To the Membership and the Board of Directors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:
It’s time you stood up for your most important audience. I am NOT talking about your stockholders. I am NOT talking about your advertisers. I am NOT speaking of the ‘target audience’ of the all-so-important Nielson Ratings. I speak of the masses of which I am proudly a part of – the film lovers. It was my understanding that you were film lovers as well. A recent event is casting doubts about this to me.
The event of which I speak is the most recent ‘Oscar’ broadcast – which wasn’t even CALLED ‘The Academy Awards”. It was a deplorable mess, in the hands of those who seemingly had a selfish agenda to push – themselves. I’m not speaking about host Seth MacFarlane. I enjoyed his antics, especially when seen IN CONTEXT. I’m talking about my finding fault with Neil Meron & Craig Zadan, the so-called producers of this debacle. Let’s break this down –
The “Movie Musical Tribute”
I find fault with the so-called ‘tribute” to the movie musical. Why was there NO mention of musicals that had won Best Picture Oscars, such as Vincente Minelli’s AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1948) or the SEVEN OTHER recipients NOT mentioned*? Where were the films that are considered to be among the finest ever made, like Donen & Kelly’s SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952) or Stevenson’s MARY POPPINS (1964)?
It is laughable, in how they seemed to stress that the importance of the movie musical re-emerged with the 2003 release of Rob Marshall’s CHICAGO (2002). That’s an interesting film to recognize. I’m sure that Messrs. Meron & Zadan being the producers of that film had nothing whatsoever to do with its elevation of importance. I’m sure that it’s merely an incredible coincidence.
This whole farce of a ‘salute’ was nothing more than a selfish, egotistical attempt to regain some relevance for their past laurels and a complete waste of time. I thought the Academy was trying to eliminate such wastes from their broadcasts. Is this in error? Or is it simply that you don’t care, Academy?
The James Bond 50th Anniversary ‘Tribute’
I find fault that they kept promoting a GRAND tribute to the 50th anniversary of James Bond as a MAJOR component of the show. I wondered what was going to be so spectacular and then was so bitterly disappointed that the montage lasted barely 3 minutes, even though it was followed by a surprise performance of Goldfinger, rendered by Dame Shirley Bassey herself. Would you like to know what I think would have lived up to the hype? Perhaps they should have considered a gathering of the surviving Bond Ladies, each coming out to the theme of their respective film, or dare I even think it, the Bonds themselves? Now THAT would have been a momentous celebration, seeing Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan & Craig all in one place! There will NEVER be a better occasion to arrange that. Truly, it was a waste of a wonderful opportunity.
The Infamous ‘In Memorium’ Segment
I find fault with the deplorable handling of the “In Memorium” segment. I can understand when one or two people might be missed due to losing track of them among so many names, but twelve (that I was able to recall) is unforgivable. I’ve already commented on this (and listed the overlooked names) at length in a previous post – See: Oh Oscar, Oscar, Oscar. Suffice to say, I’m still puzzled at the inclusion of a publicist and an advertising executive as opposed to people like Weta Digital producer Eileen Moran or actor Ben Gazzara. I certainly hope that the ‘oversight’ wasn’t a case of including someone merely because they were friends and/or associates of the producers, or even a matter of expediency to make sure there was plenty of time for Barbra Streisand’s (deserved) tribute to Marvin Hamlisch. Either reason would be horrible and cruel.
So many times we hear how the Academy wants to regulate things that we watch, or can have access to, and how much they find wrong with the way other organizations handle similar situations. I say to the Academy, “Physician, heal thyself.” The Academy Awards is supposed to be the pinnacle of honors in the film industry. This is slowly and painfully being changed, and it begins with the perceptions of the ceremony itself. Once upon a time, the only reason that certain individuals didn’t show up was due to some protest ( a la Marlon Brando) or controversy (a la Roman Polanski). Today, I wonder if any of the stars would show up if it weren’t for those ‘goody bags’ valued at five or six figures. It’s a shame.
I understand that by placing the production into the hands of ‘independent contractors’ or producers you feel it takes the onus, and therefore blame, off of your shoulders, but in reality, it should NOT, as YOU were the ones who selected them in the first place. I think the Academy should hold themselves accountable for this, as opposed to palming it off on producers and feigning ignorance. If you want something the Academy can feel proud of you need to keep more of a creative hand in it. You need to do something, or else end it once and for all.
A New Home?
Maybe it’s more than a case of the Academy taking some control back in how it’s run. Maybe it needs a fresh perspective, away from the ridiculous ratings nightmare. How much of that nightmare is the fault of ABC or the other networks? Maybe leaving network television behind and finding a new home/partner on cable could mean it slowly getting back to the level of respectability and relevance it once had . Perhaps TCM would be a great partner in this, and THEY certainly know how to make an excellent “In Memorium” segment. It would also have a guaranteed audience of film lovers! This is something to think about!
In closing, Academy Members and Directors I once more ask – no I beg – for your consideration, to think about these things because I assure you there are a lot of film lovers that already think about them.
* – Musicals that won Best Picture Oscars, PRIOR to Chicago. Strange that NONE of these were mentioned in a ‘tribute’ to Movie Musicals, no?
The Broadway Melody (1929)
Going My Way (1944)
An American in Paris (1951)
West Side Story (1961)
My Fair Lady (1964)
The Sound of Music (1965)