2017 Oscar Ethics Post Mortem

There were more ethics-related events and issues at the last night’s Academy Awards than usual, and that’s an understatement;

1. Jimmy Kimmel, the Oscars’ designated Johnny Carson this time around, automatically gave the ceremonies the stench of ethics blindness by his very presence. Kimmel, as this site has documented, delights in provoking parents to be cruel to their young children so he can present YouTube videos of the kids’ despair for his audience’s amusement. Kimmel, of course, being bereft of shame or decency, was the perfect choice to execute the Academy’s second most important mission of the night, which was insulting the President of the United States in an international broadcast. He did not fail his dark masters. One well-publicized “quip”:

“Maybe this is not a popular thing to say, but I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? That’s gone, thanks to him.”

Actually, the Oscars are racist, or at least racially biased, as we shall see, and there is proof. I’d like Jimmy to show me the evidence that the President is racist, however, other than the “resistance” talking points he gets in his e-mail.

2. More Kimmel: in a typical Kimmel “human beings are just props to me!” bit, he arranged for a group of unsuspecting tourists to be taken on a Hollywood bus tour that ended up at the Oscars.  The group was escorted through the back doors of the Kodak Theater with no idea what was in store, as  Kimmel had the house lights turned down. When the tourists—Awww, ordinary slobs! Look, Meryl! The little people!”—opened the doors to the stage, the lights came up and all the stars shouted, “Mahershala!” The tourists’ shocked, ope mouthed expression were broadcast live to the world, as their Hollywood betters laughed.

This is called exploitation, and using unconsenting human beings as a means to an end.  Jimmy thinks its funny. Kant didn’t. I think it’s sometimes funny, and always unethical. Candid Camera asked for written consent before broadcasting its victims’ amusing reactions to gags like this.

3. Mel Gibson, justly nominated for his direction of “Hacksaw Ridge,” which also was nominated as Best Picture, sat up front. The Daily Beast tweeted “For Shame!” when the film won a statuette for editing, which it deserved. Let’s see: the theory is that the talented film editor should be snubbed for his work because Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite?  Yes, that’s the theory. The Beast’s Amy Zimmerman wrote a pre-Oscar hate piece on Gibson, which really and truly contained these two sentences:

Hacksaw  tells the story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who enlisted as a battlefield medic during World War II. Of course, any drama that Gibson directs pales in comparison to his own behind-the-scenes odyssey: the story of an odious individual who, after years on the outskirts of Hollywood, has somehow managed to fight his way back into the mainstream.

That’s right: Amy Zimmerman thinks that the story of a religious man who volunteered to serve as a combat medic despite refusing to carry a rifle and who saved 76 wounded soldiers by dragging them to safety under enemy fire by lowering them, one by one,  on a rope device he improvised on the spot, thus winning the Medal of Honor, pales in comparison to Mel Gibson’s PR problems.

Have some damn respect for those who did risked their lives incredible things so hacks like you can write garbage like that and be paid for it, you stupid, stupid fool.

4. Lesson learned: Race bullying works. The 2017 Oscars set a record for big awards won by African Americans, just one year after civil rights groups, Spike Lee, social justice warriors and elected officials torched them for failing to nominate any black artists. What an amazing coincidence! In truth, it isn’t. Here is what Ethics Alarms predicted the day after the 2016 Academy Awards…

Last night’s ceremony, from Chris Rock’s all-race monologue to the choice of the music over the credits, was a tacit commitment by the Academy to henceforth and forever name sufficient minority nominees and winners regardless of the merits of their work or the comparative merits of their work to any white artists. Diversity is officially more important than merit. By hook or by crook, there will now be prominent honors to Hollywood blacks….even if some of the honored work is crap.

Not surprisingly, given its traditional and intellectually wan reflex liberalism, Hollywood painted itself into an affirmative action and quotas mandate. After last night, the voters won’t dare fail to nominate a whole bunch of blacks, so Spike Lee will come to the ceremony.  This does put pressure on black artists to actually turn in some outstanding, or at least plausibly decent, work to avoid making all those guaranteed nominations and awards look as phony and rigged as they will be.

