By Derek Dodge
A return to civility. Remember that phrase in the wake of the Tucson shooting? It didn’t take long for politics as usual to resume on Capitol Hill, so it’s no wonder that we shouldn’t expect civility on Hollywood’s biggest night either. I’m not talking about the celebrities or filmmakers, who from afar seemed to all behave in a respectful manner. No, Twitter, I’m talking to you.
Much has been said and written about how Twitter and other social platforms will help save live television events. The clichéd term “virtual water cooler” is a real thing. People like to talk. And people like to talk about people more than anything else. When those people are millionaire celebrities, well nothing in the discourse is sacred, so it seems.
The female celebrities get it the worst. They are examined from head to toe by countless “experts” who critique every thread and gem. Okay, I get it. They’re supposed to look glamorous and set fashion trends. But it’s a distraction from what’s really important - their craft, as actors. And that is what peeved me the most last night about the Twitter discourse.
The Academy Awards is a celebration of the art and craft of filmmaking. Or at least it’s supposed to be. It’s become a televised spectacle where the audience demands to be entertained by show-stopping numbers and side-splitting humor from curtain to curtain. Roger Ebert, whom I admire greatly, says last night’s show was the worst “Oscarcast I’ve seen.” Mr. Ebert’s opinion is certainly valid, and maybe he’s right, but it’s the result of a larger problem.
I watched the show while scrolling through a multitude of tweets lambasting the show as “boring.” Many tweeps took particular aim at the hosts, skewering James Franco and Anne Hathaway. I could highlight some of the more amusing tweets for you, but I rather keep that negativity in the Twittersphere. I finally had enough and fired off a response to them all: “I’m sick of hearing how the #Oscars are “boring.” It’s a celebration of the craft of filmmaking, not American Idol.”
I understand the expectation that a room full of entertainers putting on a show should be…entertaining. That makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is all the mean, rude, and negative comments from millions of people hiding behind their computer screens. Several times during the broadcast I was watching a certain presenter with admiration for her craft, remembering the many times in her career that she has moved me, only to turn to Twitter to find numerous tweets ripping her apart for her appearance. Really?
I watch The Academy Awards because, for many cinephiles like me, it is my Super Bowl. These filmmakers are my heroes. Making a good film is very difficult. Making a great film is near impossible. We all love to play critic, but at the end of the day we admire those who go out there and do the impossible, not those who just talk about it. Cut them some slack, will ya?
Yes, I want the Oscar telecast to be better. I want the producers to stop feeling pressured into delivering a ratings success. I’d like to see more tributes to film legends of times’ past. More honor paid to below-the-line talent. More focus on foreign and independent films. Maybe I’m living in a dream world, but I find those things “entertaining,” not silly costumes and comedic sketches.
Lastly, whatever you may hope the Oscars telecast to be, please remember this quote from the 1943 nominee for Best Original Song. “If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all.”