For many years, the Academy Awards has been hosted by post-funny emcees. And why not? Their function is no longer to entertain in the old Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, or even Billy Crystal style; now it’s to mock, grovel, and fawn until the last envelope is opened. Jokes are told to flatter the audience of industry magnates, who somehow convince themselves that they are hipster outsiders, and—most of all—brave. Jimmy Kimmel, once again, proved himself equal to the task of kowtowing to Hollywood’s basest, falsest fantasies about itself.
This year, there were two elephants in the room (the Dolby Theater in Hollywood): the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement. Kimmel addressed the pachyderms directly. Gesturing to a massive mockup of the award, he noted that Oscar “keeps his hands where you can see them, never says a rude word, and most importantly, has no penis at all.” Staying with the crowd-pleasing political themes, Kimmel pointed out that the Oscar is 90 years old and therefore should be at home watching Fox News, adding that the movie studios don’t make gay-themed pictures like Call Me By Your Name for profit. “We make them to upset Mike Pence.”
Returning to the male/female problem, Kimmel suggested that Best Picture winner The Shape of Water represented “the year men screwed up so baldly women starting dating fish.” It also represented the year that the academy entered its late post-quality period. The Best Picture winner is a witless “lovable monster” movie, with a villain so overdrawn that vaudeville would have given him the hook, a mute heroine out of the grossest Victorian melodrama, and a theme exploited with far greater panache by Beauty and the Beast, Shrek, and at least a dozen other pictures.
Even when a 2018 award-winner had history on its side—as did Darkest Hour, the story of Winston Churchill’s acrimonious fight with his craven cabinet during World War II—a false note was shoehorned into the production. The prime minister, who didn’t need the British public to tell him not to trust Hitler and Mussolini, is shown on the London underground, where Britain’s common folk persuade him to carry on the fight. Gary Oldman’s is a canny Churchill impersonation, but the subway incident never happened, save in the filmmakers’ fevered imagination.
Then again, there is nothing new under the Los Angeles sun. David O. Selznik, producer of Gone With The Wind, once observed that “It’s somehow symbolic of Hollywood that Tara was just a façade, with no rooms inside.” That movie was made 80 years ago.
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