The 2023 Academy Awards seemed determined to test just how gullible and naive movie fans are. Integrity? What’s integrity? Just as complaints about the dearth of “enough” Oscar nominations being bestowed on African-American actors and designer magically resulted in “historic” numbers of awards to blacks in subsequent years, recent publicized complaints about how “Asian actors have been underrepresented” in the awards just happened to be addressed by “historic” numbers of Asian winners in multiple categories at the 2023 Oscars.
All because they were the “best,” of course. What, you don’t trust Hollywood?
Yes, yes, I’m sure they were all “deserving.” Well, all but Jamie Lee Curtis as “Best Supporting Actress,” perhaps, since her award was pretty obviously that hoary Oscar tradition, a well-liked veteran performer nearing the end of the line getting a prize for participation and good sportsmanship having little to do with the performance. (See: James Coburn, Hellen Hayes, George Burns, Don Ameche, etc.). But seriously, how long can the Oscars maintain the charade that its nominations and awards are anything more than calculated political virtue-signaling calibrated to match the progressive obsession of the moment after this?
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has intruded via satellite at the Cannes and Venice film festivals, the Berlin Film Festival last month, the Grammy Awards, the Golden Globes, and even the New York Stock Exchange’s Opening Bell. Yet the most overtly and tastelessly political of all the awards shows, the Academy Awards about to be broadcast on ABC this coming Sunday (sadly, I have sock drawer duties) rejected Zelenskyy’s overtures to appear for the second straight year.
Good. It is an award show about movies, and it is inappropriate and an abuse of trust to use the audience’s interest in films to lobby them for any political interests; Heaven knows Hollywood and its artists do too much of that as it is. I’m sure Sean Penn is disappointed; at the Golden Globes in January, the part-time actor/full-time activist Sean Penn introduced Zelenskyy, who again made a plea for public and financial support for his war against Russia.
Next they’ll be showing him on the Jumbotron during the seventh inning stretch at Fenway Park. To hell with that. I hope Ukraine beats Putin flat and that the Russians finally send him to Elba, but I don’t need to find the Ukrainian president’s hand in my pocket at every turn, and the Biden administration is tossing money away like its confetti as it is.
So the Oscars have done the ethical thing two years running, which might be a record. However, Ethics Alarms can only provide the acclaim of one hand clapping at best. The principle here is that ethical conduct is ethical conduct no matter how mixed, venal, stupid or the product of unethical reasoning the impetus for that conduct is. Still, when ethical conduct comes about in warped ways through the ethically-obtuse calculations of the ethically-handicapped, praise has to be restrained.
I’m presuming that the Oscars have rejected Zelenskyy this year for the same reason it did last year…do you know what that was?
Variety reports that its sources say that the show’s producers felt that Ukraine is too white, and that Hollywood has ignored many wars over the years that affected “people of color.”
I assumed yesterday that I wouldn’t be writing anything about the Oscars, which have politicized and wokified the ceremony into irrelevance, and here we are with the third Oscars-related post, following my my earlier ones here and here. This, a Comment of the Day by one of Ethics Alarms’ most veteran (and most restrained) commenters, Tim LeVier, is also by far the best, delving fearlessly and perceptively into the ethical issues raised by Will Smith’s astounding physical attack on Chris Rock in front of the Hollywood glitterati and an American TV audience of diminished but still significant numbers.
Before turning things over to Tim, I will mention here, because I may forget later, that my print version of the New York Times today included a story covering last night’s awards and broadcast that did not mention the Smith-Rock episode at all. How do you explain that? The story included Oscar fashions and the “historic” awards (apparently whoever plays Anita in “West Side Story” must get a statuette); it mentioned the three smug hosts’ infantile “Gay, gay, gay!” chant. But a major star attacking a major comic on stage in an iconic awards ceremony wasn’t deemed by the New York Times as “news.”
What a great newspaper. If anything called for the “Naked Gun” clip, this does...
Honestly, I’m more interested in the public reaction than the event itself. People seem to have this immediate need for clear thinking and the next chapter of the story. It’s a problem in our society more commonly referred to as instant gratification. Most of the posts and hot takes are in this vein but with varying objectives.
The pearl clutchers are the worst. “Why didn’t a police officer go an arrest him?” “Why didn’t the show director eject him?” “Why didn’t security intervene?”
