The Crime of Sunday’s Oscarcast Wasn’t Irreverence, It Was Arrogance

Oscar Producers

The Oscars are done with, and much has been written about the ceremony broadcast already, so forgive me my three cents. But since I spent enough time expressing my fears about Sunday in the days and weeks leading up to the show, I figured I might as well complete the cycle.

It’s one thing when you’re an artist to create something and say, “I’m going to do it my way.”

It’s another to take something that doesn’t belong to you and say, “I’m going to do it my way,” and to be aware that your way isn’t the right way to do it — so aware that you take 15 minutes at the start of the show to point that out, over and over again. That’s not self-deprecation. That’s an insult.

And that’s what Oscarcast exec producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and host Seth MacFarlane delivered.

I get that some people liked Sunday’s ceremony. My wife liked Sunday’s ceremony (and she doesn’t even like “Family Guy” or “Smash”). But the issue isn’t about whether you won’t please anyone. Anyone can please someone.

It’s about making your best effort. And if you’re so focused on pleasing yourself that you don’t care to address the problems you are causing, you’re not making your best effort.

This was writ large and small during the ceremony.

Large: A so-called tribute to the history of movie musicals that covers all of three movies, one of which was produced by the Oscarcast exec producers, another of which featured a singer from a television show produced by the Oscarcast exec producers.  Feeble.  Either do it right, or don’t do it at all.

Small: Five members of the cast of the “Avengers” present an Oscar, and they’re a wonderful combination of disinterested and incoherent. Who even knows what they were saying? It’s a dead moment and one that shouldn’t happen. Understand when something isn’t going to work and deal with it.

Gigantic: An opening show segment that was twice as long as the time devoted to celebrating all nine best picture nominees combined.

And that’s with me putting aside, because others have addressed it so well, how the show did offend, practically as promised, large swaths of people,

As Zadan, Meron and MacFarlane couldn’t stop telling us, the Oscars are an easy target for criticism, and that’s true. And the thing is, the show wasn’t even as bad as I thought it would be. MacFarlane did have some funny lines. Shirley Bassey kicked ass, as far as I’m concerned. And the brief moment of the socks in the dryer during the “Flight” parody was a half-second of genius.

But what I think offends me so much about Sunday’s broadcast, more than any Oscars I’ve ever watched, is how blatantly Zadan, Meron and MacFarlane used the anti-Sally Field approach of “You’re really not going to like me” to do absolutely whatever the hell they wanted, regardless of its merits. What cowardice, to blame your audience if any of it doesn’t like what you’re doing. It absolutely reeked of self-indulgence, completely oblivious to the idea that most of us do not tune in to see you. If this were on their show, that’d be one thing. But it was on our show.

The Academy Awards (as they used to be called before Zadan and Meron banned the name this year) are not sacred. I’m not anti-irreverance. I am anti-arrogance.

Maybe that’s arrogant of me to say, but at least you have online options for Oscar coverage besides me. There’s only one Oscars.

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  1. jb says:

    “tribute to the history of movie musicals”?
    Why don’t they do a show that is a tribute to VFX, the machine that has made more billions for hollywood than all musicals ever? Arrogance is right – “let me honor my own musicals – they are ‘art'”.
    Instead, the VFX category is ignored, insulted and disrespected. Time for the oscars to wake up to what the public pays for. If VFX works for movies, shouldn’t it work for the Oscars? Next year, get it right.

  2. rja says:

    As long as TV strives for the splayed 18-49 lowest common denominator, the new Oscars are about what we will always get – juvenile pap sans sophistication or intelligence.

  3. Todd says:

    I hadn’t really looked at it as an insult, but this column got me angry about the telecast. I thought MacFarlane was weak tea, and the show was really uneventful. A huge missed opportunity.

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