Why This Academy Member Doesn’t Watch the Oscars and Missed Will Smith

Commentary Although a member of the Writers’ Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1983, I haven’t been watching the Oscars much in the past few years, so I missed the supposedly “grand event” of this year’s ceremony—Will Smith slapping Chris Rock, who told an insulting joke about Smith’s wife Jada. More of that in a moment, but first why I no longer watch. At first glance, the obvious reason is that they have turned it into a Festival of Woke. And, yes, that’s part of the reason, although I understand it wasn’t so extreme this year.   Nevertheless, the idea that Sean Penn threatened to melt down his statues if the Academy didn’t televise a message from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the proceedings is yet another ludicrous—though not surprising—example of how so many members can’t let the evening be about the movies. It has to be about their supposed virtue. (It’s notable that Penn wasn’t nominated for anything this year, but, as they say, “attention must be paid.”) Worse still, the Academy recently decreed that, as of 2024, “films will have to meet minimum requirements pertaining to representation and inclusion to be eligible for the best picture Oscar.” On that one, as original mogul Samuel Goldwyn himself said years ago, “Include me out.” I frankly can’t imagine anything more reactionary artistically, while pretending to be progressive. Goodbye to half—or maybe 95 percent—of Turner Classic Movies, not to mention Shakespeare, the Greek Theater, and so forth.  But the real reason I don’t watch is that the movies aren’t the movies anymore.  They have been split in two between “action” pictures designed to distract, for a few minutes anyway, teenage boys from computer games and pseudo-art films made for prizes. Neither are good. Inadvertently illustrating the point, I understand the 2022 ceremony featured a tribute to “The Godfather” on its 50th anniversary. That was a film classic loved by all, from a time when Hollywood made movies everyone wanted to see, even anticipated. There were many, but not from recent years. Art forms, like most things in life, have cycles. Yes, “CODA,” this year’s best picture winner about life among the deaf, is worthy and engaging, but it’s far from that level of those iconic movies, many Oscar winners of yore, we want to see again and again (David Lean, Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, and on and on). In that sense, I—this Academy member and longtime-ago Oscar nominee in screenwriting—have joined the public that is losing interest.  Well, until Will slapped Chris. Reactions to this event have varied. Looking at the video, it certainly was what we used to call a “coup de theatre”—a sensational, sudden turn of events in a play, taking a pretty humdrum evening and making it into something worth talking about. (Already, we learn that Rock isn’t pressing charges—not that anyone expected he would.) A friend in New York thinks Smith still receiving his best actor Oscar for “King Richard” after charging on stage and slapping Rock (pretty forcefully, it seems) and, of course, dropping the f-bomb, is symptomatic of our now easy national acceptance of violence. I take his point. I’m not a fan of Antifa either (to say the least), or of people ripping off stores with sledgehammers—some recently pretty near the Kodak Theater where the Oscars are given, actually—with impunity.   But I think, in this case, it was more a matter of two men behaving like jerks.   Rock told a really stupid joke about Smith’s wife, who has a genuine and quite serious autoimmune illness, and Smith reacted just as stupidly. Both guys are going to have to live with what they did. Too bad for them. In other words, as the greatest playwright and screenwriter of all time would put it, it was and is finally all “much ado about nothing.” But maybe it helped generate viewers for the Academy Awards ceremony, the ratings for which have been descending faster than Biden’s poll numbers. We shall see. In the long run, however, on-stage battery is a dubious strategy for artistic awards ceremonies—at least, I hope so. I have a better suggestion. Go back to the past and start making movies again like “Back to the Future.”  And while you’re at it, ix-nay on the anti-art in-inclusion-ay. Imagine the films of, say, director Akira Kurosawa—generally accepted as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time—if he were required to use blacks, whites, Hispanics, and so on in his Japanese movies. Insane, no? Ladies and gentlemen of the Academy, get a life! Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times. Follow Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, co-founder of PJMedia, and now, editor-at-large for The Epoch Times. His most recent books are “The GOAT” (fiction) and “I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t

Why This Academy Member Doesn’t Watch the Oscars and Missed Will Smith

Commentary

Although a member of the Writers’ Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1983, I haven’t been watching the Oscars much in the past few years, so I missed the supposedly “grand event” of this year’s ceremony—Will Smith slapping Chris Rock, who told an insulting joke about Smith’s wife Jada.