Police need a complaint. The director needs time. Security aren’t in on the performance and have a tough time knowing reality from fiction particularly when the assaulted party engages with the assaulter and the assaulter casually moves into position.
It will be interesting to hear from Glenn Wiess the director and any producer about the mental gymnastics they were doing to figure out how to proceed. In the moment, during that commercial break, I’m sure it was “Is everyone cooled down now?” “Can we get through the remainder of the program?” “Am I required to take action?” “What does Chris Rock have to say?”
It was an unprecedented moment for sure and I guarantee there are some figures having discussions this morning on how to treat this going forward. There will be bright line rules put in place for the future. Everyone has now considered this predicament. Should it happen again, that person will be ejected….and then we’ll get to hear about “double standards” and “hypocrisy”. Continue reading →
Last Night, I was shutting down my computer when I saw the Rock-Smith story, and dashed out a post at about 1am. Those were literally immediate reactions, and I knew nothing else about the broadcast except that Smith was allowed to stay, and that he later won the Oscar for Best Actor for a movie I didn’t see and am unlikely to, especially after his behavior last night.
I had some additional thoughts after my first coffee this morning.
Some people are suggesting that the episode was staged, even Ann Althouse, an Oscars fan for some reason. Ann needs to get out more. Trust me on this: it wasn’t staged. I am a stage director; I have staged such things. Actors are notoriously terrible at faking contact, and Chris Rock isn’t exactly a professional stunt man. Smith hit him with the flat of his hand, which saves him from broken bones: if it had been staged, it would have been a fist.
Furthermore, what happens near the beginning of any live show vastly influences the audience’s reaction to the whole evening: if the episode was staged, it would have been at the beginning, otherwise there was no point. That bit of ugliness toward the end clouded the ceremonies both for the live audience and the home audience, and especially undermined Smith’s Best Actor moment. In addition, as Althouse finally convinced herself as she wrote her post, it put Smith’s wife in a bad light as well as the actor, embarrassed Rock, and made no sense except as a temper tantrum (or protective husband grandstanding) by Will Smith. Later, the Academy put out a pro forma statement that it didn’t condone violence, which would have been reasonable coming from anywhere but Hollywood.
I hadn’t seen what Jada Pinkett Smith looked like at the Oscars when I wrote the post last night, nor heard exactly what Rock said. She has shaved her head…you know, like me. And Bruce Willis. And the TCM co-host, Jacqueline Stewart. See?
Yes, that’s actor Will Smith, who later was awarded the Best Actor Oscar, physically battering comedian Chris Rock during the live Academy Awards Broadcast last night. Rock staggered back and said, “Wow, Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me!” Then Smith returned to his seat and shouted: “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!”
Rock had made an ill-considered wisecrack about Jada Pinkett, Mrs. Will Smith.
I know the headline is “Res Ipsa Loquitur” (“The thing speaks for itself”) and the photo does, but I’m going to list some ethics observations anyway. Continue reading →
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.
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 Geno Silva Annie Ross 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.
That’s a perfunctory good morning, to be transparent. Mourning would be more accurate. Yesterday’s news that Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a man who had impressed me with his leadership ability, personality and, yes, ethical values, was exposed by an investigation as the primary instigator of cheating schemes that involved two baseball teams and World Series champions (the Astros and the Red Sox), disillusioned two fan bases, harmed his sport, and led, so far, to the fall of two of the games most successful and admired management figures. Cora is also the first minority manager the Red Sox have had, and was regarded as a transformational figure for the team and the city, both of which have long and troubled histories of prejudice and discrimination. Smart, articulate, creative, funny, brave, knowledgeable—all of his positive qualities, rendered useless by the lack of functioning ethics alarms.
1. Congratulations to Ann Althouse…on this, the 16th anniversary of her blog. With the demise of Popehat, she supplanted Ken White as my most admired blogger, and most quoted by far. The fact that her fiercely non-partisan analysis of ethics issues so frequently tracks with my own is a constant source of comfort for me , particularly during these difficult times. Ann has an advantage that I don’t—“I only write about what interests me” is her description of her field of commentary— because this blog is limited to ethics and leadership. Fortunately, Ann is interested in ethics, though she seldom says so explicitly.
