RATINGS HIT RECORD LOW
LOS ANGELES • The doomsday ratings scenario has hit the Oscars.
A record-low 26.5 million people watched Sunday night's telecast, a nearly 20 per cent drop from last year. It also represents a startling drop-off: As recently as four years ago, the Academy Awards had an audience of 43.7 million viewers.
The previous record low was in 2008, when 32 million viewers watched a hastily organised ceremony that proceeded just days after the Writers Guild of America's strike had ended.
Moving the ceremony up to 8pm Eastern time on Sunday (9am Monday Singapore time) on ABC - a half-hour earlier than its 8.30pm slot - did little to aid the show's rapidly declining audience.
ABC executives were concerned enough before the ceremony that they said publicly that Oscar winners should not feel compelled to make fiery political speeches. Keeping things frothy and fun would do just fine.
And the show, for the most part, stayed away from the industry's concerns over the United States President Donald Trump's administration (a contrast from a politics-heavy Golden Globes and Emmys), though it did emphasise the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
Television executives often point to a lacklustre slate of performers or movies as a reason for disastrous ratings.
But with US$57.4 million (S$75.7 million) in ticket sales, The Shape Of Water was the biggest Best Picture winner in five years since Argo won in 2013.
Ratings for live award shows have plummeted in the past six months.
The Grammys saw a quarter of its audience plunge in January and the Screen Actors Guild Awards saw a 30 per cent drop. This is true of almost all live events: Ratings for the Super Bowl and the Olympics this year also saw considerable declines.
GARY OLDMAN'S ASSAULT ALLEGATION BROUGHT UP
WASHINGTON • Producer Harvey Weinstein was persona non grata at this year's post-#MeToo Oscars, while actor James Franco was passed over for nominations after he was accused of sexual harassment. But some viewers felt that the Academy might have missed a few men.
One Oscar winner on Sunday was former basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, for his short animated film, Dear Basketball.
He was charged with sexual assault in 2003, when a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado accused him of rape. He claimed that the sex was consensual and the case was dropped after his accuser refused to testify in court.
He settled a separate civil case for an undisclosed sum.
Another winner was Gary Oldman, who took home his first Best Actor Oscar for his performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.
Oldman's ex-wife, Donya Fiorentino, accused him of assault in 2001, according to papers she filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
He denied the allegations, calling them "replete with lies, innuendos and half-truths". No charges were filed. A judge awarded Oldman sole custody of their two children.
Oldman has also been criticised for defending actor Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic remarks.
These earlier incidents were the subject of discussion in the media and on Twitter after Oldman won earlier this year at the Golden Globes, where he was photographed wearing a Time's Up pin. He did not wear the pin to the Oscars.
After a year full of fraught conversations about whether a person can separate the art from the artist, Oldman's past behaviour rang alarm bells for some viewers who saw his Oscar as undermining the Time's Up movement.
Comedian Jenna Friedman tweeted: "Give it up for Gary Oldman and Kobe Bryant, for proving that men with domestic violence or sexual assault accusations can still accomplish anything."
In his acceptance speech, Oldman reflected on how "the movies, such is their power, captivated a young man from south London and gave him a dream".