I'm not usually given to hyperbole, but after seeing over two decades worth of Academy Awards, I can honestly say that this year's awards show was the most disgraceful example of poor direction, total cruelty, and sheer stupidity that I've ever had the misfortune to witness. I'm not talking about the awards themselves- as usual, there is plenty to argue about when you tally up who won, who lost, and who never even got nominated, but the process is as it's always been and is as fair as it's liable to be. What is terribly UNfair is the treatment both the "stars" and "non-stars" received at the hands of Cates and Horvitz, in the name of "reducing boredom."
It is bad enough that for the last several years anyone who isn't Al Pacino has been "played off" at 45 seconds without any regard for what he was saying, how he was saying it, and what the emotion was behind the statement. It demonstrates nothing more than a total lack of respect, however, to herd nominees on the stage like cattle without paying them the honor of showing their faces while their names are read, to make them slink away quietly when they lose, to deny them the thrill of a walk to the podium, and to force them to read their statements with their backs to the audience. All of those things were done to the "non-stars" -never mind that the movies wouldn't exist at all without those artists and that most of them only ever get one chance to face their peers and their audience.
The stars didn't fare much better. It's becoming more sad than funny when winners of the caliber of Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood have to beg for a few extra seconds for their speeches. Chris Rock, as host, was neither as inflammatory and controversial as the Academy had hoped, nor nearly as funny as he could be. His opening remarks were almost (but not quite) as offensive as Sean Penn made them out to be, and his comments during the show were more innocuous than interesting. Of course, he could hardly be blamed when it was clear that was being kept on as short a leash as any host has. In the end, Chris Rock was something he's almost never been before: a non-entity.
Even the musical numbers were handled poorly. Beyonce sang well, but there was simply no reason why she should have been featured in three out of the five songs. Another example of utter disrespect for an artist was giving Jorge Drexler's nominated song to Antonio Banderas- even though Drexler was present and clearly wouldn't have minded singing his own song, based on his winning "speech."
The efforts of Cates and Horvitz to make the show shorter and faster may have worked to a degree, but what resulted was a show devoid of life. We've all whined about the overlong speeches given by people we don't know, about the overblown production, about the self-congratulatory quality. But this is THEIR night- not ours. What is meant to be a celebration has become an insult to the people being celebrated. Cates and Horvitz should, frankly, be ashamed.
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