2. Bernie vs Liz. Feeling that Bernie Sanders was pulling away as the standard-bearer of the Leftest of the Democratic base as her own support appears to be waning, Elizabeth Warren went low, and had her aides reveal the content of what was supposed to be two-hour a private summit between the fake Native American and the Communist sympathizer in December 2018. According to them, Bernie told Warren that he disagreed with her assertion that a woman could win the 2020 election. Bernie denies it. Observations:
This kind of thing stinks, though it is kind of fun to see Democrats dirtied by it instead of President Trump. Anonymous accounts of what was said in phone conversations and private meetings in which the participants reasonably believed they could speak freely are unreliable, untrustworthy and unethical.
The Warren camp’s spin on Bernie’s alleged statement is that it shows he’s a sexist. That makes no sense. If I say that I can’t win the election in 2020, does that mean I’m biased against myself? There is no logical reason to assume an opinion like “A woman can’t win is 2020” represents bias, though it could. I will state here and now that a gay man can’t be elected President in 2020, even if that man weren’t a pandering asshole like Pete Buttigieg, but I am not anti-LGBTQ is any way. The statement reflects my objective analysis of the state of the culture.
I suspect that Sanders meant, “YOU can’t win in 2020, nor can Kamala Harris nor any of the other equally weak announced female candidates.” The truth may hurts, but that doesn’t make it biased
(Psst! Bernie! A delusional septuagenarian socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union can’t win either!)
3. No, the fact that there are no more African-Americans running for President doesn’t mean an African-American can’t win. It means weak African-American candidates like Cory Booker, who just dropped out, and Kamala Harris, who is long gone, can’t win, not because of their race, but because they can’t convince voters that they could do the job. Continue reading →
1. Thoughts on the announced Oscar nominations. Well, very few African Americans made it, and no female director despite all the blatant lobbying for “Little Women” director Greta Gerwig. Thus I have to conclude that the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences DOES have a measure of integrity after all, because it will catch all sorts of hell for this. Even after adding many voters “of color” and kicking out some ancient, unwoke voters members, it’s still a mostly white field, maybe because the most deserving candidates happened to be the wrong color this year. It doesn’t matter: the Academy will be beseiged again for implicit racism. Watch. And it will seek “reforms.” The problem is that race-based categories looks like apartheid. The only other alternative is to have secret quotas, which is what I thought were already in effect.
It doesn’t help that both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci were nominated as Best Supporting Actors for, in Pacino’s case, standard issue Al, and in Pesci’s case, an embarrassingly flat performance. If the Academy is going to give out legacy nominations, why not some token nominations for minorities? I bet there were 50 “of color” performances this year objectively superior to these two from the dead-fish “The Irishman.”
2. It amazes me that so many Americans defend Meghan Markle’s “Megxit.” I know, I already wrote about this, but her conduct appears to be a continuation of the Obama phenomenon, where a prominent individual exploits her race to declare all criticism as based on racial bias. “Black Britons” as the New York Times calls them, are lining up to support Markel because they allege she was “savaged” by the British tabloids because of her race. Similarly, the Times finds dark implications in the fact that the Royal Family didn’t rally to her side when she came under fire: they must be racists too. All the evidence I’ve seen suggests that they didn’t support Markel because she’s an annoying jerk: Occam’s Razor applies.
If she really married into the Royal Family and didn’t know that the tabloids would be dissecting her every word and move, she was negligent and foolish. Did she consider chatting with Sarah Ferguson, or did Markle think the Duchess of York was attacked because of media bias against redheads?
For once I agree with ex-CNN talking head Piers Morgan, who wrote, “I’ve seen some disgraceful royal antics in my time, but for pure arrogance, entitlement, greed and willful disrespect, nothing has ever quite matched the behavior of the ‘Duke and Duchess of Sussex.’
