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Who are the Oscars for? The people who make movies, or the people who watch them?


The 94th Academy Awards are almost here! Who’s pumped?! Anyone? I know there’s been some controversy this year but what’s an Oscars without a bit of drama? Wait, you haven’t heard about the controversy? Seriously? Everyone in Hollywood is talking about it. The Academy had the nerve to cut eight categories from the live broadcast. Who cares about watching them give out Best Documentary (Short Subject), you say? Ever heard of James Cameron and John Williams? That’s right. Some of the biggest names in show biz wrote a scorching open letter to the Academy president saying, “To diminish any of these individual categories in the pursuit of ratings and short-term profits does irreparable damage to the Academy’s standing as impartial arbiters and responsible stewards of our industry’s most important awards.” Artistic compromise in pursuit of profits?? Disgusting. Hello?… Are you still there?

The 94th Academy Awards is live on ABC this Sunday night, and odds are you won't be watching. It's a shame. Once upon a time, people used to get excited about Oscars Sunday. They dressed up for Oscars parties and entered Oscars pools at work. And not just Hollywood insiders but ordinary folks celebrating the movies they loved.

The first televised ceremony in 1953 drew an estimated 40 million viewers. It was the 25th Academy Awards. Cecil B. DeMille's ''The Greatest Show on Earth'' won Best Picture in a stunning upset over the heavily favored ''High Noon''. Critics and cinephiles still consider it among the worst choices the Academy has ever made. And yet most of the 40 million people watching in their living rooms felt validated because their movie won. ''The Greatest Show on Earth'' was the highest-grossing film of 1952 by a long shot. It was so popular that it accounted for almost half of all tickets sold for all movies that year. Last year ''Nomadland'', an independent film most ordinary folks had never heard of, won Best Picture. Ratings were at an all-time low.

The Academy's relationship with moviegoers has been on the rocks for a while now, and the Academy doesn't seem willing to make any sweeping gestures to win them back. This year they tried cutting those ''boring'' categories, hiring not 1 but 3 female hosts, partnering with Gen Z TikTokers, and throwing a Twitter contest where everyone could vote for their favorite movie using the hashtag #OscarsFanFavorite. According to the emotional data, moviegoers were not impressed.

Cognovi Labs's technology uses psychology-driven Al to measure public interest. By listening to conversations online, they can determine emotional impact, reflecting the public's level of awareness and activation. In other words, they know how many people are talking about something and how much they really care about it. They listened to conversations about the Oscars over the past 30 days and registered an emotional impact score of 29 out of 100. To put that in perspective, here are the emotional impact scores for the ten films competing for this Best Picture:

''Don't Look Up'' was the most emotionally activating movie of the year for better and for worse. It generated a whole lot of surprise, amusement, fear and contempt. The lowest film on the list, ''The Power of the Dog'', still evoked plenty of joy, surprise and amusement. True, no award show can compete with a good movie in an emotions race. Every aspect of the filmmaking process is painstakingly crafted to make us feel as much as possible. When done right, movies can impact us emotionally like no other form of entertainment can. The data shows that all ten movies succeeded emotionally… for the limited audiences that saw them. Except for ''Dune'' and ''Don't Look Up'', the nominated films' awareness levels were virtually non-existent. And that's the crux of the issue. Quality movies shouldn't be punished for having limited audiences, but limited-appeal movies beget limited-appeal award shows. Movie studios used to make mass-appeal movies that also racked up awards. Remember ''Forrest Gump''? Remember ''Titanic''? Remember pretty much every Oscar-winning movie before the 2000s? Too bad they don't make movies anymore with tons of emotional impact AND massive awareness. Can you imagine what even one film like that could do to repair the Oscars-moviegoers rift? It would be like manna from movie heaven… Wait! Could it be? Here comes Spider-Man to save the Oscars!

Hailed by audiences and critics alike, ''Spider-Man: No Way Home'' single-handedly revitalized the box office, becoming the third-highest grossing domestic release of all-time in the middle of a pandemic. It has an emotional impact score of 68, is right up there with the top nominees but with 50 times their awareness. The Best Picture nomination alone could have been precisely the sweeping gesture moviegoers needed to believe the Academy still cared. ''Spider-Man: No Way Home'' could have been 2022's ''The Greatest Show on Earth''. But instead, the Academy figured #OscarsFanFavorite would be good enough.

So who are the Oscars for? The filmmakers or the fans. Both parties feel betrayed, and the emotional data reveals a bleak future for ''the industry's most important awards''. Unless another superhero comes to the rescue soon, the once must-see celebration for all moviegoers may one day become another list of award winners announced in 280 characters or less.

Speaking of Twitter award winners, this year, the award for the most viral tweet about the Oscars goes to… drumroll, please… ''SOMEONE GIVE ETHAN AN ACADEMY AWARD, AN OSCAR, THROW IN AN EMMY TOO #EUPHORIA''.

Sigh.


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