The Oscars' controversial plan to reverse its ratings freefall

(Image credit: STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Will anybody watch the 2022 Oscars?

It's the question hanging over producers heading into Sunday's Academy Awards after last year's record-low viewership, which has prompted some controversial changes to the show. Most notably, eight awards won't be presented live but will be handed out prior to the broadcast. Edited footage of this will be placed into the live show, but by that point, the winners will be publicly known.

This decision has sparked backlash from those who argue these awards for crafts like makeup and editing shouldn't be treated differently, and the backlash could make its way into the show itself. Variety reports a "silent protest" may have winners holding their trophies upside down when accepting, and Jessica Chastain has said she may skip the red carpet to support her film's makeup team when their award is given out.

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The Oscars also hope to appeal to younger audiences by having Twitter vote on a "fan favorite" movie and "cheer moment," and according to The Hollywood Reporter, Instagram influencers have been invited to "create shortform content on Reels."

Sunday's show will also include the first live performance of TikTok's favorite Encanto song "We Don't Talk About Bruno" — even though it wasn't nominated — as well as a tribute to James Bond and celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Godfather. A number of celebrities not traditionally associated with movies, including DJ Khaled and Tony Hawk, will also present as part of this bid to widen the show's audience.

Many of these ideas have faced criticism, primarily because they're seen as taking away time those eight categories won't receive.

The fundamental question at hand is how radically the Oscars should reinvent itself in the face of declining ratings, and how this overhaul is received — and whether it has any effect on viewership — could shape what Hollywood's biggest night looks like for years to come.

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