She has provoked a crisis in the monarchy to further her own goals of unearned mega-celebrity. I have a Facebook friend who argues that since royalty is unethical, Meghan should be praised for setting out to bring it down in England. (Yes, he’s a Communist.) The real Markle is already becoming more apparent. She has said that she will only move back to the U.S. after President Trump is out of office, already pandering to the Angry Woke. Disney announced that it had a voice-over deal with her, with her compensation to be donated to a charity….but she made that deal as a Royal, not a rebel. Disney has the right, but not the guts, to void the arrangement. Continue reading →
1. Roger Stone’s arrest. a) Stone is a thoroughly loathsome individual—the man has Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, for heaven’s sake—but like the Mueller investigation generally, his arrest seems more like continued politically-motivated harassment of anyone connected to Donald Trump in order to isolate and impede his Presidency rather than part of a legitimate and independent investigation. Stone’s indictment is substantially made up of the now-familiar “obstruction of justice” bootstrap regarding an investigation of a non-crime charge. In Watergate, there was a crime. In the Clinton impeachment, there was a crime (a President lying under oath). In the Valerie Plame fiasco, there was at least a sort-of crime. Even Martha Stewart’s “obstruction of justice” conviction was related to the crime of insider-trading. “Collusion” isn’t a crime, and if Stone lied to Congress about the degree to which he was communicating heads-ups to the Trump campaign about what Wikileaks had and was about to release, that has no implications of wrongdoing for the Trump campaign at all. Stone telling the Trump campaign, “Hey, Wikileaks has a bunch of DNC emails that show Hillary’s campaign was sleazy and that the Clinton Foundation is an influence peddling scam!” isn’t illegal, it isn’t unethical, and I doubt that this sort of communication is unusual for any campaign in any party. b) CNN cameras were on the scene when Stone was arrested, which means the FBI or the Mueller team leaked to CNN. Now THAT’s unethical, and possibly illegal. c) Once again, President Trump’s persistent failure to avoid close contact with obvious slime-balls has caused problems. “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas” : It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but for a man who was raised and rose to wealth and power in the dog-dominated worlds of real estate, hotels, casinos, show business and now politics, I suppose its hard to imagine NOT being surrounded by the metaphorically flea-infested.
2. Integrity watch: OK, I no longer know what a “movie” is. Netflix is streaming “Roma,” which was just nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar. It has sold no tickets, and as far as I can see, is indistinguishable from any movie-length TV program, like the Christmas drama that spawned “The Waltons,” “The Homecoming.” I though movies were things shown in theater with big screens by projectors. Netflix’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (which is terrific) also got some Oscar nominations. Are Hallmark Christmas weepies now eligible for Oscars? To me, those are “TV shows.” Continue reading →
Increasingly, almost nobody comes here on Saturdays. For me, Saturday is when I have time to catch up on ethics issues, and that’s fun for me. Everybody else doesn’t find ethics fun? How strange…
1. Another day, another fake news story designed to thrill and energize the “resistance.” BuzzFeed published a “bombshell” about Michael Cohen, that impeccably reliable witness, telling investigators that President Trump instructed him to lie to Congress about his pre-election hotel plans—odd that, since there is nothing illegal about planning to build a hotel in Moscow. Without checking sources, without considering the media source’s record of those of the reporters (one of whom has a well-documented pattern of making stuff up), the mainstream media was off to the impeachment races, with CNN and MSNBC in particular talking about almost nothing else all day. Then, as the day edged into evening, the Mueller investigation dropped its own bombshell, taking the remarkable step of declaring the BuzzFeed story a lot of hooey. Some pundits on the Right who trust today’s incompetent news media as much as I do even suggested that BuzzFeed knew its claim was false all along, but were confident that nobody could prove it except the Mueller investigation itself, and of course it would never speak up. The same logic was behind Clifford Irving’s Howard Hughes autobiography hoax (Irving assumed that the reclusive Hughes would never come forward to expose him—but he did.)
The Daily Caller quickly compiled a list of eleven previous botched news reports related to the “collusion” narrative, and it was not all of them by any means. I haven’t checked, but I am quite sure that there were not this many mainstream media headline-generating news stories that proved to be false in the past ten Presidencies combined. What will it take for the industry to declare its performance a crisis? What will it take for even the “resistance” to conclude that their pals the journalists are hacks? Blogger Ann Althouse is so disgusted that she has taken to drawing rat cartoons and diagramming the sentences in anti-Trump screeds. “How embarrassing for the Trump haters,” she writes. “I didn’t even write about the BuzzFeed story myself. I’m so jaded about the latest impeachment bait.”
Why isn’t everybody? It isn’t just bias that makes you stupid. Hate makes you stupid too. Worse than that, it makes you LOOK stupid.