The road to the 2019 Oscars has been among the most fraught in the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Here we are, just six weeks from the live air date on Feb. 24, and the Academy still doesn’t have a host for the 91st Academy Awards—or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that they have finally found their host. It’s just that the host in question is “no one.”
Yes, for only the second time in the history of the organization, there will be no official Oscars host. The last time it happened it was 30 years ago, when producer Allan Carr (the director of Grease) essentially ended his career by beginning the show with an 11-minute musical number that featured Rob Lowe singing a duet of “Proud Mary” with a squeaky voiced Snow White. Yes, that actually happened.
This year’s Oscar bind of course came about thanks to the Academy’s Kevin Hart saga, wherein the comedy star was initially announced as the show’s host before stepping down from the position less than 24 hours later, following the unearthing of some old, homophobic tweets that Hart refused to apologize for. He then embarked on a publicity tour of sorts, including an appearance on Ellen where Hart was largely portrayed as the victim of these events rather than someone who had put hate speech out into the world. As LBGTQ organizations grew even more incensed, any chance that Hart would be returning to the 2019 Oscars quickly went up in smoke.
What we’re left with is an Oscar ceremony that promises to defy the status quo in countless new ways. There will apparently be no traditional “opening monologue” as it were, and Variety suggests that “producers will select a crop of A-listers to introduce various segments instead of relying on one marquee name to kick things off.” Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter is saying that producers are attempting to stage some kind of massive, on-stage reunion of Avengers and Marvel Cinematic Universe members to prop up ratings.
Lest we forget, this was already going to be a significantly different Oscars broadcast from the norm, even before Hart’s departure. It will be the first Oscars in recent memory working around a strict, three-hour time limit, which it hopes to achieve by removing a slew of technical categories—such as editing and sound categories—from the live show. Those removed categories will reportedly be shown later as a clips package, toward the end of the broadcast. They even toyed with the idea of adding a popular film category, before immediately realizing that they would apparently need to define the term “popular film” to do so. The “popular film” Oscar was then quickly put on hold.
One thing is clear, though: The Oscars broadcast desperately needs a boost after the 2018 ceremony drew an all-time ratings low, which constituted a 19 percent drop year over year. Who knows? Perhaps the promise of a shorter, hostless Oscars will actually entice a few of those bored viewers to tune back in out of curiosity.