There is lot to look forward to at the Oscars next Monday.
There's an excellent chance there will be two Australian winners for The Favourite – screenwriter Tony McNamara and production designer Fiona Crombie, who both won BAFTAs last week. There's also the prospect of a fifth Mexican win for best director in six years, Alfonso Cuaron for Roma, at a time when their compatriots are demonised by President Trump's wall-building.
New controversy: an Oscars statue at the 91st Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon this month. Credit:Danny Moloshok
It's the opportunity to honour some genuinely excellent films headed by Roma.
But just two years after the fiasco when La La Land was wrongly named best picture winner instead of Moonlight, the 91st Academy Awards are shaping up shambolically.
First there was the mess of the Academy announcing a 'most popular film' award – a naked play for television viewers that seemed completely out of place at an event devoted to excellence. When there was an outcry, it was put it on hold.
And it turned out to be unnecessary when three box office hits, Black Panther, A Star Is Born and surprisingly Bohemian Rhapsody, were nominated for best picture.
Then there was the fiasco of announcing Kevin Hart as host, losing him to a social media storm over past homophobic comments then deciding to go ahead without a host. Surely it was time to recruit any one of a score of deserving talents starting with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who have excelled at the Golden Globes, Lin Manuel-Miranda or Donald Glover.
Three weeks ago, a decision to include only two nominees for best original song in the ceremony was quickly ditched after another backlash. All five will now be included.
And then came the worst decision of all – announcing that four awards would be handed out during commercial breaks for later insertion into the live telecast. As the Oscars scraps for credibility – trying to move past the #OscarsSoWhite and face up to #MeToo movements – it sidelined best cinematography, make-up and hairstyling, film editing and live-action short by livestreaming them while the theatre audience stretched their legs, chats amongst themselves or heads to the bathroom.
The justification for this disrespectful move was trimming the ceremony to three hours but most of the film industry – especially insulted cinematographers and editors – agreed with Russell Crowe that it was "a fundamentally stupid decision".
Rachel Weisz, left, and Olivia Colman in The Favourite. Credit:Fox Searchlight
While the Golden Globes are a secondary event that get way too much coverage, the Oscars are the pinnacle. In the ideal world, they are the Olympics of film.
After days of protests the Academy backed down again, agreeing to present all awards during the ceremony as usual. But film lovers around the world have to ask: what the hell is going on?
Garry Maddox is a senior writer and longtime writer on film for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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