I am not, by and large, an angry person. I’m actually a very happy person. You should see how I smile when the first bars of Psycho play. So when I seem angry here, I’m usually just annoyed, or snarky, or trying to be sarcastically amusing. I’m not really angry.
Except now. I am really angry. Mildly less so than yesterday, when the pain was still fresh (and before I began to understand Jennifer Lawrence’s awesomeness). Should I be angry at an awards ceremony that has proved time and again how incredibly useless and meaningless it is? No. Should I have expected anything better from the people who waited thirty years to award Martin Scorsese, who never awarded Hitchcock, and managed to snub Richard Burton? No. But I am. Not at the awards themselves – they were pat and predictable and wholly uninspired, but for the most part deserved. I’m angry at the whole ugly mess of the thing, the unfunny jokes, the borderline misogyny and racism.
Hollywood is a town full of talent, so why in the name of all that is good on this planet could they not put together a halfway coherent production? Why did stars faces shine under the lights like mini-beacons? Why did everyone seem like they had only just been informed they were going to be presenting? Why did the jokes alternate between banal and offensively unfunny (seriously? John Wilkes Booth?) Why were the most exciting moments when Bassey sang Goldfinger and Barbara Streisand sang The Way We Were, yet the big, endless production numbers of shite musicals made me long for a commercial break just to STOP THE PAIN? Why did it go on for three and a half hours, yet cut off speeches? What the hell was Michelle Obama doing there? I DON’T UNDERSTAND.
The Oscars were not this bad last year. Last year may have been a bit boring, but it was not inexplicable. As the show went on, my Twitter feed began to fill with WTFs and my heart with sadness. Then with anger. These people were making a mockery of the medium I love. They were destroying it from the inside out by the sheer idiocy of their production. I could not feel the joy at seeing Daniel Day-Lewis awarded for a great performance – and give a very cute acceptance speech – because my soul was being poisoned by the endless returns of the cast from Chicago. This was Hollywood at its most self-satisfied, its most self-congratulatory, but it had even lost the element of entertainment value.
What troubled me (and a lot of other people) the most were the misogynist undertones of so many of Macfarlane’s jokes. They’ve been remarked on already (Women directors! Boobs!), but were all the more bizarre because this was a year of strong women. Another Katherine Bigelow film nominated for Best Picture. A whole host of actresses nominated for playing strong women (Jessica Chastain, Sally Fields, Jennifer Lawrence, Quvenzhané Wallis). But at every turn the Oscars reduced them to body parts, skin color, jokes. Macfarlane’s humor, whether his fault or not, paved the way for The Onion to think it was acceptable to call a Wallis – a nine year old girl – an offensively sexist name. And what was supposed to be edgy, self-aware, entertaining, was simply crass.
I never expected the Oscars to be so crass. Macfarlane – who I liked and was rooting for right up until the boobs number – only highlighted one of the problems with contemporary Hollywood: we have reached the point where saying “I’m joking!” has become a catch-all excuse for saying any racist, sexist, classist or xenophobic thing you want to. Reducing Oscar-winning actresses to whether or not we’ve seen their breasts, mixing up Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy (because all black people look the same, and that’s racist, and so it’s funny!), not to mention the throwaway lines about Hollywood orgies – those were all simply not funny. It has nothing to do with lightening up, or taking a joke – a joke needs to be funny. I begin to wonder if the conspicuous lack of cutaways as the show went on was because the stars were either falling asleep, or face-palming.
I was beginning to recover my equilibrium for the big final awards. Then some kind of mad surrealism took over with the appearance of Dustin Hoffman and Charlize Theron. Jennifer Lawrence! Yep, expected that. Daniel Day-Lewis! That too, but he was at least charming. Ang Lee! Oh, he’s lovely, good for him. Then Jack came out and I, along with the rest of the Twitter-verse, went: JACK! Then there was a moment. Jack seemed a little confused. The First Lady appeared. Why did the First Lady appear? Why is she on that big screen? Who are those people behind her? She’s presenting the Oscar? But she’s in Washington, she can’t … what … who … Argo? And that’s when I finally face-palmed. It was like watching a Bunuel film without the political payoff.
So the Oscars this year was a combination of the boring, the offensive and the inexplicable. Musicals are a great theme for an Oscar show, but why ignore some of the better more recent ones? Bringing on a popular comedian is good too, but not when he laughs at his own jokes. The whole thing was so tasteless and confused that I honestly felt sorry for the stars who were awarded. They were overshadowed by the spectacular level of dumb. It’s a shame that ceremony made such hash out of race and gender, given the political dimensions of many of the nominated films. I can only hope that this is the last gasp of a dying breed in the industry, the final hysterical cry into the white male dominated past. The actors, actresses, writers, directors and films have moved beyond this. About time the Academy did too.