What’s exciting about the Oscars is that it’s live and there’s the occasional unexpected crazy incident. That’s what people remember. That’s what people talk about the next day. Usually, it’s a major fuck up — like the year they announced the wrong Best Picture. That was an unexpected moment I’m sure the Academy wishes to forget.
But it seems to me that years ago there were more of these happy unplanned incidents. The streaker, Sacheen Littlefeather, Jack Palance doing a push-up, etc. What made the Oscar hosts great wasn’t their opening monologue but their ability to ad lib and comment on the memorable moment. Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, and Billy Crystal all had that gift.
Incidents like that would electrify the ceremony. Now the audience is waiting to see the ramifications, reactions, and whether more craziness ensues.
Will Smith revitalized all that with one slap. By slapping Chris Rock for telling a joke at the expense of his wife, Will Smith suddenly made the Oscars interesting. Whether you agree with whether he should have done it or not, the result and subsequent Smith tirade to Rock — “Keep my wife’s name out of your FUCKING MOUTH!” — was great live theatre. It was a shared event. People are talking about it today, aren’t they? We have so few shared events anymore that aren’t insurrections.
And then Smith finally wins an Oscar and has this insane pompous endless speech filled with pauses and suddenly we’re now hanging on every word. (By the way, what bullshit! He’s a “protector.” He’s a self-absorbed talented actor — not a protector, not chosen by God to spread love.) At any moment he could say the most bizarre thing. When he began by launching into how much love he was put on this earth to spread and then got teary, I don’t know about you, but I was thinking “this guy is going to have a complete breakdown on worldwide television” — I’m not switching over to Netflix.
Few people (if any) can remember anything about the last few years of the ceremony. Yeah, there were incoherent speeches (Frances McDormand) and actors mispronouncing names, but big whoop. Will Smith slapping Chris Rock will be remembered for years. And I guarantee you, as a result, next year’s Oscars will go up in the ratings. If for no other reason, Smith will probably be a presenter. We’ll all tune in to see who he slugs next.
UPDATE: My follow-up tomorrow. And no, I don’t condone the violence.
Source: Ken Levine