Some Self-Examination Among the Oscars’ Self-Celebration
Posted March 5, 2018 12:17 a.m. EST
This year’s Academy Awards needed to address two things: the last few minutes of the previous Oscarcast and the last — oh, let’s just call it forever — of men’s behavior in the movie industry.
The host, Jimmy Kimmel, began his monologue by referencing the first: last year’s fiasco, when a logistical foul-up for the ages led Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty to mistakenly announce “La La Land” as the best picture winner instead of “Moonlight.” “This year, when you hear your name called,” he told potential award winners, “don’t get up right away.”
The second, more momentous matter: These Oscars were the first since the sexual misconduct revelations that took down Harvey Weinstein — the producer who loomed over awards season for years — and a host of other men in Hollywood and beyond.
Kimmel, the subject of speculation as to whether he would address the revelations and the #MeToo movement, praised the Oscar statuette as the most respected man in Hollywood. “He keeps his hands where you can see them, never says a rude word and most importantly, no penis at all,” Kimmel said.
The opening set the tone of an Oscars that offered a little more self-examination than usual among the self-congratulation.
Kimmel had the tricky job of doing a monologue that neither ignored Hollywood’s biggest news nor minimized the abuse of women, many of whom were in the room. If he seemed a little on edge, he managed partly by acknowledging the scale of the problem. If Hollywood succeeded in fixing itself, he said, “Women will only have to deal with harassment all the time at every other place they go.”
But maybe the biggest statement was that it was happening at all: The former co-host of “The Man Show” — a Comedy Central show that featured women bouncing on trampolines — was now kicking off the Oscars with a monologue about sexism.
The issue came up early on the red carpet, where Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino, two of Weinstein’s accusers, talked about the Time’s Up campaign. “We are going forward until we have an equitable and safe world for women,” Sorvino said.
Judd also appeared with two other Weinstein accusers, Salma Hayek and Annabella Sciorra. Sciorra, who had reportedly been blacklisted by Weinstein, greeted the crowd: “It’s nice to see you all again. It’s been a while.”
The issue also came up by omission on E!, whose host Ryan Seacrest has been accused of sexual harassment by Suzie Hardy, his former personal stylist. (NBCUniversal said it had an independent counsel investigate the charge and elected to keep him as host.)
Seacrest was generally mum about #MeToo. When he interviewed Christopher Plummer, who replaced Kevin Spacey in “All the Money in the World” after Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct, the reason Plummer was in the film did not come up. If your lead host can’t talk about the biggest issue in Hollywood that year, you might consider having him take the night off.
Another recurring theme was representation. Presenting the best director award, Emma Stone introduced the nominees as “these four men and Greta Gerwig.” (Guillermo del Toro, however, beat out Gerwig, only the fifth woman nominated in the category.) The makers of “Coco,” the best animated film, saluted Mexican culture; Lupita Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani flicked in a vote of support for the “Dreamers” brought into the country without documentation.
Maya Rudolph, brilliantly paired with Tiffany Haddish (2019 Oscar hosts, anyone?), joked about the program’s diversity, assuring viewers, “Don’t worry, there are so many more white people to come.”
Despite the recent upheaval in Hollywood, the ceremony at large still focused mainly on celebration and glitter literally, in the case of the blinding set, which looked as if the ceremony were encased in an enormous geode.
There’s also the perennial problem of bloat. The hitch, of course, is that every part of the show has its constituency. Cut awards, and someone will be slighted. Cut the musical numbers, and you’d lose Mary J. Blige tearing through “Mighty River” and Sufjan Stevens’ whispery “Mystery of Love.”
But one idea: Lose all the “We love the movies!” montages. (We are watching an Academy Awards. We are already into the movies.) Another: Ditch the stunt gags, like Kimmel’s leading a parade of stars to crash a movie screening, which are inevitably more fun to think up than to sit through.
Those are all typical issues, though. After what has been an atypical year for Hollywood, the show was mainly notable for acknowledging troubles that are harder to fix than an envelope mix-up.