It was the breaking news that shook the entertainment world Tuesday night — or rather, the small echo chamber of awards pundits that I check with every night before I go to bed. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences announced a noteworthy shift to its nomination timetable, moving up its timeline a full two weeks and leaving the Golden Globes facing the prospect of an increasingly irrelevant time slot.
A bit of context: For years now, the awards timeline has kicked off with an array of year-end critics’ lists in early December. That typically leads to the Golden Globes nominations, set this year for Dec. 13, and the Golden Globes ceremony, slated for Jan. 13. In past years, Oscar nominations would be announced several days later; this past winter, the Golden Globes were awarded on Jan. 15 and the Oscar nominations were announced nine days later.
The changes announced late Tuesday seem to throw this timeline into disarray. Many pundits used to think that a strong appearance by a performer or artist at the Globes could sway the minds of Oscar voters, as they filled out their nomination ballots. And this year, if the Oscars go first, one could claim that the Golden Globes — voted on by a small, seclusive set of voters — are more irrelevant than ever.
But such arguments fail to recognize that last year the Oscar ballots were due before the Globes ceremony. The 2013 Globes will be every bit as irrelevant to the Oscars process as the 2012 Globes. No, Tuesday night’s announcement matters far less in terms of the Globes than what it means for the challenge awaiting Oscar voters in terms of viewing the qualifying films.
In 2012, ballots were due Jan. 13; this coming year, ballots will be due Jan. 3. That’s ten less days, meaning voters will be scrambling even more furiously to digest the glut of last-week-of-the-year award hopefuls. As a previous member of the New York Film Critics Circle, I know the challenge of fitting in screenings prior to voting deadlines, and there are times when it simply can’t be done. Films get missed. In the blur of last-minute additions, older, more deserving works get forgotten.
(READ: TIME’s James Poniewozik on Billy Crystal’s Oscar performance last year)
Clearly the Academy made this move to dampen the luster of the Globes. Without any viable Oscar caché, the Globes will increasingly become a fringe affair. But in their Tuesday announcement, Oscar’s organizers missed out on a great opportunity to confront the year-end mania overwhelming the nation’s art houses and cineastes. We now wade through months of the year with subpar films, only to be barraged by “serious” films in November and December — and then during the last few waking hours of the year. There are so many brilliant works that get lost in this deluge, whereas if they had been spread out across the year, each would get its due — both from awards voters and civilian movie lovers.
Tuesday’s announcement may pre-empt the Globes, but it creates a set of new problems: The campaign window for nominees is now longer, ensuring more vigorous/exasperating lobbying, just as the screening window has been seriously condensed and compromised. All of which means we’ll get more of what we don’t need from the Academy Awards: More politics and less diversity. Which makes the Oscars a little more like the Globes, no?