Looking to avoid a repeat of last year's record four-hour, 16-minute snooze-a-thon, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is cutting back on the number of statuettes presented at future Oscar ceremonies.
Just days after announcing that it was exploring moving up the date of the Academy Awards beginning in 2003, the folks behind the Oscars have decided to tweak the rules to prevent too many honorary awards.
There are three different honorary Academy Awards that can be presented during the Oscar telecast: the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, which has recognized such "creative producers" as Alfred Hitchcock, Walt Disney, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg; the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, presented to an "individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry"; and the Honorary Oscar, given for "extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the academy."
(Several other honorary trophies, including the Gordon E. Sawyer, Technical Achievement and Scientific and Engineering Awards, are handed out at the Scientific and Technical Award ceremony that takes place before the televised Oscar show. Those awards won't be affected by the new procedures.)
Over the past few years, more and more honorary hardware has been passed out, increasing the length of Hollywood's most glamorous self-celebration. At this year's Oscars, Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier both received Honorary Oscars and Arthur Hiller received the Hersholt trophy. Last year, Dino De Laurentiis picked up the Thalberg and Ernest Lehman and Jack Cardiff were given Honorary Oscars.
In a statement released this week, the Academy said it wants to limit the number of honorary awards presented "to one, or, at most two" per Oscar ceremony and make the selection process more difficult, requiring a two-thirds vote by the Academy's board of governors.
The new rules will go into effect for next year's 75th Academy Awards, taking place March 23, 2003.
Meanwhile, the Motion Picture Academy also announced it was shortening the names of the screenplay categories. From now on, the Oscar formally known as "Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published" will simply be "Adapted Screenplay" and "Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen" will now be called "Original Screenplay." That's bound to save precious seconds from the show's running time.
In past years, the Academy has cut out filler like the infamous interpretive dance numbers and has put tighter restrictions on speech lengths in an attempt to streamline the broadcast and keep ratings up.
Now if they could only do something about those yawn-inducing montages...