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Vol. 21, No. 2, 2022
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the big snooze

Liz Hodgson


For more of Liz, visit her fashion/brenda website.


Gather round children and hear of days long ago when you called a number to find out the time and learned to square-dance in gym class. Back then, there was a TV genre called a “variety show”—a sparkly extravaganza of hammy jokes and jazz-handsy chassee-left-kick-ball-change dance routines. Dance routines? Heck, there were skating routines . . .

By the late 1970s, the variety show faded from our TVs, though elements of it remain to this day. The Academy Awards—which began life as an after-dinner awards ceremony and gradually morphed into a more contemporary type of variety show—are still with us.

But for how long? In the 1990s, 40 million+ people watched the Academy Awards. By 2021, that number dropped to a paltry 10 million, a record low for the Oscars and one of the most precipitous ratings drops in TV history. In this post-Virus year, they only regained five million more viewers.

We know why the Oscars are a diminishing brand. TV is where the talent is and audiences have followed. Hollywood makes too many superhero movies and the rest are films most of us lack the patience to sit through. But this year was meant to be a turnaround, when Oscars would maneuver out of this death-spiral, pull up on the throttle and soar to new heights. Or is it push down on the throttle? Either way, it didn’t happen.

Instead, they rolled out a tedious, at times cringe-worthy and interminable broadcast that recalled the famous description of trench warfare as “endless boredom punctuated by moments of terror.” Worst of all, they were tacky. Amy Schumer’s dress perfectly summarizes the low-rent tenor of the evening . . .

This was a People’s Choice dress at what’s supposed to be Hollywood’s classiest night. Puerile and unserious, the embellishment of a cheap glittery bow and racy décolletage could not overcome its banality. FTR, this is what a serious Oscars-worthy gown featuring a bow looks like . . .

See the difference? Audrey’s dress is unmistakably designer. She wore it 47 years ago and it would still be fashionable today. Amy’s looks like something on the sale rack at TJ Maxx.

The night’s lineup of jokes were as juvenile as Amy’s dress. Did Jason Momoa actually make a burp joke—and not a very funny one? I laughed harder back in elementary school when Glen Someone-or-other (can’t remember his last name) drank a liter of Coke in the playground then let out a 26-second belch (his friend timed it). You watch—next year we’ll get fart jokes and maybe a sponsorship tie-in with Beano.

With its double standard, Regina Hall’s running gag about bagging one of the eligible bachelors in attendance missed its landing by a mile. Just imagine this joke in reverse? Heads would explode. Her onstage groping wasn’t just adolescent but plainly weird. Louis B. Mayer had to be spinning in his grave. Or maybe he was thinking ‘if anyone’s gonna paw the talent, it had better be me!’ (Boom! Tish!)

What happened? Did producers dumb things down to please the casual sensibilities of a younger, more desirable viewer cohort? It’s as though the Queen, in an effort to relate to her following of superannuated, Coronation Street-watching devotees, took her walkabout in elastic-waist pants and a pair of these.

Was it pandering to a younger crowd when the hosts bragged about not having watched any of the films? (Like . . . ermigaaaad . . . like, that’s so much work!) Or the cheery dance number as In Memoriam scrolled in the background (Ermigaad. Dying is such a downer.). Or all those Marvel promotions shoehorned throughout? Even the editing had an amateurish feel. This crescendo of shabbiness and vulgarity rose to its peak with the Slap Heard Around the World.

The volume of interest in the Will Smith-Chris Rock brouhaha put a lot of noses out of joint. Apparently it indicated our unchecked, civilization-ending shallowness or something. That or you were a sucker for buying it. It was a setup—like Howard Beale’s onscreen murder in Network.

Ahem. If I may . . . nobody but nobody connected to that broadcast wished for the squalid incursion of a scene straight out of a VIP Beverly Hills nightclub, where someone is always a line of coke or a shot of Ketel One away from starting a brawl. Like all spontaneous combustions, this one happened in the blink of an eye. One second it’s King of Hollywood Will Smith, glowing triumphantly. The next it’s insecure, incandescent cuckold Will Smith, ranting and swearing. Then it’s Will Smith making a simultaneously self-pitying and self-aggrandizing acceptance speech.

The Academy hates swearing. Even in the year 2022, it still strives for the pretense of wholesomeness—perhaps more than ever in the wake of #metoo. Harvey Weinstein had his hand in 341 nominations. It was at the Academy Awards that Meryl Streep—a three-time Oscar winner and 21-time nominee—stuck her nose up Weinstein’s ass by calling him ‘god.’

Like Sally Field, the Oscars long for us to like them. Why else would they keep pulling one rabbit after another out of their hat to please us—including promises to be less white, less political and less long. Yet they only manage to be less funny, which is why there’s a growing feeling of ‘burn it all down’ in the air during awards season.

Asked for comment on the Slap incident, Fran Liebowitz expressed bewilderment that the Oscars still exists, comparing it to watching a butter-churning contest. When the Academy announced it would ban Will Smith from attending the awards for ten years, Twitter’s hot take was basically will there be an Academy Awards in ten years? Also . . . hey Oscars. Millions of us have already imposed voluntary lifetime bans. On ourselves.

Some of us are rooting for the Oscars though—and not just for old time’s sake. They keep movie-makers on their toes, inspiring them to continue shooting for greatness. Without the Oscars, Hollywood has no reason to produce anything but sequels, remakes and board game adaptations. We’ll have one less reason to swear at the TV when a more deserving film gets picked over for some Oscar-baity crowd-pleaser.



By Liz Hodgson:
Blue Murder - Denim







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