1 One more institution falls to partisan poisoning. Tonight is the Academy Awards show, and outside of some suspense as to whether Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway will botch the Best Picture reveal again (whoever had the idea to have them do an encore of their legendary fail is brilliant), I cannot imagine why anyone would waste their time and raise their blood pressure watching the show. I used to love the Oscars because I love movies. Except for periodic embarrassments where infamous jerks like Marlon Brando and Richard Gere defiantly injected politics into the party, it was fun, if usually too long. Now the show is just a platform for presumptuous performers to parade their ignorance and egos, virtue-signalling, grandstanding, lobbying and politicking. At this they are no better, and often worse, than plumbers, teachers and mail-carriers. What they are good at is looking good and making movies, and in most cases, not much else, including critical thought.
I watched a recent interview in which outspoken actress Jennifer Lawrence became visibly uncomfortable when she had to admit that she dropped out of middle school. It’s obvious that Lawrence is intelligent (she is also the most exciting and talented young actress to come along in a long, long time), but all of her noisy opinions are based on gut instincts. She is untrained and not very grounded in history, law or government: there is no reason for her opinions on politics or finance to be newsworthy. This is also true of her colleagues. Yet we have been informed that tonight will be “about” sexual abuse and gun control, so we will have to endure periodic outbursts all night long about “Time’s Up” and “Never Again.” There are side political controversies, like whether or not “woke” stars like Lawrence will snub E! red carpet host Ryan Seacrest because he has been accused of sexual misconduct by a former stylist. Never mind that Seacrest may be innocent, or that she decided to reinterpret what happened in order to join the #MeToo club. (“Oh come on!”)
We already know that the Oscar voting is now polluted by an unspoken demand that black actors and artists get their EEOC quota of honors. This year, we have the special treat of cheering for a nominated a movie that represented all white people as conspiring to make mind-controlled slaves out of blacks.
In the most bitter and divisive political climate in more than a century, institutions like Hollywood have a duty to unite us and emphasize what we have in common, which is a lot. The Oscars and the industry has abandoned that mission. Let them suffer the consequences.
2. The return of “Death Wish.” Critics are already panning Bruce Willis’ “Death Wish” remake, which has 12 percent “Rotten” at RottenTomatoes.com. Just from the trailer, it is pretty clear that this reboot has to be much better than the incredibly successful original and its progressively worse sequels. Here are some typical critic rants:
“Rather than acting as social commentary, the remake merely exploits the overarching theme of crime and punishment to unleash more violence and death.”
“There is no good time for a movie like Death Wish.”
“You’d think such a morally repugnant gun-nut masturbation fantasy would at least be worth getting worked up about, but the movie’s so lugubrious and wheezy it’s almost pitiable.”
“The film cranks up the audience with little jokes and references, and gets the audience cheering for the Grim Reaper before they even realize what they’re cheering for — and therein lies the problem.”
This is just bad, as in incompetent and biased, reviewing. The proper job of a critic is to let audiences who might enjoy a movie know if it is an effective version of the kind of movie they will enjoy. What potential audience member for “Death Wish” cares what an anti-gun, Angry Left film reviewer thinks about a remake of a revenge and vendetta film in which a grieving husband and father turns vigilante? This is basic drama critic ethics : if you don’t like musicals, don’t review musicals. You’re biased. If you don’t like horror movies, don’t review horror movies. You’re not competent. If you don’t like guns, don’t review a Bruce Willis remake of a Charles Bronson guilty-pleasure film about a decent man who decides to take the law into his own hands and metaphorically clean up Dodge City. The late Pauline Kael, the idol of all social justice-obsessed film reviewers, panned all John Wayne movies for decades because she didn’t like their politics or his. Now those biased reviews only undermine her reputation, and the films she reviled, and their values, endure.
By the way, Jodie Foster already made a remake of “Death Wish” in 2007 called “The Brave One.” But in that film the vigilante was a feminist, and the actress a progressive, so it was all right
3. Back to the Oscars: Talent and achievement aren’t enough. In today’s politically correct Hollywood, political considerations make some stars persona non grata. Casey Affleck would normally be awarding the Best Actress Oscar since he won Best Actor last year. But after enduring petitions to have him removed as an Oscar presenter because of a settled lawsuit from 2010 in which two women alleged sexual harassment, Affleck backed out of this year’s Academy Awards “so that he wouldn’t be a distraction.” Translation: He didn’t want to be humiliated live, coast to coast.
So he’s being replaced by…Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster!
Then there is actor/director James Franco, whose film “The Disaster Artist” is up for a screenplay award. In January, five women accused him of sexual misconduct—presenter Warren Beatty has never been accused of sexual misconduct—and since accusations are enough for Time’s Up and #MeToo, it is assumed that Franco won’t be at the Oscars either, even in the audience.
Hollywood is a political club now, and some kinds of people just aren’t welcome.
Maybe he and Casey will go to a strip club together…
4. But I still have an Oscar prediction…Everyone seems to think that Gary Oldman has Best Actor sewn up. I’ll predict an upset, because the Academy won’t want to honor a portrayal of an iconoclastic, nationalistic, stubborn, abrasive and politically unpopular leader with a talent for alienating allies and foes, who was unpopular with his own party and who was remarkably successful despite horrific challenges in part because of the fecklessness of his incompetent predecessor.
But maybe I’m giving the voters more credit for historical and political awareness than they deserve.
5. Moral: Never trust the press! The Washington Post recounts an Academy Awards fiasco long before the false announcement that “LaLa Land” had won the Oscar:
“In 1930, the organizers decided to keep the winners a secret. And on the day of the ceremony, the only folks who knew ahead of time were the reporters. They got a preview list of Oscar winners with the condition that they would embargo the winners until 11 p.m. the night of the show. That way, they had some lead time to write their copy and get it to the typesetters in time for the morning edition, because the Oscar shows usually ran late and Hollywood wanted to be the talk of the town early the next morning….”
It worked for ten years, until the first televised Oscars, with a lot of stories on the line, with the most stellar list of nominated movies in history (then and now), and a nominated black actress, Hattie McDaniel (who won). Then in 1940 the Los Angeles Times broke it word and announced the winners before the show, in its evening edition, which was readily available to guests arriving for the event. All the Oscar winners had to act surprised.
“As a result, the Academy adopted the sealed-envelope system the next year, and the system remains in use today,” the Academy says on its website.
6. Another prediction: Oscar: This is your future…At this year’s Emerald City Comic Con, no one who was male, white and identified as heterosexual was allowed into industry and professional meet-and-greet mixers. Those checking the events schedule encounter events like this…
Is this really the kind of country and culture most Americans want to live in?