The Oscars will be broadcast this Sunday night on ABC, and I can tell you two things about it already: 1) there will be some parody of last year’s Best Picture screwup either in the opening or in Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue, possibly involving Warren Beatty but definitely not Faye Dunaway; and 2) the TV ratings will not be very good.
The latter has nothing to do with Kimmel, although right-wing cranks will, of course, blame it on the anti-Trump and other political stances he’s taken on his late night show in recent months. To the contrary, the Oscars viewership drop is due to the lack of blockbuster movies among the top nominees. In fact, if you combine the domestic box office of the nine Best Picture nominees, from “The Post” making $78.8 million, all the way down to “Call Me By Your Name” earning $15.8 million, the total comes to $348.6 million.
That’s less than the domestic gross of any one of the top five movies, according to Box Office Mojo. In the 2017 calendar year, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” made $618 million, “Beauty And The Beast” made $504 million, “Wonder Woman” made $412 million, “Guardians Of The Galaxy 2” made $389 million, and “Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle” earned $387 million.
Some of those blockbusters will show up on the Oscars in the technical categories (visual effects, sound design, etc.) and some of their stars may be among the presenters — I can’t imagine that Gal Gadot won’t make an appearance behind the podium at some point — but they won’t be in the running for Best Picture, Best Director, or any of the top four acting awards.
Having a smash hit in the running for the big Oscars definitely helps bring in viewers. The most-watched Academy Awards ever took place in 1998, when over 55 million people tuned in to see “Titanic” dominate the night. The only other time an Oscars-cast drew more than 50 million viewers was in 1983, when “Gandhi” ran away with the top prize. Last year, fewer than 33 million tuned in.
Plus, television ratings for just about everything — including the Super Bowl, Olympics, and other must-see-live events — have been down across the board, as Americans choose from so many other options or, more likely, ignore live TV altogether. Oh, and don’t believe the oft-repeated lie that “a billion people are watching tonight.” There’s no way that one in seven humans on the entire planet are tuning in, when they can’t even get one in seven Americans to watch!
On the other hand, while viewership will be down, there are still some damned good movies and performances to honor this year. Here are my predictions of some of the winners:
Best Picture: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” There’s been a recent groundswell on behalf of “Get Out,” and I wouldn’t mind either of them taking the top prize, since they made the top four on my Best Movies Of 2017 list. However, “Get Out” is more likely to dominate the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday afternoon (broadcast live from inside a tent on Santa Monica Beach on the IFC Channel, it’s a fun event made even better by returning hosts John Mulaney and Nick Kroll). My number one movie of the year, “The Big Sick,” wasn’t nominated by the Academy, but at least it’s in the running for Original Screenplay. It’s also possible that “The Shape Of Water” has grabbed the imaginations of enough Oscar voters to slide in for a win, but I am betting on the Billboards.
Best Director: While I’d love to see first-timers Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) and Jordan Peele (“Get Out”) pull off an upset, Guillermo del Toro will take it for his inter-species love story, “The Shape Of Water.” I haven’t seen it, or any human-having-intercourse-with-sea-creature movie since “Splash.”
Best Actress: It’s been 11 years since Frances McDormand won for “Fargo.” She’ll pick up her second Oscar for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” while Meryl Streep smiles and claps yet again.
Best Actor: The mortal lock of the year is Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour.” He’s unrecognizable under the prosthetics that make him look like Winston Churchill, but it’s his performance that guarantees his win.
Best Supporting Actress: I’d love to see Laurie Metcalf win for playing Saoirse Ronan’s mother in “Lady Bird,” but I can’t argue with the likely choice of Allison Janney, who will continue her streak of award-show nods for “I, Tonya,” in which she plays the mother of Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) and steals every scene she’s in. The rest of the field is so far behind they’re not even in the running.
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell has been picking up lots of trophies lately for his very solid work in “Three Billboards.” He not only deserves the award for his performance, but may also get this as an “at-last” honor for all the other characters he’s inhabited on screen so brilliantly for the last 20 years. The spoiler here could be Willem Dafoe in a movie I hated, “The Florida Project.” He was the only good thing in it, and he also has a distinguished career that hasn’t included an Oscar, but I’m still picking Rockwell to win.
Now, if the Price Waterhouse Coopers accountants can stay off social media and do their handing-out-envelopes job correctly, we may get a glitch-free evening of entertainment.