The Grumpy Old Critic vs. The Academy AwardsMar 19, 2020
(If you have any complaints about my complaints in this month’s column, complain to Metamucil. I think they’ve changed their formula and it’s made me irregular and irritable.)
The Academy Awards. Man, I used to love that show.
I don’t watch any more. I haven’t watched it in four years.
As someone who grew up loving movies, it was a holiday as big as…well…at least as big as President’s Day. But it was definitely a Sunday I had marked on my calendar.
My earliest memories of the show were in 1974 when a man streaked (ran naked, for you millennials and Gen-X-Y-Z kids who don’t know what that is) across the stage. The very British co-host, David Niven, quipped, “Isn’t it fascinating to think that the only laugh that man will get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings.” Check out the clip on YouTube. It’s brilliant.
For this Boomer, the golden years of the Oscars were the days when Billy Crystal played host. The show began with his hilarious parodies of the previous year’s top movies and featured Crystal hamming up it through a medley of movie hits. Crystal (and later to a lesser degree, Steve Martin) was the perfect host. He balanced love for the silver screen with a healthy self-awareness of the vast gap between the Hollywood elite gathered in the room and the rest of America…the vast, unwashed movie-going public that made their glamorous lifestyles possible.
Please make no mistake about it. In many ways, movie-making and cinematic storytelling continue to evolve in splendid ways. Whether you enjoy comic book blockbusters or intimate and dramatic independent films, there’s never been a better or broader selection of movies that are award-worthy. And the wins by the South Korean film, “Parasite,” were every bit as deserved as James Cameron’s bit Titanic sweep back in 1998.
It’s not the movies that bother me as much as what the Academy Awards have come to stand for. You have people whose lives are nothing like the lives of the vast majority of Americans, lecturing and moralizing about issues on which they have no more expertise or knowledge than any banker, business manager, fast-food worker, teacher, or janitor in this country. It’s also unfortunate that the vast majority of that lecturing is directed at half of the country with more conservative views.
A bit of a personal, political aside here. No, I did not vote for the current president. No, I do not approve of his foolish use of Twitter. No, I don’t like him. At all. I am conservative, but a conservative who believes we need to address critical issues like climate change, health care, immigration, racism, etc. In fact, the most recent scientific research shows that the majority of Americans feel the way I do, regardless of whether we are identified as Republicans or Democrats. The divide between the extreme conservatives (read “white nationalists, alt-right”) and extreme liberals (read “Antifa, socialists”) is vast. But most of America lives between those extremes. We could address the significant problems facing us if that huge middle-of-America population were honestly and fairly represented.
But we’re not represented. And the Academy Awards are a small part of that problem. Washington, D.C., and the lobbyists that infest that town ARE the most significant part of the problem. However, this is an entertainment and movie column…not a political one. So, I don’t have any answers for you on the bigger problem here.
What I do have is fatigue over the snide moralizing that is on display by people who benefit most from living and working in America.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m okay with people like the very talented Joaquin Phoenix having opinions. I also have no problem at all with him voicing those opinions in whatever venue he chooses. But I’m not going to watch an award show (that I used to love) where people tell me that having dairy products as a part of my daily life is evil. Phoenix talked about using his Oscar win as a chance to be “a voice for the voiceless” and then launched on a rant so devoid of logic, reason, and support from science that it boggles the rational mind.
Dude, if you prefer almond milk over dairy in your coffee or cereal…by all means, proceed. If you think cows and other animals are on par with human beings and should be completely free to pursue happiness, joy, and procreation…more power to you.
I’m just joining the majority of television viewers who are choosing not to watch these things anymore.
No, I do not lack compassion (as my giving to local causes like helping the homeless and the hungry will attest to). No, it’s not that I don’t think we humans should be better stewards of the natural resources God has blessed us with. It’s just that I’m not going to be lectured at by millionaires who travel in first-class or private jets and limos while not doing their own grocery-shopping or food preparation. I’m pretty sure the ratings verify that the vast majority of the people Hollywood criticizes and mocks each year agree.
Bottom line. The Academy Awards are irrelevant.
Yes, I’ll still watch and enjoy your movies. Yes, I understand that makes me part of those people who help support your lavish lifestyles. I’m okay. With that. I’m okay with you expressing your opinions, no matter how weird and offensive I might find them to be. But like most of America, I’m done watching your awards show…which is a little sad. Not sad like I’m missing Thanksgiving or Christmas. Just sad like maybe I work for a company that doesn’t give us a day off on President’s Day.