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March 06, 2006


More on the Oscars: And I Thought My Views were Pessimistic!!

As described in postings by Nikki Finke (Los Angeles, March 5th 2006):

This was the most incoherent, inchoate Oscar telecast in recent memory. Nothing flowed, everything jarred, cut ins and cut outs weren’t preceded by necessary segues. Added up to a butt-ugly broadcast that even the biggest film buff had to gag through.

Stop the misery. End this hell on earth. 365 days is too little time before the next torturous show. Monday’s certain-to-be-dismal ratings will tell the Academy exactly where to shove Oscar. Alas, tonight, they kept jamming it down our throats.

Way back on January 17th, I decided to nominate the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Bunch of Hypocrites. That’s because I felt this year’s dirty little Oscar secret was the anecdotal evidence pouring in to me about hetero members of the Academy of Motions Picture Arts and Sciences being unwilling to screen Brokeback Mountain.

For a community that takes pride in progressive values, it seemed shameful to me that Hollywood’s homophobia could be on a par with Pat Robertson’s. So in the February 1st issue of LA Weekly, I warned that, despite the hype you saw in the press and on the Internet about Brokeback, with its eight nominations, being the supposed favorite to take home the Best Picture Oscar, Crash could end up winning.

Well, turns out I was right. Hollywood showed tonight it isn’t the liberal bastion it once was. That’s pitiful if you’re a progressive, and pleasing if you’re a conservative.

After my column came out, it was picked up by the Drudge Report. Hundreds of angry emailers accused me, and Hollywood, of trying to promote “the homosexual agenda” by somehow “forcing” them to see a movie they found sexually reprehensible. What those emailers failed to comprehend was that the Oscar voters shared their distaste for it.

At the time, I explained that the real Best Picture issue wasn’t which film was better. The real issue was which movie was seen by the Academy. I found horrifying each whispered admission to me from Academy members who usually act like social liberals that they were disgusted by even the possibility of glimpsing simulated gay sex.

The forces that hate Hollywood salivated for Brokeback to win Best Oscar. But that it wasn’t the favorite was foreshadowed at the Screen Actor Guild awards, when Crash topped it for best picture and Philip Seymour Hoffman won over Heath Ledger. The excuse given was that Crash only won that award because the producers had sent the film to every SAG member, which is something of a rarity. But, still, Brokeback fever continued unabated. It became part of America’s lexicon, it generated a nightly joke or two on Leno and Letterman, it spawned innumerable parodies.

But just how did it measure up as a movie? I found Crash and Brokeback both good, if flawed, films. Oscar-worthy since they were about something, a prerequisite. Crash makes up in aesthetic bleakness what it lacks in subtlety — Los Angeles is a city of minorities divided but colliding, duh! — but it’s also gripping and powerful. Brokeback gives us closet-case sheepherders tastefully presented so they redefine the notion of love. But it’s also slow and ponderous.

I sounded a note of extreme caution about Brokeback’s Oscar chances because, in Hollywood, the cowboy has been an iconic figure in motion pictures through the ages. Many geriatric Academy members not only worked on oaters, but also worshipped Audie Murphy, Gene Autry, John Wayne and other saddle-sore celluloid heroes. And I noted that only an equally iconic figure like Clint Eastwood could redefine the genre in Unforgiven in a way that didn’t turn off the old-timers. I wasn’t just talking geezers. I was talking baby boomers and younger Academy members sketched out about seeing Brokeback.

I knew there was a chance that, even without seeing the movie, Oscar voters could feel guilt-tripped or succumb to a herd mentality to vote for the “gay-cowboy” movie and strike a blow against Republican wedge politics and extremist religious hatemongering. But they didn’t, and Brokeback lost for all the Right’s reasons.

So, red-staters licking their lips to give Hollywood a verbal ass-whooping will be chagrined tonight. I’ve been keeping a running tally on just how political were the 78th Academy Awards. And the answer is overwhelmingly hardly at all. GOP politicos hoping to use that old saw of “Boy hidey, those show-biz folk are just a homo-promotin’, liberal-media-embracin’, minority-lovin’, devil-worshippin’, pimp-hustlin’, terrorist-protectin’ bunch of pansies, commies and traitors” are going to have to find another way to discredit Hollywood’s actor activists when they campaign come the midterm elections in November.

Turns out Hollywood is as homophobic as Red State country. In touch, not out of touch.

I was right about Rachel Weisz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Reese Witherspoon, Ang Lee, and Crash. Only Clooney’s win I didn’t anticipate. I thought the ugly guy, Paul Giamatti, would bag it. Damn that Supporting Actor category: trips me up.

And yes, Jon Stewart bombed! At least Jon Stewart admitted he was a poor choice to host the Oscars, given that his film experience amounted to little more than “the fourth male lead from Death to Smoochy.” That filmed bit of schtick at the start of the telecast underscored how hard it is to get a decent host for this nightmare of a show. So it was inevitable that he’d bomb. And, yes, bomb he did. He looked nervous and edgy, his timing was way off, his standup ran in super slow-mo, and his jokes flatlined. What’s more, he didn’t even try to make excuses for the movie industry; instead, he acknowledged, “Let’s face the fact that this has not been the best year for Hollywood.”

Especially when they can’t get a better host than you, Jon-boy. Even his sharp political humor, what little there was of it, was dull. He slammed the Democrats twice, and told only one Cheney joke. (That got his biggest laugh.) He didn’t lay a glove on Bush, and what’s up with that? Isn’t that why we tuned in, to see Mr. Liberal get himself in trouble with the Red State Right? Then he sets up what starts out like a winner, noting how “a lot of people say this town is too liberal…out of touch with Mainstream America…a moral black hole where innocence is obliterated in an orgy of sexual gratification and greed…” But then he ends with, “I don’t really have a joke here.”

Why not, for chrissakes? Didn’t this gig pay you to write punch lines?

Hang on, even Jon just told the audience he’s a “loser.” Well put, at least for tonight.

Adapted by the Author from:
Postings by Nikki Finke, Los Angeles, on Sunday, March 5th, 2006.

And More on Jon Stewart:

TOM SHALES, The Washington Post:

It's hard to believe that professional entertainers could have put together a show less entertaining than this year's Oscars, hosted with a smug humorlessness by comic Jon Stewart, a sad and pale shadow of great hosts gone by ... The audience at home does not want to look at clips. It wants to look at big-time movie stars ... The epitome of honesty perhaps came when Stewart muttered "I am a loser" into the microphone. He was speaking not only for himself but for the whole show.

MAUREEN RYAN, The Chicago Tribune/The Watcher:

I'm just stunned at how badly Jon Stewart's opening monologue went. I didn't realize it was possible to insult the audience more than Chris Rock did. Stewart seemed to be aiming his material at the folks at home, which is probably why the audience in the room with him seemed to be shooting him death rays with their eyes. They just hated his jokes. And you have to admit, insulting your hosts, repeatedly, and saying what they do is "out of touch" is not the best possible move. "I'm going to be pummeled later this evening," he joked at one point. Yeah, I'd pretty much count on that. Oh well. I hope Jon enjoyed this gig. It'll be his last.

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