5. Viola Davis: The human smoking gun. If you want evidence of rigging, go no further than last night’s expected award to Viola Davis as Best Supporting Actress for her performance in “Fences.” Davis was the obvious stand-out in “Fences”— I had only left a movie three times in my life saying, “That performance will win an Oscar,” (have been correct in all three), Davis was the fourth. Yet the Academy engaged in a little insurance, placing her performance in the Supporting Actress category to avoid any chance that the other stand-out leading actress performance, that of incredibly white Emma Stone in “La La Land,” would edge her out and risk Spike Lee’s wrath. Davis’s role was the leading female part in “Fences.” The Tonys called it a leading role. The movie is about a marriage, and she played the wife. Her role was the equivalent size, scope and challenge of most previous Best Actress roles, going back 75 years. In order to ensure Viola Davis an Oscar, the Academy cheated her out of a more prestigious one that she had earned. Or, depending on your favored conspiracy, the rigged the categories to help a white girl. Once a award show jettisons any pretense of integrity, anything is possible.

Ain’t mandatory diversity grand?

6. Casey Affleck won the Best Actor prize, and deserved it, though I would have to be at gun-point to watch the misery-fest that “Manchester-By-The-Sea” is a second time.  Ethics Alarms covered the Affleck  ethics issues here, and the hypocrisy they illuminate, highlighted again by the sneering at the President and Mel Gibson.

7. Gael Garcia Bernal, a Mexican actor and political activist used his speech accepting the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film to make the viewing audience dumber, as the Hollywood glitterati, applauded like Wally, the Sea World Elephant Seal. “As a Mexican, as a Latin-American, as a migrant worker, as a human being, I’m against any form of wall that separates us,” he proclaimed. He is obviously also against any borders or laws that separate U.S. citizens from those who want to jus grab the benefits of this country without respecting its sovereignty and laws. I’m not a wall fan, but, you know, if my neighbor’s kids kept coming onto my property, setting up tents, having kids in the back yard and living there, I would build a fence to “keep us apart.” And, I suspect, so would Gael Garcia Bernal, if placed in my position.

8.  The yearly “In Memoriam” botch. I have not checked for all the omissions in the annual Oscar “In Memoriam” montage, but one was obvious and inexcusable: Robert Vaughn. Vaughn had two important roles in bona fide classics, “The Magnificent Seven” and “Bullitt,” as well as many other  screen credits. That alone should have guaranteed him a final bow, but he was also an Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actor in “The Young Philadelphians.”  How hard is it to compile a list?

9. Price-Waterhouse engaged in  professional malpractice on a massive scale, leading to the most embarrassing final award in this or any award show’s history. (Beauty pageants don’t count.) Because the accounting firm, famously entrusted with the tabulation of the results and the preparation of the ceremony envelopes since televised Oscars and before. allowed the wrong card to be placed in the “Best Picture” envelope, Warren Beatty and Fay Dunaway announced “La La Land” as the winner, the entire “La La Land” contingent came to the podium, and mid- acceptance speech it was revealed that the real “Best Picture”  was “Moonlight,” and the wrong winner had been announced.

The Oscars are Price-Waterhouse’s most visible client, and its job is much easier than doing audits for the Trump organization: just count the votes correctly and make sure the name of the winner is in the envelope. If it can’t be trusted to do that, what can it be trusted to do?

10. Hmmmmm. No reports so far have answered this question: if only Price-Waterhouse knows the results, why was the Academy so quick to step in and stop the “La La” speeches? I hope the reason isn’t that the Academy had made certain that an African-American film won, so Spike would shut up for good.

You see, once integrity has been compromised, conspiracy theories flourish.*

Maybe it was the Russians’ fault.


*UPDATE: I’m not the only one wondering…


37 thoughts on “2017 Oscar Ethics Post Mortem

      • Hah. You couldn’t pay me to stay up to watch the Oscars. An industry patting itself on the back? It’s unwatchable even if they didn’t say a word about politics. Why would I watch a bunch of say realtors awarding themselves awards?

  1. Good commentary.

    One correction, however. The Big 4 accounting firm Price-Waterhouse has been known as Pricewaterhouse Coopers, or simply PwC for at least 10 years now.