More of that in a moment, but first why I no longer watch.

At first glance, the obvious reason is that they have turned it into a Festival of Woke.

And, yes, that’s part of the reason, although I understand it wasn’t so extreme this year.  

Nevertheless, the idea that Sean Penn threatened to melt down his statues if the Academy didn’t televise a message from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the proceedings is yet another ludicrous—though not surprising—example of how so many members can’t let the evening be about the movies. It has to be about their supposed virtue. (It’s notable that Penn wasn’t nominated for anything this year, but, as they say, “attention must be paid.”)

Worse still, the Academy recently decreed that, as of 2024, “films will have to meet minimum requirements pertaining to representation and inclusion to be eligible for the best picture Oscar.

On that one, as original mogul Samuel Goldwyn himself said years ago, “Include me out.” I frankly can’t imagine anything more reactionary artistically, while pretending to be progressive. Goodbye to half—or maybe 95 percent—of Turner Classic Movies, not to mention Shakespeare, the Greek Theater, and so forth. 

But the real reason I don’t watch is that the movies aren’t the movies anymore. 

They have been split in two between “action” pictures designed to distract, for a few minutes anyway, teenage boys from computer games and pseudo-art films made for prizes. Neither are good.

Inadvertently illustrating the point, I understand the 2022 ceremony featured a tribute to “The Godfather” on its 50th anniversary. That was a film classic loved by all, from a time when Hollywood made movies everyone wanted to see, even anticipated.

There were many, but not from recent years. Art forms, like most things in life, have cycles.

Yes, “CODA,” this year’s best picture winner about life among the deaf, is worthy and engaging, but it’s far from that level of those iconic movies, many Oscar winners of yore, we want to see again and again (David Lean, Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, and on and on).

In that sense, I—this Academy member and longtime-ago Oscar nominee in screenwriting—have joined the public that is losing interest. 

Well, until Will slapped Chris.

Reactions to this event have varied. Looking at the video, it certainly was what we used to call a “coup de theatre”—a sensational, sudden turn of events in a play, taking a pretty humdrum evening and making it into something worth talking about. (Already, we learn that Rock isn’t pressing charges—not that anyone expected he would.)

A friend in New York thinks Smith still receiving his best actor Oscar for “King Richard” after charging on stage and slapping Rock (pretty forcefully, it seems) and, of course, dropping the f-bomb, is symptomatic of our now easy national acceptance of violence.

I take his point. I’m not a fan of Antifa either (to say the least), or of people ripping off stores with sledgehammers—some recently pretty near the Kodak Theater where the Oscars are given, actually—with impunity.  

But I think, in this case, it was more a matter of two men behaving like jerks.  

Rock told a really stupid joke about Smith’s wife, who has a genuine and quite serious autoimmune illness, and Smith reacted just as stupidly. Both guys are going to have to live with what they did. Too bad for them.

In other words, as the greatest playwright and screenwriter of all time would put it, it was and is finally all “much ado about nothing.”

But maybe it helped generate viewers for the Academy Awards ceremony, the ratings for which have been descending faster than Biden’s poll numbers. We shall see. In the long run, however, on-stage battery is a dubious strategy for artistic awards ceremonies—at least, I hope so.

I have a better suggestion. Go back to the past and start making movies again like “Back to the Future.” 

And while you’re at it, ix-nay on the anti-art in-inclusion-ay. Imagine the films of, say, director Akira Kurosawa—generally accepted as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time—if he were required to use blacks, whites, Hispanics, and so on in his Japanese movies. Insane, no?

Ladies and gentlemen of the Academy, get a life!

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


Follow

Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, co-founder of PJMedia, and now, editor-at-large for The Epoch Times. His most recent books are “The GOAT” (fiction) and “I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already” (nonfiction). He can be found on GETTR and Parler @rogerlsimon.