The Culture Current: My Letter Of Advice For The Academy Awards
This is an open letter to the Hollywood power players that run the Oscars. I harbor no real illusions that it will be read by them, any time soon. We aren’t exactly The Hollywood Reporter. God willing, if I should become the major player in the film industry I desire to be, they’ll look back on this letter and realize how right I’ve been. Hopefully, they will learn these lessons, without me. At any rate, these sorts of problems happen far too often, and everyone seems to notice except Hollywood, itself.
And so, dear readers, here goes:
To the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,
I write this as a deeply concerned citizen, and as a devoted cinephile that always looks forward to the Hollywood awards season. There, we hail and reward the good—and sometimes great—cinema of the year. That is why I watch—to celebrate greatness in film. To celebrate great movies. That is why all who watch these award shows watch them—to celebrate great movies.
There is a major question, though, that I cannot believe you haven’t asked: Why don’t that many people watch, anymore? This year’s Oscars ceremony was the lowest-rated in years—and one of the lowest-rated in decades. Why?
A simple question, and it deserves a simple answer: Because we watch these awards shows to celebrate the movies. We watch if we think that’s what we’ll get. And the less of us think that’s what we’ll get…the less of us will bother to watch the Academy Awards.
Part of this concerns the ceremony itself. To be blunt, this constant attempt to make the Oscars “funny” does nothing but hurt the ceremony. Neil Patrick Harris, two years ago, awkwardly stumbled onto the stage in his underwear. He was not the only one feeling embarrassed. And now, in this latest ceremony, Jimmy Kimmel’s jokes constantly fell flat—only rarely actually working. The simple fact is: The current trend of hosts tries too hard to be “funny”. And when you try too hard to be funny, things invariably become…awkward.
When Dwayne Johnson appeared on stage, he commanded the night, providing an honest laugh while exuding confidence, and celebration. He was truly entertaining, for the all-too-brief time he was there. For me the message was clear: He, not Kimmel, should have hosted the Academy Awards. His charm and charisma, and universal appeal, would not have needed forced and awkward sketches to honestly entertain. Having a man like him host the Oscars would go a long way towards proving that the ceremony would be entertaining—while at the same time, keeping its dignity.
Sadly, this happens over and over—and people notice a pattern.
But I do not wholly blame the Academy for the low ratings it’s suffered—at least not this year. The main villain, I am sorry to say, is someone we’ve long revered as perhaps The Greatest Actress Of Our Time—Meryl Streep.
In her speech at the Golden Globes, Ms. Streep mentioned how Hollywood does not enjoy as much goodwill in America as it used to. Sadly, rather than acknowledge that as something to learn from, she presumed to wear it as a badge of honor. Effectively, her speech tried to guilt the audiences of America—claiming, if you will, that “You need us, or all you’ll have is sports!” And so, she went on to insult sports.
Meryl Streep is an excellent actress, and that makes it even more unfortunate. With that speech, she failed to acknowledge that she owes her success to those people who happen to love football and mixed martial arts. And why? Because they voted en masse in a way she disagreed with.
Now, to be absolutely clear: In no way am I saying that she should not speak honestly about her views. That is not the issue. The issue is that she went out of her way to insult, not only a president she didn’t vote for, but those who did. She insulted the tastes of those who disagreed with her, failing to understand how important they were in making her the great success she is, to this day.
This is the issue: I do not begrudge any celebrity who feels they simply have to address an important political issue—as long as, in doing so, they do not presume to attack and deride those with whom they disagree. Meryl Streep could have easily hailed the importance of diversity in the industry, without deriding those who follow the NFL. She painted herself as out of touch with a plurality of Americans—if not a majority.
Ms. Streep’s speech set a pattern for the rest of the awards season. Constantly, we found ourselves subjected to award-winner after award-winner—and host after host—making a point to go out of their way to attack a president they just didn’t vote for.
Jimmy Kimmel said he had no plans to bring politics into the Oscars ceremony. And yet, no further than his opening monologue, he brought politics into the Oscars ceremony. He claimed his intent was to unify, yet he invoked the constant—and inherently divisive—accusation of “racism”. This might not have been his intent, to come across as attacking—and yet, that is how he came across. And as he went on to put the president’s Twitter account on screen, and then compare him to the president of the Academy, it was clear that the ceremony had centered on Donald Trump. There is a terrible risk in potentially alienating a large section of the electorate—and by invoking the “race card” in particular, you insult them.
My general point is this: If the Academy truly wants to restore its image to the American public, it must make a greater effort to appeal to that viewership. It must be unifying in its appeal—it must be entertaining, and it must be dignified. If the Academy fails to learn this, its viewership will continue to drop. But if it does learn, it will repair itself, and be restored to the glory of days gone by.
And perhaps make sure to check the award envelopes, next time.
Sincerely, and with all the love of cinema anyone can ever hope to express,
Eric M. Blake
Image source: Wikimedia Commons / Greg In Hollywood
License: CC Attribution 2.0 Generic
Eric was raised by Conservative Christian parents, but first became especially passionate about politics in high school, through reading up on economic theory. He also first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged around this time, for the ARI's essay contests. He now owns a great deal of Ayn Rand's work. Also included in his library are the collected works of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, etc.
Eric is no stranger to writing commentary, as the writer of the Conservative Considerations column on CampCampaign.com, and as a film critic and commentator on FlickRev.com. He has also carried on the Conservative tradition of talk radio commentary, as the host of "Avengers of America" for the USF student radio station, Bulls Radio. In the meantime, he is practicing what he preaches: Striving to enter the professional realm of Hollywood, he has already written and directed short films for the Campus MovieFest, which can be found on his YouTube channel, Hard Boiled Entertainment.