  2. The thing I find tres cutsie is that Lefties generally see Hollywood’s political activism (such as it is) as a validation of their own life-affirming liberalism.

    Dennis “There’s nothing wrong with being shallow as long as you’re insightful about it” Miller (whom I believe would have a been a terrific emcee) did a hilarious bit once that went something like “Celebs don’t give a shit about you beyond the endorphin-surging power they feel by telling you what to think and how to live.”

  3. Incisive as always Jack. But to spare “the Academy” one dart it may not deserve – putting Viola Davis in the Supporting category to further her chances of winning, it was Paramount in conjunction with Davis to mount a Oscar nomination campaign for Best Supporting Actress. (http://www.indiewire.com/2016/10/fences-viola-davis-oscar-supporting-actress-1201739476/) There are many examples of this cynical studio gambit with one of the more famous examples being Vanessa Redgrave winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the TITLE role in Julia (Jane Fonda was nominated for Best Actress the same film for a clearly supporting role).

    • The Oscars have discretion to alter an obvious mis-assignment, though. I’ve been part of that process in theatre awards. And nothing stops the Academy from giving the studio “guidance”…

    • Entirely correct. Viola Davis campaigned for the Best Supporting Actress nomination. It is very common for actors to go for the supporting category when the lead category is considered a lock already early in the season. Rarely, the other way around too.

  4. As far as #9 goes, The entire thing, both card and envelope, were both incorrect. As people go over the footage frame by frame, the envelope Beatty was holding clearly said, “Leading Actress” on the outside. According to people who know, there are two envelopes for every category, one on each side of the stage. How Beatty was given the wrong envelope is really the question. People are blaming DiCaprio, which makes me laugh.

    • “According to people who know, there are two envelopes for every category, one on each side of the stage.”

      I guarantee someone at PwC has said, “If you have two envelopes, then eventually one will end up in the wrong place, and that will inevitably occur at the worst possible time,” every single year since they’ve used two envelopes. Ironically, this incident will do nothing to help that person along in his or her career.

    • Thanks for doing part of the work I was compiling, Deery.

      There was also the addition of the reversed colors on the envelope this year, which could well have been confusing to people seeing the envelopes for the first time (Beatty wasn’t the only one who hesitated) when glancing at or holding the envelopes. The NYT article specified that the design colors were changed this year (by the Academy, not PwC) to “feature red paper with gold lettering” that “could have made the lettering harder to read”. Looking at closeups of both, that makes sense. It’s a deep embossing on a dark red.

      And if that was indeed one of the factors in the calling-out-the-name part, then the Academy was at fault for at least part of it, possibly for that old saving-money reason. The manufacturer of the envelopes says of the former envelope “Until people hold it, they don’t realize it weighs a quarter of a pound, and it’s an eighth of an inch thick. It has eight carat gold flakes in it.!”

      I’m betting this one didn’t weigh so much.

  5. 10. Hmmmmm. No reports so far have answered this question: if only Price-Waterhouse knows the results, why was the Academy so quick to step in and stop the “La La” speeches? I hope the reason isn’t that the Academy had made certain that an African-American film won, so Spike would shut up for good.

    An article published the day of the Oscars:
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2017/02/26/only-two-people-already-know-who-won-the-oscars-but-theyre-not-telling/#4888210f551aually, I would say

    What if there’s a goof à la Steve Harvey at the 2015 Miss Universe pageant? That’s exactly why Ruiz and Cullinan are in attendance: to ensure that the announcements go smoothly. If there’s a mistake made, it’s up to Ruiz and Cullinan to notify the stage managers and the producers. However, Ruiz is quick to assure, that is extremely unlikely since PwC goes to great lengths to make sure that the winners are clearly identified on the ballots. And the accuracy of the winners? Ruiz says that there are so many procedures and redundancies in place that she and Cullinan are “100% certain” of the validity of the results.

    Actually, I would say they weren’t quick enough. They were standing off on the sidelines. The stage manager was probably scrambling about, and they had to get Kimmel back out on stage (he was in the audience for the final planned bit.)

