2013 Academy Awards

85th Annual Academy Awards - Show

The Academy Awards has become an annual ritual second only to the Super Bowl in its importance. Of equal significance is the wave of complaints that follow each telecast. There is always a great gnashing of teeth over the tacky dance numbers, the inept hosts, the comedy bits that fell flat, the overlong acceptance speeches, and the corny “tributes”. Yet every year the complainers watch. Perhaps it’s because the show speaks to our deeply ambivalent feelings towards the entertainment-industrial complex. (It must also be admitted that there is more than a bit of jealousy and envy in all this carping.)

This year’s show provided plenty of fuel for its critics, beginning with the Academy’s bizarre decision to make Seth MacFarlane the host. The director of Ted has been rightly criticized for his juvenile sense of humor, but I feel that I should point out that MacFarlane didn’t invent bad taste. I remember the 1987 Oscars – excuse me, I mean the 59th Academy Awards. They showed a clip from Platoon, in which American soldiers are shown clearing out a Vietnamese village. This immediately segued into a musical number with Bernadette Peters. This was perhaps the most tasteless ting I have ever seen on television.

This brings up a question: why even bother with musical numbers? Why not just hand out the awards? I guess because the awards are not so much about excellence as they are about hype. The movie industry must be to made to seem more important than it is, and the awards must be made to seem to have more meaning than they do. So the organizers of this year’s awards must have been so pleased with themselves when they persuaded Michelle Obama to announce the winner of the Best Picture award. A further step in the merger of Hollywood and the government, which began with the election of Ronald Reagan (Barack Obama’s hero) to the White House. And it was very fitting, too, considering that the picture that won it is an exercise in historical falsification that glorifies the C.I.A.

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