I watched the 85th Academy Awards telecast last night. Only they weren’t called that. They were called, “The Oscars” as I noted when “the voice” introduced the telecast at 8:30. Hmmm…odd, I thought. But, in my mind they were still the 85th Academy Awards. I watched as did most film fans and Hollywood enthusiasts the world over. And as many others throughout social media, I’ve plenty to squabble about. I’ve seen mentions and complaints about the ones left out of the ‘In Memoriam’ tribute, (host) Seth MacFarlane’s inappropriate remarks during his hosting gig (something I paid little attention to), and of course, people’s opinions about the hits and misses among the chosen recipients of the award. Who should have won versus who took home the golden man.
All of those commentaries and the many more that result are par for the course and why many watch the Awards to begin with. Many – whether professional or fan – are passionate about The Oscars and take them very seriously. Hell, I take the day after off from work to allow for ruminations on the previous night although I do nothing more than discuss the evening with friends who share my passion for film. Until today. There was one major faux pas last night that I cannot let go of when…
Out of the blue came a tribute to the movie musicals of the last decade. HUH? I’ve tried to make sense of this since that tribute was announced during the show. And based on commentary on Twitter I was not the only one confused. I have no specific opinion about or problem with the performances for said “last decade musicals tribute,” but I do ask why? I really want to know. There is no rhyme or reason for it. And here is why I am so confused…
Last night’s was the 85th Oscars. The 85th! A significant anniversary by my estimation. The 85th! Somehow the show’s producers, writers, director, planners, whoever forgot that. Are they not aware of the rich history of movie musicals that have graced the silver screen during those 85 years? I have nothing against the last decade but we’re talking talents one would think they’ve heard of – Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Eleanor Powell, Ginger Rogers, Ann Miller, Cyd Charisse, Donald O’Connor, Busby Berkeley, Vincente Minnelli and many others from a little era called “The Golden Age” of Hollywood. Sure, include the last decade but, REALLY? IT WAS THE 85th ANNIVERSARY!
I get the “need” to produce these awards shows so they appeal to younger audiences. However, they cannot discount the ties to history. In fact, Academy president, Hawk Koch spoke of the rich history of The Academy when he made his remarks during the show. Hell, ABC had Dorothy’s ruby slippers on the red carpet front and center, albeit covered as guests were asked to guess what piece of film history was in a covered box. Anyway, I just had to say something. It was the 85th anniversary!
To those responsible, here are some reminders as a starting point – the top ten greatest musicals listed on the American Film institute’s, 25 Greatest Musicals of All Time:
Donen and Kelly’s, Singin‘ in the Rain (1952)
Robbins and Wise’s, West Side Story (1961)
Victor Fleming’s, The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Robert Wise’s, The Sound of Music (1965)
Bob Fosse’s, Cabaret (1972)
Robert Stevenson’s, Mary Poppins (1964)
George Cukor’s, A Star is Born (1954)
George Cukor’s, My Fair Lady (1964)
Vincente Minnelli’s, An American in Paris (1951)
Vincente Minnelli’s, Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
The tribute to the last decade of movie musicals may not have seemed odd to many. And perhaps the 85th anniversary is not considered a worthy occasion during which to look back at all previous years. I get that – I don’t like it, but I get it. But then dedicating a tribute to a decade during which musicals were not a standout in film is an oddity at best. I’ll add that this has little to do with my proclivity toward classic film. Yes, I prefer the classics but I love good films from all eras. To emphasize the point imagine a tribute to the last decade of radio on radio’s 85th anniversary. What is that? A tribute to the situation comedies of the last decade on television’s 85th anniversary. It’s absurd no matter how you cut it.
If the goal of some is to get a younger audience interested in film, then for crying out loud show them at least some of the standards, the ones who broke the mold. Start with Judy’s “The Man that Got Away” and dare all not to be blown away. Then feature the “Moses Supposes” number from Singin’ in the Rain. Include Fred and Ginger dancing “Cheek to Cheek” from Top Hat. And on and on. End with the last decade. Makes sense. Or dedicate not at all to the movie musical. Last night I was perplexed. Today I am flabbergasted. The 85th anniversary indeed. Or wait, maybe not. Let’s start from scratch.
It turns out that The Academy and ABC have little interest in the past, as last night’s ceremony showed. Or at least, don’t think history is worth mentioning. According to an article by The Wrap from a week ago, which stated that it was a concerted effort by all involved to remove “Academy Awards” and “85th” from all marketing material and make references to the event only as, “The Oscars.” You can take a look at the article, which includes notations from interviews with decision-makers here. Of course, this saddens and angers me at the same time. Perpetuate cluelessness and give more excuses for people not to know anything about what came before. It’s the trend and given that last night’s Oscars telecast had a 19% ratings increase from last year’s it’s possible next year’s may be marketed as the “2nd Oscars.” Let’s just wipe out 84 years of film. Or, 74 of those as the last decade seems acceptable for no reason at all. We don’t know history, we don’t know geography, we don’t read, then why know and watch film?
All this for nothing. My “major faux pas” wasn’t a faux pas at all. It wasn’t the 85th anniversary after all. My mistake.