    • Absolutely right. The PwC issue is far more than a kerfuffle, and it’s because they didn’t step in soon enough.

      As another article pointed out, there are three things that a good auditor should prevent:
      a. goofs
      b. people in charge not calling out goofs quickly
      c. people not in charge compounding goofs

      PwC failed clauses a and b.

      Faye Dunaway was guilty of error c, but again part of the reason you hire a PwC is to prevent Faye Dunaways from mistakenly compounding goofs.

      • Dunaway basically disappeared after. Beatty came back out, and wanted to make it clear that the debacle wasn’t his fault. When we were laughing at his “befuddled old man” act, he was trying to figure what to do, showed Dunaway the card to confirm his eyes, and she impatiently announced the winner. But Beatty was *not* going to be the fall guy for this one.

        Also a note on the third producer, who knew by that time that the winner had been announced, but decided, “Screw it, I’m probably never going to have this chance again,” and just gave his speech anyway.

        And special props to the first LaLa Land producer for taking charge when everyone else was slinking about, including the host, Kimmel. He showed incredible grace under some very trying, and humiliating, circumstances.

        • Dunaway can be seen standing stage left as the whole mess was sorted out and was immediately stage right of Kimmel as he closed the show.

  6. Didn’t watch the Oscars, I don’t care about the Oscars, they were irrelevant the day before yesterday, they were irrelevant yesterday, and they’ll be irrelevant tomorrow.

    The only positive I can say about the Oscar’s is that it is a short lived economical boost to all things associate with it, it’s one great big advertisement! I suppose looking at it like that is like saying that war as a economical boost to building contractors. I’m just sick and tired of the whole self-centered blowing of sunshine spectacle.

    I just don’t give a damn what “Hollywood” does or says anymore. If Hollywood went belly up today and never produced another movie or TV show, I wouldn’t miss it at all, there’s just too many things more important in life. Remember, movies are similar to Egyptian painting on the walls of tombs ad representation of our society; in 4000 years are they going to think that we actually blew up a Death Star.

    I’d rather watch 3 hours of pomp and circumstance medal ceremonies for real world genuine military heroes complete with music and lighting, but that’s just me.

  7. From ESQUIRE:

    Only two people in the world know the contents of the Oscar winner envelopes before they’re opened on stage. Those two people are Martha Ruiz and Brian Cullinan, who co-head the Oscar ballot counting team at PricewaterhouseCoopers. For 83 years, the firm has handled the process of counting all the votes from the now-6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Until Sunday night, there had never been a screw-up of this magnitude in Academy Awards history when Warren Beatty was handed the wrong envelope and read the name of the incorrect Best Picture winner on stage. On Monday morning, PwC issued an apology for the mix-up:

    “We sincerely apologize to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and the Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture,” the accounting firm said in a statement. “The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.”

    …It’s still unclear how the mistake was made, but by the time it was realized, La La Land producers had already begun their speeches. As Fortune explained of the process:

    Though the duo counts the ballots multiple times, they don’t write down the results in one place—so there’s no one piece of paper that can somehow end up in the wrong hands. “We go through the process of memorizing who all the winners are,” she says. Committing all the names to memory doubles as an insurance policy in case the awards presenters call out the wrong name. During the awards show, Ruiz and Cullinan stand backstage and hand out the envelopes containing the winning names—which they personally stuff.
    But PwC has vowed to look into its normally-reliable process. Last night, a picture was circulating on social media showing Beatty holding the Best Actress envelope, which Oscar-winner Emma Stone confirmed was in her hand. Beatty was somehow handed a backup Best Actress winner envelope.

    This is what the investigation will focus on, according to The Guardian:
    Attention will focus on a provision intended to make the system failsafe: there are duplicate envelopes of the complete set of results, held in the wings in case anything should go wrong with a presenter or an envelope. The key question will be whether the duplicate of the best actress award, which had just been announced, was handed to Beatty in the wings as he walked out to announce the best picture winner.

    The Academy has still not made an official statement.

