The Oscar for the best Twitter nomination goes to…

7 March 2022

Last month I wrote that the Oscars were, for the first time, allowing the general public an opportunity to participate in the 2022 awards. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had decided to hold a popular vote, a people’s choice award, if you like, on social networking platform Twitter.

This “fan favourite” vote was one of two initiatives the Academy introduced this year, to bolster interest in the awards. In recent years television audiences have been abandoning the annual celebration of film in droves. A mere 9.85 million viewers tuned into the 2021 ceremony, compared to 23.6 million in 2020.

That’s an alarming decrease in anyone’s book. But it’s not only the Oscars who are struggling. The Emmy Awards, and the Grammy Awards, are also seeing significant declines in their television audiences. But, in the case of the Oscars, with past ceremonies clocking in at well over three-hours in duration, is anyone surprised?

While I’ve always been interested in the Academy Awards, I’ve not once sat through a televised broadcast of the event. Or I should say, an entire broadcast. I watched once, but alarmed at the glacial pace of proceedings, switched off the TV, and wandered around to the local cinema to see a movie.

When I came home, the Oscars hadn’t even reached the Best Picture award. To counter this indulgent run-time, the Academy has promised to slim down the event, and will omit certain awards all together from the live broadcast. How that will help, if at all, remains to be seen. The fan favourite vote, on the other hand, has been an overwhelming success.

Well, kind of. The proposal certainly drummed up interest, though not perhaps quite what the Academy envisaged. Twitter members residing in the United States were invited to tweet the title of their favourite film from the last year, and or a scene from a film of any age, appended with a particular hashtag.

People without Twitter accounts had the option to participate at OscarsFanFavorite. Voting for the fan favourite on Twitter seemed a little out of hand though, with the likes of Taxi Driver (from 1976), Apocalypse Now (1979), and No Country For Old Men (2007), being selected. All great films, albeit they were released well before 2021.

At least they were actual movies. Karl Quinn, an entertainment writer for The Sydney Morning Herald, spotted a film called Rochelle, Rochelle, sitting among frontrunners for the fan favourite award. Fans of nineties TV sitcom Seinfeld would be familiar with Rochelle, Rochelle, but year of release aside, there was another problem: the film does not exist.

While soon removed from the listings, its inclusion highlights the need to set firm parameters when opening the doors to everyone online. A few years ago, the Hottest 100, an annual music poll run by alternative and indie music Australian radio station Triple J, was swamped with votes for a track performed by Canadian singer Justin Bieber.

While Bieber’s nationality was not at issue — artists from across the globe feature prominently in the Hottest 100 countdowns — Triple J listeners took exception to the way some Bieber fans, spurred on by a large betting agency, were attempting to manipulate the vote. Ultimately the efforts of Bieber fans failed though.

But the question stands, was the Oscars fan favourite vote a folly on the part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? Again, while the final answer remains to be seen, if nothing else, the idea started people talking, and taking action. Perhaps the interest stirred up may yet make a difference.

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