Commentary | Hollywood’s Oscars Night, A Fool’s Pageant

The great satirist minds of the past would throw up their pens at the foolishness, arrogance and hypocrisy of Hollywood's 2016 Oscars.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

To my eyes, it’s poetically perfect that I caught up on last night’s Academy Awards broadcast while working from London. It’s much easier to observe patterns of monumental foolishness from a distance.

In the English language, the great literary minds of UK history created the art of fantastical satire. The various peoples and tribes of Dean Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels were thinly veiled comical versions of English society classes. The creatures and maniacs Alice Liddell meets in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass all have their parallels in the real world of Lewis Carroll’s time.

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As I write this from a hotel room around the corner from Covent Garden and a 12 hour flight removed from Hollywood airspace, I see such a rich tapestry of arrogance and goofiness woven last night that the ghostly hands of Swift, Carroll, and their lot are welcome to guide my less talented fingers in their typed mockery. However, I don’t see that happening at the moment as “goofiness” is not a word they’d pluck from their quiver.

I survived the Hollywood shuffle for more than ten years before the chance to travel and write about the world for fine publications like this very one rescued me from the veritable rat race. Checking in on last night’s Academy Awards “pageant of the bizarre,” I celebrate my freedom this morning, Greenwich Mean Time.

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Recent polls indicate more than two-thirds of Americans couldn’t give a damn about the Oscars or last night’s broadcast. That begs the question of why I would bother to write about them myself. Perhaps I can explain the chronic disconnect between Hollywood, its preeminent awards show, and its public by pointing out a handful of oddities from Sunday’s Oscar festivities.

  1. A town self-adulated for its fiercely progressive politics and sensitivity to all peoples, sexes, creeds, races, religions, beliefs and dietary requirements marched up a would-be small army (if they believed in violence) of mind-numbingly similar white male representatives to pat each other on the back for the entirety of the 207-hour Oscars broadcast.
  2. Against that pale backdrop, we witnessed this year’s culmination of the oh-so Hollywood argument of which highly paid, privileged and comfort-soaked minority/sexual/orientational group is most discriminated against and abused by the entertainment industry — with all participants wearing tuxedos and gowns costing thousands of dollars and arriving in chauffeured limos after picking up gift bags worth more than most American mortgages.
  3. Amidst an event locked down by heavily armed guards, the stars of the world’s most violent movies wore little rubber bracelets protesting guns. The atomic weight of their dimwitted hypocrisy somehow didn’t open a black hole of suck around the Dolby Theater. 

    American film, television and video games are the biggest promoters and default advertisers of guns in the world. In fact, the only places most U.S. citizens see firearms or experience their effects are on movie and TV screens. Such weapons are never otherwise advertised in any major media outside of catalogs or sporting magazines. The sight of anyone who earns a dime of income off American showbiz — before railing against guns –would cause Shakespeare himself to throw up his sardonic quill and walk away, incredulous, from the writing desk. 

  4. In their predictably self-congratulatory acceptance speeches, the producers of this year’s “Best Picture” (Spotlight) essentially took credit for alerting the Vatican to the child sexual abuse scandal — that, according to their film, came to light officially in the media in 2001. So, some crack detective work by the Spotlight minds there.

    Evidently, a societal evil doesn’t exist and is never solved unless some smug, uber-enlightened hybrid driver sitting in a bland office with a view of the lifeless Hollywood Hills makes a movie about it. They certainly were all over THIS breaking story. You could argue that the 2001 work of the Boston Globe was already far too late in exposing this decades long scandal — let alone a film made about that newspaper 14 years later.

    Still, you can’t blame the Spotlight folks for their choice of subject matter, even if it was a decade late. The most efficient way to win a movie award at the Oscars is never offering the best made and best-reviewed film (…Sorry, Mad Max…). It’s better to put together a film about the entertainment business that no audience sees so the town can vote for itself come awards season (…Birdman, Argo, The Artist, Slumdog Millionaire…) or a produce a movie dealing with some heavy socio-political scandal that’s so serious strangers will come up and verbally phallate the filmmakers at booze and drug-soaked Sunset Boulevard after-parties — all the while avoiding actually getting involved in any hands-dirtying effort to fix said problem.

    Mission accomplished.

Today, I’m going for a walk to cover a few events here in London – to enjoy life outside the bewildered Hollywood bubble of lattes, coconut water, Pruis(es) and hubris. I expect the rest of society will join me — going to work and being productive in a real world where delusions of self-importance get you no farther than the bedroom door.

It’d be nice to see all the folks in “the industry” join us under the sun, but they’ve got to prep 12 months’ work of pretending to be relevant and humble ahead of them.