“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
~ James Gray
By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
The Morning After Oscar
So… every idiot is out there writing the same stupid story about “fixing” the Oscar show.
1. This show was bland, but not painful… unless you don’t really like watching the Oscar show. It was no more painful than this year’s Globes, this year’s BAFTA, this year’s SAGs, or this year’s BFCA Critics Choice Awards. It was also not exceptionally better than any of them.
For me, the reality of the show that eludes almost all of these freshy-minted experts is well-expressed in the last 38 minutes last night. 10:52p in the east… 7:52p in the east. There are 3 awards to hand out and an In Memoriam section to do. In those 38 minutes, they managed 2 awards and the In Memoriam. THAT’s The Oscars.
24 awards @ 4 minutes each is 1:36 or about 2 hours with commercials. Now add the opening, specialty acts, clip packages, and some more ads thrown in there. That’s your 3 hours-plus.
The core of why so many people do watch The Oscars, even with the ratings declines of the last decade or so, is that it is what it is. It’s not a show that can be reconfigured in a complete way to the tastes or notions of the producer who comes on board every year. Basically, the show is a Christmas tree and the new producer can decorate it as he or she sees fit. But no cutting off limbs, no painting the tree, no replacing the tree with a different kind of cool, hip tree that you read about being a fad in Sweden. And if you’re not cautious, you end up with women in cigarette girl uniforms handing out popcorn during commercial bumper space. Oy.
2. Billy Crystal IS an old, familiar joke. It’s so very easy to whine about bringing something new to the party. But being a know-it-all and actually having to deliver the goods are two very different things. Some people – Andrew O’Hehir, who is now rationalizing why his rationalization about Viola Davis having won Oscar before she failed to do so was wrong – seem to have forgotten that there was another, younger, hipper producer and another younger, hipper host in place just a few months ago. And Brett Ratner did what many “younger, hipper” people do… he acted like he was too cool for school, shot off his mouth like he could do no wrong, and committed awards season suicide by spouting off homophobic stupidity. And Eddie, who would have been a brilliant host, didn’t trust anyone else to get him through a very public job that offers many pre-written brickbats (as we are seeing this morning).
Do people remember last year… when Billy Crystal was almost universally hailed as a breath of familiar, but fresh air when he turned up and self-congratulated on the show? Who were the hosts? Young, very talented, very smart actors… who turned out to be terrible hosts, especially in combination.
If it was easy, Mary McNamara would be producing the Oscars.
But of course, as was inevitable, Billy Crystal can’t just be overly familiar, like a joke you’ve heard Henny Youngman tell 100 times… he has to be a DISASTER. Come on. Can’t you get page views with some smart, simple, thoughtful writing? Does everything have to be a three alarm fire.
The show was ok. Billy Crystal was ok.
3. I kinda want to put a big old “sod off” out there for anyone who is both talking about how the Oscars needs to connect with a wider audience and then attacks the show for having Adam Sandler try to express himself about his very specific, extremely popular craft.
Do I wish Sandler would hire more skilled directors and push himself a little harder? Absolutely. But unlike critics, he is doing the work, year in and year out, putting himself on the line, taking all the abuse, and still serving an audience that loves watching him be silly. And if he and I live to be 80 and LAFCA gives him the lifetime achievement award and The Academy bestows a special Oscar on his ass, I will mock you all.
Critics, especially of the Oscar show, want it all ways. They want it younger, but not vulgar. Smarter, but not stodgy. Fewer categories, but they want to see the categories they care about. They want it louder, faster, funnier… but then they want to slam it for not slowing down for “the right things” and trying too hard to please. They want to scream about the Academy demographic and the movies that are chosen, but bizarrely assume that a younger demo would somehow pick more popular, but better movies…. like, uh, what? Drive? Love Drive, but not a box office bonanza. Shame? Love Shame, but not a box office bonanza.
Here’s a chart of the Top Grossers of 2011. Now, pick a film in the Top 31 (the $100m domestic grossers) that you would like to have seen nominated that might have made it more interesting for more people? What will most say? Bridesmaids and Apes. And now, ladies & gentlemen, your 2011 Academy of Quality Pop Culture Awards.
4. Some critics still behave like critics. They know the difference between what they say at the dinner table or at the bar and what they print as professionals. Most journalists now will pretend to be anything at any time, instant experts because they have an opinion. And as the old joke notes, everyone has an asshole too.
I don’t know if the repetition of the same memes exhausts me more or the combination of arrogance and an utter lack of knowledge about the subject.
I guess I am supposed to give this day of whining all the weight of another thousand tweets flowing through the iPhone… just so much water under the bridge. And I will. Tomorrow. When all the idiots move on to opine on their next great area of instant expertise.
But today, I am irritated by the volume… and the volume of the volume.
It wasn’t a great show. But it was no tragedy. It will change next year. It won’t be the MTV Movie Awards… and if it was, there would be even louder screaming. It won’t be The Golden Globes… and if it was, there would be even louder screaming. It will still be the stodgy, old, 3:22, too many actors out of character reading prompters, clip packages, and awards you are too dumb to care about Oscars. And it will still be seen by 40 million people, which no one else knows how to equal. Deal.
5. I still expect firings at The Academy over Sacha Baron Cohen’s lame joke. It had no business on the red carpet… because it was business on the red carpet… and nothing but business. The tone deafness of current leadership at The Academy about what is at the core of their brand is stunning. And it’s not just that one thing. It’s been happening over and over lately.
It’s the old thing about sex scandals. No one really cares who you had sex with… but when you are the President, receiving fellatio from a 20-yr-old intern in the hallway closet suggest that you might have some judgement issues. Before Charlie Sheen lost it – again – he was saner than some when he noted, “You don’t pay prostitutes for sex. You pay them to leave.” 20 year olds keep semen-stained dresses. The Marilyn Monroes of the world do not.
It doesn’t matter, as a single event, that Sacha Baron Cohen walked the red carpet in a movie costume and spilled fake ashes on Ryan Seacrest. But it matters when six people are trying to do it next year. It matters when you give control of the show – and/or the season – to marketing people who are marketing their product, not The Oscars. it matters when you don’t know how unfunny the gag was and then promote it on your website afterwards like it was a part of the show.
You don’t get fired for the action. You get fired for the cover-up. You get fired for the embarrassing lack of judgement.
Anyway… I had a lovely night, after the show… but that’s another conversation…