Recently, film fans all around the world turned to their small screens to watch the Oscars 2023 ceremony. We were greeted with designer ballgowns, some cringy presenting, and of course, witnessed the legendary sweep of the hit science fiction movie Everything Everywhere All at Once – which won Best Picture among a plethora of other categories.
Now as someone who is a massive Everything Everywhere All at Once fan, going so far as to name the flick the best 2022 movie in my five-star Everything Everywhere All at Once review, I was thrilled by the outcome at this Academy Awards ceremony. However, during my little victory dance for seeing my favourite nominee thrive, I couldn’t help but notice a massive dip in excitement for the Academy Awards as a whole. Outside of the Film Twitter-sphere, it seemed few had tuned in to see the event live, and among those that had, a large portion were simply waiting for another Will Smith slap moment.
Yes, viewership numbers for the award ceremony were up compared to last year, with The Hollywood Reporter publishing an 18.7 million viewer figure versus 2022’s 16.6 million. Despite the uptick, the Oscars 2023 still had the third-worst viewership turnout in its history. And, as my fellow staff writer, Charlotte Colombo, pointed out in her article on the Oscars 2023: you could also argue that this year the whole celebration was just pretty boring.
Like any concerned film fan, I concluded it’s time to investigate the Oscars’ waning popularity and also propose a solution courtesy of the Anime Awards. Starting in 2017, the Anime Awards is a far smaller, in both scale and following, annual award ceremony compared to the Oscars. During the event, anime series and anime movies of the year are recognised by the community.
Held by the streaming service Crunchyroll, the ceremony is extremely niche in comparison to the Academy Awards. However, scale and scope aside – there is a factor that makes the Anime Awards wholly unique and should be observed by every modern awards show today.
The one major difference between the Oscars and the Anime Awards is the inclusion of fans in the voting process. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences consists of 10,000-plus members, divided among 17 branches. All members have to be involved in the movie business in some capacity. However, this doesn’t mean that they are all creatives – executives, marketing, and PR individuals are included too.
At the end of the day, the Oscars is exclusionary and comprised of members generally outside of the popular masses. Looking at the situation from a cynical (but harshly realistic) point of view, voters who dictate the year’s best and brightest in cinema are led by work colleagues existing in their own industry bubble, or those who view films via a business capacity over artistic process.
So, pinpointing the ‘Best Picture’ of the year that the majority of film fans globally and that these few selected folks in the Academy would agree with is a near to impossible task from the outset. In comparison, the Anime Awards voting allows for the small possibility of public sway. 70% of the votes will come from the judges, while 30% comes from public voting.
Yes, this may seem like a tiny percentage at first glance – but it achieves something the Oscars hasn’t managed to. It crafts a sense of a heard community.
Anime has become increasingly more mainstream during recent years, with animated movies such as Demon Slayer and One Piece: Red receiving worldwide cinema runs and pulling in impressive box office numbers. Fans are becoming increasingly attached to the genre, and there is a constant influx of conversation happening around each and every new movie or TV series.
The Anime Awards, while still dominated by the voting body’s opinion, gives space for every anime fan to feel heard – making voting more transparent and pushing the awards show to feel more communal and like a true celebration. The Oscars, on the other hand, presents itself as a worldwide celebration of cinema, but hasn’t evolved from a closed-off industry-exclusive event.
Every year fans who bought tickets, DVDs, and pushed for all the nominees’ success are expected to likewise tune into the celebration, which in comparison keeps them at arm’s length. While shouting from behind our screens is all well and good, we can never truly support our favourite movies’ award campaigns or our top stars of the year. So, the hard question pops up: “why bother watching in the first place?”
There is a reason why the Oscars, year after year, suffer from some form of general outcry. Be it for promoting ‘Oscar-bait films’ — movies evidently pandering to the voting body – or for its continued lack of diversity. The Academy has a constant uphill battle with public opinion, and it’s easy to see why.
According to Statista, data taken in 2022 found that only 33% of the Oscars voting body was female, and only 19% identified as ‘non-white’. Not really a fair collection of differing thoughts and opinions, is it? And when you add this fact to the lack of public sway available, well, voting loses a sense of integrity as a means to capture a collective winner.
Yes, overzealous fandoms and bots may be an issue in the future – as seen with the Academy’s previous stint with fan voting in 2022. Fans were invited to vote for ‘Most Cheer-Worthy Moment’ in any movie in the Oscars in 2022. However, Zack Snyder fans dominated the category, causing the Academy to pull the award altogether.
To this point, I’d say to the Oscars, throwaway fan ‘awards’ aren’t the same as a regulated and monitored poll for all categories, as seen with the Anime Awards ceremony. The Anime Awards has proved that it is possible to include the general public, and it needs to be done.
The Oscars need to evolve if it plans to survive. The Academy needs to bring in a wider pool of voters and perhaps even utilise a small public voting poll. Like the Anime Awards, voting bodies should still lead the way – I mean, they are professionals, after all.
But giving rise to, let’s say, a 30% input from everyone – the exact figure that the Anime Awards allow – should make the Oscars ceremony reflect the same communal feeling of walking into a crowded cinema.
In movie theatres, strangers connect with directors, actors, and stories. We come together to celebrate this fabulous art form. There are no prerequisites when it comes to enjoying a movie, and at the end of the day, we are all needed – professionals and fans – to keep this great medium and industry afloat.
So, Oscars, it is time to take some cues from anime and Crunchyroll – open your doors and let the vast and global film community be heard.