Oscars Are Fun But They’re Also Office Politics

The Oscars are great fun, even more so if you keep firmly in mind what they really are: A promotion for the movie business.

I don’t go to movie theatres anymore so I had seen only one of the films in the running this year. But I do keep up with the buzz in the biz, so I was able to accurately predict an amazingly high percentage of the winners, an even better score than I often got when I did this for a living. Actually seeing the films might well have clouded my judgment.

Gravity was going to win all the tech awards. Twelve Years a Slave was going to be best picture because of the current wave of pop slavery angst (Just check the best-seller book lists.) Disney’s annual big-budget animation would win anything for which it was nominated. The miscellaneous short films and documentaries could be predicted by subject, by graphics and by rumor.

I nailed them all. Really impressed my wife.

The actors were trickier. I got the young lady from Slave but missed on the guys from Dallas Buyer’s Club. Might have even helped to actually see the show. And who would have expected Cate Blanchett to rise above the Academy’s long-standing aversion to Woody Allen films? Even if she is a reigning babe.

It wasn’t a bad show, really. Ellen DeGeneres was a lively and appealing host, with her pizza delivery and her selfies. Hard to believe she’s only a decade or so beyond being coy about her sexual preference.

The production numbers were clunky and pointless but at least they weren’t live. It was good to see Sidney Poitier receive the love and respect he so deserves. It was touching the way a sadly aged Kim Novak was gently handled.

But there were details that tried my patience.

>Those microphone stands can easily be raised and lowered with a cheap electric gadget so why were some of the taller winners forced to bend over for their speeches?

>The celebrity presenters were introduced with a single mention of their names as they entered, usually in pairs. Since they mostly looked alike in their designer frocks and bodies, it would have been helpful not only to toss in a quick printed label but also to use some of the dead air during those long walks for a voice-over: “Star of television’s Boopsie” or whatever.

>And pity poor Bette Midler, who was trotted out to sing “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” I think that was Midler. I never heard her identified.

Following recent trends, many of the less anticipated awards were made at an earlier ceremony and kissed off quickly on the broadcast with some mention and footage. Not enough of them, though. There still were parades of unknown tuxedos with varying degree of charm thanking lists of colleagues and agents.

Though the Oscars mainly are about promoting the industry that sold five billion movie tickets last year, never doubt that it’s also about insider hustle and peer pecking orders. Especially in those techie categories, so essential to the product, where an Oscar or two is basic validation.

That’s what the Oscars really are about: Power office politics.

What they are not is some celebration of the very best in Hollywood. To realize this, just ponder this quick and casual list of big shots who were not in evidence at the Oscars this year:

Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, James Cameron, Ron Howard, Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Johnny Depp, Matt Damon, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Cameron Diaz… Well, you get the idea.

These money names took the night off. Some had no horse in this year’s race. Others were involved but not nominated. All have at least as much oomph as anybody in the house this year.

The Oscars are fun. But they’re also business as usual.

Welton Jones

Welton Jones has been following entertainment and the arts around for years, writing about them. Thirty-five of those years were spent at the UNION-TRIBUNE, the last decade was with SANDIEGO.COM.

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