I announced in a post today that I would no longer devote essays to the Academy Awards Show because it no longer has the cultural importance and influence to make it important, nor the integrity to make discussing its ethical issues worth the time to write about. I may not have been clear that this kills me. The annual Oscar broadcast was a big event in my family, and we almost always had seen all of the nominated films and performances. My dad, as a veteran, had privileges at Hanscom Air Base not far from Arlington, Mass., and at the movie theater on the base showed movies before general release. Tickets cost 25 cents for kids, 50 cents for adults, and there would be 5-6 different movies every week. It wasn’t unusual for the Marshalls to see three new films in some weeks. I used to care who won the Oscars: when John Wayne won Best Actor for “True Grit,” which my friends from high school and college knew I loved and had seen many times, I got phone calls from all over the country.
But in those days, political grandstanding was for acknowledged jerks like Marlon Brando: the Oscars were managed as a unifying feature of society, not a divisive one, as they should be. the hosts were middle-of-the road types like Johnny Carson and Bob Hope; the past was honored and respected. No doubt about it, the show and the industry was all-white, but that, like the rest of the nation, was changing. Destroying something in order to save it is almost always unethical, but that’s what they did to the Academy Awards, like so many other institutions. Most of them I don’t miss. I miss the Academy Awards, but they are officially toast, and the Academy did it to itself, with a big assist from Hollywood.
But A.M. Golden did an excellent job in his overview today after watching the Oscars so I wouldn’t have to. Here is his Comment of the Day on the Oscars section in “Monday Ethics Meander, 4/26/2021: Oscar, Rachel, Ma’Khia And The ACLU“:
Prologue: Well, the only part of the Oscars I ever watch is the “In Memoriam” segment the day after so I can see who they left off. This year’s snubs:
David Prowse – Darth Vader
Jeremy Bulloch – Boba Fett
John Saxon – primarily known for TV but also appeared in a number of films.
Kenny Rogers – musician, yes, but starred in a movie.
Honor Blackman – Bond girl
Mac Davis – musician, again, but also starred in a movie
Stuart Whitman – primarily known for TV, but appeared in “The Longest Day” and “The Comancheros” with John Wayne.
Diana Serra Cary a.k.a. “Baby Peggy” –
They included late African-American actress Ja’Net Dubois, who was best-known as wacky neighbor Willona Woods in the tv sitcom “Good Times”, whose film work appears to be relatively insignificant. She died several days after last year’s Oscar telecast and wouldn’t have been included then anyway, but including her at all in the Oscar In Memoriam seems odd, especially in comparison to some of the above exclusions who had more prominent roles on film.
It’s not unusual for the Oscars (or the Emmys, for that matter) to pad their “In Memoriam” segments with performers who were best known for music or sports. I think the Oscars included Steve Jobs one year.
But I couldn’t shake the notion that they stuck Ja’Net in there to make sure there were some African-Americans in there. Kind of like the ridiculous extreme of Ricky Gervais’ 2020 Golden Globes joke about him refusing to allow an “In Memoriam” segment there because there wasn’t enough diversity in the people who died.
My husband watches the Oscars every year. He watched 44 of the 51 films that received some kind of nomination this year. He knew ahead of time that the nominated songs would be played during the ceremony – as prerecorded segments.
What he did not know was that those songs would be played during the pre-show…which he never watches. Once Twitter reported the nominated songs were being played before the ceremony, we had to turn the station quickly so he could catch the remaining songs. Not nice of Oscar to not inform viewers that they had to watch the pre-show to get all of the segments.
The preshow had two black performers interviewing people on the red carpet, African-American actress – and last year’s Best Supporting Actress – Regina King opened the ceremony (more on that in a minute) and the aforementioned “In Memoriam” segment, which traditionally ends with the most famous of the notable deaths, made sure to showcase Chadwick Boseman over such long-time luminaries as Christopher Plummer and Olivia de Havilland, the latter of whom I was sure would receive the honored final position in the segment (Just fyi: the 2020 Emmy Awards ended its “In Memoriam” segment with Boseman, as well, despite his being largely a film actor).
I was never going to watch the entire ceremony, but I was chased out of the room the minute Regina King started off the evening by referencing the Chauvin trial and began her off-topic lecture by saying, “Before you reach for your remotes…”. Too late. I kissed my husband good night and told him I was going to let him enjoy his show in peace.
In other news, I understand the ratings were terrible. Again.
That doesn’t even include my snarking at the pre-show about David Rubin extolling how stringent they were being with everyone’s safety while unmasked people loitered in the background well within six feet of each other.