Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Oscars should take themselves seriously.

Nearly two weeks ago, the 85th annual Oscars ceremony was broadcast live on ABC television. It's taken that much time to get past the colossal shortcomings of the broadcast. Time considering just why a botched show and irreverent host should bother me at all since I have very little to disagree with in terms of who walked away as winners.

Then what had been nagging at me became perfectly clear. Disrespect. Not from host Seth MacFarlane; there's no one associated with the show or the Academy who shouldn't have seen MacFarlane's style of humor many miles off. Rather from the producers and director of the show, and the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences itself.

Seth MacFarlane did what he does in every entertainment project he has created, he pokes irreverent fun at the topics, cultures and celebrities of the day. He does that well enough to sustain both a television and movie career and become, presumably, stinking rich. Lincoln assassination jokes and "boob" songs included, MacFarlane did what MacFarlane does and that was expected by entertainment writers the moment he was announced as host, from as far away as the announcement carried. Considering his reputation, Mr. MacFarlane may be excused from the room.

The show's writer's, though guilty of providing miserable material, also get a pass as it is impossible to say who directed and approved their work. I would assume not many will be including video takes of this year's Oscar show as a resume builder. But a gig is a gig and no one these days turns down a paycheck.

Director Don Mischer and producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron certainly stand tall as the responsible parties for bad lighting cues and some awful camera framing, but even with a show that resonated with snarky humor and irrelevance, the director and producers were representing who hired them: the Academy.

In my comments on the day after the event, (Oscar winners shine, while all around them crumbles.), I pointed out that the Oscars differs from other awards shows in its elegant and respected history of honoring the movies. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is (at least by public perception) an astute and respected institution. It diligently protects the golden silhouette of its Oscar award (as well as the name Oscar), for the treasure that it represents; the recognition of excellence within an industry that boasts a long, proud and unique distinction as Hollywood's contribution to a global art form.

Oscar memories, like the movies, craftspeople, and talent that are honored by them, should too be golden. Not sophomoric or irreverent. Not hip or played to a marketing demographic. And certainly not derogatory or insulting. But worthy of the distinction its own award bestows upon each lucky enough to be nominated. To present itself in any lesser light degrades its significance and dishonors all of its past history.

The Academy's move to dumb down the stature of the Oscars in a play for a larger, more marketing friendly audience, only exposed a complete abandonment of confidence in its own validity. The Academy foolishly shamed itself on its 85th birthday. Their loss of self-respect will hopefully usher in some serious self-examination and an elegant return to Oscars' glory days.

And then the task will be convincing movie fans that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences still merits their respect as well. Or one day Academy members will be remembering their tarnished golden Oscars while watching the winners of the premiere movie awards show toting gleaming MTV astronauts from the podium.

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