  8. I’m going back to what you stated about Mel Gibson here. So the press and others till want to crucify him over something he said in a drunken stupor while being unknowingly recorded by the officer who stopped him in 2006. Isn’t it illegal to record someone without their consent? He’s been sober for 10 years and apologized for the incident.

    In contrast, take someone like Charlie Sheen who is a drug addict, HIV positive, alcoholic and sex addict and then plop him in a sitcom for a number of years and he’s just wonderful.

    Robert Downey Jr. who had a serious heroin, coke and crack addiction, gave his son marijuana at the age of six and was found passed out in his neighbor’s 11-year-old son’s bed, but make him a superhero and all is forgiven.

    Back to Gibson who makes a film based on a real hero and it gets an award and all they can do is yell about him. I’m not surprised really since when Passion of the Christ came out they labeled it overly violent and some called it anti-semitic. Personally, I didn’t get that feeling from it. I also don’t get the feeling Gibson cares since it’s rumored he’s making a sequel, Resurrection. As for Hacksaw Ridge, I’m glad to see it was nominated and did win for editing and sound mixing and was nominated for picture, director, and actor, though I didn’t expect any of them to win. It just wouldn’t have been PC enough for the portrayal of a real person, and Christian at that, to win more, as seen by the negative twitting for what it did win.

    I didn’t watch the Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammy’s, or any other award show but see all the headlines the day after. They stopped being entertaining long ago and turned into political grandstanding and garbage with unfunny hosts.

    • I’m going back to what you stated about Mel Gibson here. So the press and others till want to crucify him over something he said in a drunken stupor while being unknowingly recorded by the officer who stopped him in 2006. Isn’t it illegal to record someone without their consent? He’s been sober for 10 years and apologized for the incident.

      Well, to be fair to his critics, it was more than just that one incident:

      Here are a few of his threats:
      “You’re an embarrassment to me. You look like a f***ing pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of n***ers, it will be your fault.”
      “How dare you act like such a bitch when I have been so f**king nice.”
      “I am going to come and burn the f**king house down… but you will blow me first.”

      Here is a voicemail Mel allegedly left Oksana:

      “This is my last message. I might be the father… Well, f** you… You psycho c***… Because I don’t care. Do you understand me? I’m done.”

      Mel and Oksana are embroiled in a bitter custody dispute involving allegations that Mel abused Oksana and even knocked out her teeth. A source told Radar that Oksana made the recordings because she feared for her life and wanted to show how dangerous he was. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/01/mel-gibsons-new-racist-ra_n_632602.html

      There have been rumors for decades about his anti-Semitism and racism. This was just confirmation. But, if last night is any indication, all is forgiven.

  9. Jack, I am glad YOU watched the awards, so I did not have to.

    I have long since given up on the Academy to actually, you know, have a whisper of integrity, intestinal fortitude, and outright fair play. I tend to throw things at the TV after an hour of their drivel, and my family hates the down time while I buy a new TV, so there you go.

  10. Jack:
    I think you missed the lead ethics story, which I think was the impressive grace shown by both producers and both teams during the brouhaha, displaying respect and camaraderie during an intensely competitive, confusing, and ego-exposed situation. Hollywood, a town so often reviled by the denizens of our town, set an example that many in our politics should emulate. Ethics Heroes indeed, imho. Also, someone beat me to the point about Davis’ category designation having been made by her & her studio; I think that at one point it must have been left up to voters to work that out themselves, because in 1944, Barry Fitzgerald got noms for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for the same role in the same film.

    • I think I missed the two group’s reaction because it didn’t occur to me that there was any other adult way to handle it. Was there? A rumble? Refusing to give back the award? Weeping? In cases where the ethical reaction is also the obviously smart one, I don’t detect extraordinary virtue. Do you know anyone who would have behaved differently in that situation? You wouldn’t have.

  11. What I don’t get is that Dunaway and Beatty, both incredibly experienced actors, didn’t glance off stage and announce “uh, I think we’ve been given the wrong card…” Beatty knew it was wrong but instead of saying anything he hands it to Dunaway to deal with (I’m sure there’s a “men!” joke in there somewhere.) Dunaway then makes an assumption about who won and announces it.

    Sloppy all the way around.

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