This past week, it was announced that Jimmy Kimmel will return as host of the 2023 Oscars, making it his third time hosting the event. This is yet another move in a series of decisions made by the Academy in order to combat the show’s decline in viewers. In 2021, an all-time low of 10.4 million people tuned into the ceremony, compared with the habitual 30 to 40 million who watched previously. However, recent years have seen the downfall of the Academy Awards, not only in its dramatically decreased viewership, but also through accusations of a lack of diversity, hosting issues, and a catalogue of high-profile scandals. With each passing year, it has become increasingly clear that the Oscars are suffering. The appointing Kimmel as the host is a predictably uneventful move by the Academy, and a move which is unlikely to have any real impact on the show’s fundamental issues.
The landscape of cinema has changed, and the Oscars have been unable to adapt to capture a modern audience. Is this a reflection of the decline in Blockbuster movies? Or perhaps it is a consequence of the rise in streaming services like Netflix? Either way, cinematic storytelling is no longer an art form constrained to the big screen. The boom of the miniseries has managed to draw some of Hollywood’s most illustrious talents, implementing artistic formats which, in the past, had been reserved for the medium of film. Gone are the days of crowd-pleasing epics such as Forrest Gump and Saving Private Ryan. In their place more niche and alternative films have emerged, the likes of Moonlight and Nomadland. There is a disconnect between the everyday moviegoer and the Academy. Most audiences watch easy-going action adventures and superhero movies, forgoing the denser, more understated films which now dominate the Best Picture category. The Oscars are no longer a must-watch for the everyday person, who will most likely not have seen many of the films nominated.
However, this alone has not contributed to the current state of the awards show. There is a growing fatigue with the constant failings of the Academy and the scandals that have overwhelmed it. The Oscars have long been accused of a failure in diversity, with the #OscarsSoWhite campaign highlighting the lack of nominees of colour. The show was further thrust into the news in 2017 when La La Land was mistakenly announced as Best Picture, causing mass confusion. In recent years, an ethos of chaos has settled over the ceremony, specifically surrounding several hosts of the show. Comedian Kevin Hart resigned from his hosting duties in 2019 due to past homophobic tweets he had made. The period that followed saw shows without a host as well as ones with multiple hosts. The Academy failed to find the perfect formula, and the infamous 2022 scenario involving Will Smith slapping host Chris Rock proved that the curse remains. These circumstances have cast a taboo over the role of Oscar host, and thus 2023’s appointment would reflect the Academy’s direction in combating this downfall.
Ultimately, the decision to have Kimmel host is a safe one which demonstrates that the Academy has no intentions of a severe shake-up to their format. Whilst there have been attempts to fight low viewership, through the axing of eight awards from the live show, this has only added to the decline in the ceremony’s esteem. The appointment of Kimmel shows an attempt to stick to the status quo and not rock the boat, with the aim of clinging to the loyal viewers that they have remaining. However, the curse of the Oscar host, the changing landscape of modern cinema and the continued public scandals have all had a severe impact on the prestigious institution which was once considered the ultimate measure of great filmmaking.