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Friday, March 4, 2016

Insider: The Oscars

Last one from this year's Oscars (I promise)'s a little story I did that was picked up nationally...
Leo wins the big one.
The Oscars take an awards ceremony and elevates it to a level that all other events can only dream of; at least on television. More people watch television than go to movies, especially now with movie prices nearing twenty dollars. The levels of fashion, the A-listers, and the venue all combine to deliver nearly a billion sets of eyeballs to the ABC telecast of the show. Here we go backstage and show you the life of a reporter behind the scenes.

The 88th Academy Awards telecast was a unique experience from the get-go because of the entire diversity / #OscarsSoWhite issue that plagued the usual positive vibe that the promise of a golden, 8.5 pound, 24K statuette will usually deliver. The tone started on the unusually muted tone of the red carpet and continued all night. The diversity issued was imbued throughout the evening and into the press room.

Host Chris Rock
All of the reporters that were in attendance were literally on the edge of our seats. We simply didn’t know where the issue was going to take us. Oscars telecast host, Chris Rock, made no public statement after the controversy broke out and stayed silent all the way through to curtains up on the telecast. The controversy heightened on the speculation he was going to address it, gloss over it, or maybe make a serious statement and move on. Turns out, he hit the ground running and it was a full throttle assault on the controversy…

  • “Man, I counted at least 15 black people on that montage. I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards.”
  • “This is the wildest, craziest Oscars to ever host, because we’ve got all this controversy. No, no black nominees, you know, and people are like ‘Chris, you should boycott. Chris, you should quit. You should quit.’ How come there’s only unemployed people that tell you to quit something, you know? No one with a job ever tells you to quit.”
  • “It’s the 88th Academy Awards. It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means this whole no black nominees thing has happened at least 71 other times. O.K.?”
  • “…in the 50s, in the 60s … we had real things to protest at the time, you know? We had real things to protest; you know, we’re too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer. You know, when your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about best documentary foreign short.”
  • …and on he went, a 14-minute monologue and every word had to do with diversity.

There was a very tangible impact from the controversy that spread to the media room. Backstage, there were more African-American reporters in the press corps than we had ever seen. Most were from outlets we had never heard of, or had ever attended an Academy Awards.

From the minute the issue became a controversy, the Academy was very self-conscious and that was evident from what we saw last night. They bent over backwards to admit there was a problem. They took blame for it, saying collectively, “Yes, there is a problem and we plan to do something about it. We are going to change things.”

Eddie Redmayne and Cheryl Boone Isaacs
Indeed, President of the Academy Board of Governors, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, said, “…there’s a brand new world coming…”  alluding to their four-year plan to double the minorities in the voting members contingency and the Board of Governors.

Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne, and Academy President, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, on the red carpet.
The telecast took shots at themselves during the telecast. Some of the nominated films for Best Picture were altered via CGI to insert black actors into the films’ lead roles. In the media room, there were laughs, but after a while their was a backlash and complaints that the Academy was too over the top, where it was actually making fun of the controversy. Ah, sometimes there is no winning.

As soon as we exhaled, the moans started coming about the political pontifications of the show:

Kerry Washington and Henry Cavill backstage.
Best Costume Design winner Jenny Beavan championed for environmental water issues during her acceptance speech. "I've been thinking about this a lot, but actually it could be horribly prophetic, Mad Max, if we're not kinder to each other, and if we don't stop polluting our atmosphere, so you know, it could happen.”

Adam McKay, winner for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Big Short at the took the opportunity to warn voters of candidates who take money from questionable places, including "weirdo billionaires," during his acceptance speech. His movie, a financial dramedy that warns against big banks and corrupt financial systems. McKay continued, "Most of all, if you don’t want big money to control government, don’t vote for candidates that take money from big banks, oil or weirdo billionaires: Stop!"

Even Leonardo DiCaprio jumped on his soapbox to discuss global warming.

Backstage McKay was asked if  he had someone in mind during his speech and he replied, “No, I was speaking about both parties.” He elaborated in detail about the big corporations, the banks and the problems with America to the point where the press covering it tuned out to the point where they were murmuring about their wishes that people would go back to just thanking their agents and their families.

(Let’s face it, reporters are complainers at heart.)

One of the fun skits of the night turned out to be the Girl Scout fundraising. Rock spun a nice storyline where his daughters are always finishing second to another parent’s troop. To make up for that, he asked to millionaires in the audience to pony up and help the girls sell more cookies. And sell they did, to the tune of $65,000 plus raised.

$65k to the Girl Scouts!
But backstage there were more under-the-breath whispers asking, “where’s Hispanic Girl Scouts, or the Asian troop? We have the African-American girl scouts out there, so where are rest of the ethnic groups.” In effect from there, it was a collective griping session about what kind of diversity was need. The claws were out on the press corps looking for anything to poke holes into the efforts of healing. So in case you missed it, there is no winning in the press room.

Sam Smith's grossly inaccurate Oscars acceptance speech (for Best Original Song) produced a profanity-laced tirade that was directed loudly and inward towards himself as the press corps called him out. Many scurried to the buffet served by Wolfgang Puck.

If you found the time, the food in the press room is Beverly Hills chic; and that’s an understatement. On the menu: spring rolls, assorted sandwiches with artisan bread and pretzel rolls, pesto bow-tie pasta, shrimp cocktail, rigatoni, with marinara sauce, beef and chicken empanadas, grilled chicken skewers rolled in sesame seeds, beff skewers, assorted meats including peperoni, capicola, mortadella, and salami, cheeses, assorted nuts, dried fruits, and a dessert table with four different cakes, cookies, and fresh fruit.

There was Oscar-shaped salmon with caviar at the Governor’s Ball.
Hey, where's Jada? Protests outside the Oscars.