I will admit, from a strict viewership standpoint, I enjoyed the 87th Annual Academy Awards. (and apparently I can claim minority-ship in both my enjoyment and my viewership as this broadcast had the lowest audience numbers since 2009) The event moved along nicely, I didn’t notice any extremely disrespectful orchestral cutoffs of an obscure documentarian’s one chance in the limelight and the overall theme, for the most part, was about the movies. Even American Sniper took home an award.
I liked NPH. His jokes were relevant and on point, some were self indulgent but others were very funny. (“Edward Snowden couldn’t be here for some ‘’treason’’’) He boldly, and again relevantly, stepped out on stage in the semi-buff, and his prediction gag was entertaining enough, although again self indulgent.
But that’s the point isn’t it?
These people spend months going to different events, accepting awards and taking home gift baskets worth tens of thousands of dollars. They even broadcast the previous lesser awards shows within this ultimate award show just to make sure everyone gets their due. They wear clothes they don’t pay for crafted by designers whose names I can’t pronounce and arrive in stretch limos while shutting down the greater part of Tinseltown. As Clooney stated, “we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while, I think. It’s probably a good thing.” Make of that comment what you will.
But alas, it wouldn’t be a night out in Hollywood without some chest-thumping of social agendavitis in front of a crowd of like-minded individuals. Unique artists who all feel the same way. This year we got the whiteness criticism of the academy as soon as the nominations went out. Wholly ironical, as I have mentioned before, considering last year’s winners and the fact that the president of the academy is a black woman. Added to this criticism was the fact that a movie directed by a black woman, starring a black man playing none other than Martin Luther King Jr., wasn’t nominated for any acting awards. Again, wholly ironical. If “Selma” isn’t nominated, the implication is that the academy is full of aging white racist men, a deliberately offensive and all out spurious claim that entirely disavows the creed that content of character, not color, should guide judgement; which IS the standard when such a film as “12 Years a Slave” and its actors are nominated. It’s because it is a good movie with actors who deserve to be nominated, not because the academy had to fulfill some quota. There’s always plenty of snub talk without the luxury of racism. To overcompensate for the accusations, the academy sent out plenty of diverse couples to present the awards.
And the ambivalence continued into the night of the event. While I really enjoyed and respected what Common had to say in his acceptance speech, it was immediately countered by the specious speech of John Legend. ( by the way, Lonnie Lynn Jr. & John Stephens??) Common talked about the physical and metaphorical significance of the bridge that Dr. King marched across and stated, “this is for the kid from the South Side of Chicago to those in France standing up for freedom of expression to those in Hong Kong protesting for democracy.” But then we get, “Selma is now because the struggle for justice is right now. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than there were in slavery in 1850” from Legend. A bumper sticker argument that again implies racism, judgment based upon skin color, as opposed to any content of character and personal accountability as to the reason these men are incarcerated. Had they not broken the law, they would not have gone to prison, regardless of harsh sentencing or lack of legal resource.
Earlier during the festivities, there were the remarks made by Patricia Arquette during her acceptance speech concerning equal pay for women. This was on top of the movement created under #”We’remorethanjustourdresses, meaning women should be asked more questions of substance and less on style. On the first one, you can refer to this article on the reasons for any gender “inequality”. Much like the comments made by John Legend, Arquette pushes a cause that has no opponent. No group of any substance is advocating for lesser pay for women, or for the incarceration of black men for being black. Such a speech gets a rousing response from the crowd who views itself as being ahead of the curve without addressing the very real reasons, outside of discrimination, that have led to these perceived injustices. Wholly ironical coming from a woman winning an award in a category of only women in a room full of women making millions of dollars a year. And as for the more serious questions directed towards women, it seems like a lesson in market economics. If people didn’t tune in when “reporters” were discussing hair and makeup tips, they might have to change the format. As it stands, the dresses, hair and makeup are as deep as they need tread in order to satisfy demand.
And the honorable mentions:
There was Sean Penn’s ridiculousness. (can anyone explain the “who gave this son of a bitch his green card?” remark?)
There was a time when I could watch these awards in wonderment and know in my heart that the Oscars were the stuff of dreams. I still remember my excitement when, contrary to the buzz of the day, “Braveheart” won the award for Best Picture. Anything was truly possible. And that I do still believe.
Movies are a business. Despite some claims of the evening, they are about success at the box office. That’s why some get sequels and others fade away into obscurity. (and why Clint Eastwood will still be smiling… on the inside) But movies are also about truth, heart, storytelling and the triumph of the human spirit. As NPH sang, “when they hit, you must admit, they sometimes change your view a bit in ways both big and small.”
All in all, it was a successful night for an industry well known for touting its own success.