fan of Fallon’s Golden Globe performance). Is it because the other hosts are “too political”? (This is just a guess, I could be totally wrong). Kimmel was also political, tweeting President Donald Trump in the middle of the ceremony, which would have been a great moment if Trump had responded. But then again, ceremonies hosted by late-night hosts have received some of the lowest ratings of the past few decades: except for David Letterman in 1994, the two ceremonies hosted by Jon Stewart (who doesn’t have the same comic profile as Jimmy Kimmel) received the lowest ratings and lowest audiences (38,64 million and 31,76 million). Even though the show is American and it is mostly intended for an American audience, I don’t think these kind of hosts have the star power to attract large foreign audiences. I don’t have the figures to check the percentage of non-American viewers, but I’m sure it makes a difference.
Now let’s get to the figures that simply don’t add up: length has been the main concern of the Academy for many years for obvious reasons. You need to be truly dedicated or highly entertained in order to watch an almost 4-hour-long ceremony. I love cinema so that isn’t a problem (even if it means not sleeping at night), but I can see why people who are not really into movies, or haven’t watched even half of them, could lose interest. Since advertising time can’t be touched (although I think it’s the biggest issue), it is up to the host and his/her team to make the ceremony as short and as fun as possible. This year’s ceremony lasted 3 hours and 49 minutes, the longest since Ellen hosted the Oscars in 2007 (that’s literally 10 years). Just so that you get a picture of how much shorter it can be, in 2012 the ceremony presented by Billy Cristal had a run time of 3 hours and 14 minutes, that’s more than half an hour less (something anyone could appreciate). Even a show filled with jokes, sketches and songs, like Ellen’s in 2012, lasted 3 hours and 34 minutes. How can this be? I’m certainly not going to blame it on the Moonlight-La La Land fiasco. Jimmy Kimmel’s jokes have to get to the point and use the time wisely: don’t dawdle, aim, shoot and hit the target.
Another fact was that this year’s Oscars drew an audience of just 32,9 million viewers, the lowest since Jon Stewart hosted the ceremony in 2008. Was it because of the Trump supporters boycott? Was it because audiences assumed that La La Land was going to take home all the awards? I don’t know, maybe, but still, hosts that attracted larger audiences were booed because of this generalized tendency (James Franco and Anne Hathaway or Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin). If you want to get higher figures, shouldn’t you look for another host? Jimmy Kimmel hosting for the second time in a row (he’s no Billy Cristal) sends the clear message that nothing is going to change in the Academy. Yes, changes were made, thank you, but it’s still not enough to attract audiences that are not genuinely interested in cinema.
Then why Jimmy Kimmel? The role of Oscar host is never easy: The Academy has to take risks and pick a candidate that could potentially fail, and whomever accepts the role knows they will have to endure one of the most difficult tasks in Hollywood. In my opinion, after last year’s Best Picture snafu, the Academy wanted a safe bet and Kimmel was the right man for them. Still, audiences crave change, not just structural, but also new faces and, most importantly, more diversity (Chris Rock was a breath of fresh air). How can we complain about the Oscars when we don’t give potential hosts the opportunity to show what they can do? Yes, it may not work, but what if it does? Don’t try to play it safe. Now, let’s just hope Kimmel learns from his mistakes (if he is even aware of them) and mark our calendars: the Oscars will be held on March 4 2018 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Go get your popcorn because this season will be very interesting!
(As always, this is a purely personal post about a totally biased opinion and if you disagree that’s totally fine, I just wanted to get this out of my chest).