Sunday, November 13, 2011
Good Riddance, Oscar-Style (Sunday Journal 2)
Will the Motion Picture Academy never learn?
Thank goodness Billy Beane didn't use whatever formula Oscar has been using to choose a host for the Academy Awards. Last year, to appeal to a "contemporary" demographic, Anne Hathaway and James Franco were hired, and then floundered through bad writing, lousy routines, and nominee stress, only to be thanklessly savaged by the media and the blogosphere right after.
This year's original Oscarcast helmsman Brett Ratner, a producer of mostly forgettable films and a few TV series, had carte-blanche to hire a host, and his selection was that great spokesman for cinematic art and science---Eddie Murphy. Really.
Until I was shocked by Murphy's appearance in the trailer for "Tower Heist", I thought he was in some kind of semi-retirement. Ratner's choice seemed like a bald-faced ploy to promote the new film, or to return some kind of favor to Murphy.
OK, so Murphy may be staging a comeback; so how does that make him relevant to this year's films, to Oscar history, or to a target demographic who must be lukewarm to him at least? Does he still have that much draw on audiences and sponsors? Besides, Murphy does not leap to mind during most discussions of fine, "Oscar-worthy" films. At least let him prove that he has, in fact, come back strong, before installing him as the face of the year's biggest night for movies and movie-lovers.
Now that Ratner is out, owing to his politically incorrect flub that "rehearsals are for fags", Murphy, a friend of Ratner's, left in a huff. (Read this great piece on the industry's reaction to Ratner and his exit, in Hollywood Reporter.)
Considering how gay-themed films have fared in 80-plus years of Best Pictures (does ANYONE remember Oscar-year 2005?), the Academy's self-righteousness is almost laughable. Now Brian Grazer, admittedly a mainstream-movie heavy-hitter, is at the Oscar-night helm. But is Grazer an improvement in the sensitivity department? His latest comedy, "The Dilemma", stirred controversy for a questionable line delivered by Vince Vaughn, where the word "gay" is used as a pejorative.
Plus, Grazer is a co-producer of the new "J. Edgar". No comment (my review is coming soon).
Let's hope Oscar's old friend Billy Crystal still has the wit and the know-how, and the power to stand up to bad writing that would sabotage him.