“The Oscars” absurd tribute to MOVIE MUSICALS

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)

Mary Poppins

George Cukor’s, A Star is Born (1954)


George Cukor’s, My Fair Lady (1964)


Vincente Minnelli’s, An American in Paris (1951)

an american

Vincente Minnelli’s, Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Meet Me in St Louis

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.

17 thoughts

  1. The reason why they chose to acknowledge movie musicals of the past decade was because Les Miserables received so many nominations. I think you missed the point.

    1. Maybe. But outside of Dame Shirley Bassey, Adele, and Jennifer Hudson’s soaring solos, the musical numbers left something to be desired. Yeah, I know this wasn’t the Tony’s, but the Academy’s production didn’t have to suck at it, IMO.

      1. My “problem” was concerted effort to ignore the anniversary aspect, history. Either a proper tribute or none at all when the poorly conceived one had little connection to the show at hand. If the connection was the noms of Les Mis, I didn’t get that at all nor did anyone else I spoke with. Yet, the fact the show’s producers also produced Chicago occurred to everyone.

  2. Agreed. Sometimes, the producers come up with some really tone-deaf decisions. History and tradition get thrown under the bus as a result. They’ve earned the ratings they get. Wonderful look at this, Aurora.

    1. I’m sure they don’t think the decisions made were tone-deaf because I’d venture to say fans of MacFarlane wouldn’t be “into” the history of the Academy. I get that. The bottom line/viewship/ratings are always front and center. But does that mean this change to the simpler, “The Oscars” will be changed to an ‘OMG’ equivalent in a few years? “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the 3rd annual TO.” Or will they resort to audience voting a-la-popular reality talent shows today? I know that’s all out there and I’m making a big deal of nothing. Nor is it even my place to complain about any of it. But I maintain – it was the 85th year of the award of awards and it went unrecognized. In its place, an absurd tribute took place.


  3. I perked up at the thought of a tribute to musicals, but then was perplexed when they said “last ten years”. I’d assumed it was because they could produce the live performers to take part. The re-branding idea though makes it much more sinister.

    Personally, the musical highlights were Seth, Gordon-Levitt and Radcliffe giving us the Academy Award winning song “High Hopes” and Seth, Theron and Tatum with another Academy Award winner, “The Way You Look Tonight”. They mean movies (and music) to me.

    1. It seems more sinister. I won’t lie, I perked up too and then the “HUH?” when they mentioned decade. I tweeted it was strange to see if it made sense to anyone else. Just odd. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy some parts of the ceremony because I did, the moments you mention among them.


  4. I agree, that tribute would have done nothing to make anyone want to seek out more musicals. I still like Chicago, but Dreamgirls was, at best, only a halfway decent movie and the Les Mis part did nothing to make me want to see that movie. The whole thing would have been much better if they had approached it like they did the James Bond tribute. Get someone like Leslie Caron to introduce a montage of clips ranging from The Broadway Melody to Chicago and end it with the performance by the cast of Les Mis. It quite easily could have been a real celebration of the history of an entire genre, not just a very boring decade of it.

  5. I am a member of this “younger” generation and a big fan of Seth MacFarlane. I have to admit I am not very cultured at all when it comes to movies. Most people shudder at my cinematic taste. I only saw Singing in the Rain for the first time this past year, thanks to Aurora. I LOVED it!! I never realized how funny that movie is, and how great the song and dance numbers are! I think there is a way to work in these classics and still keep us entertained. We are missing out on these great classics, and while we should take some responsibility, is it really all our fault?

    1. Hello Nyssa,

      Thanks much for taking the time to comment. You are a rpime example of how I try to share the joy of classic film throughout the world. 😉 Anyway, As you state, it is important to make the award shows entertaining and one must keep in mind aurdiences change. However, also as you mention, history should not be discounted. That’s particularly true when one considers the wealth we have to draw from in regards to classic film, all made much more significant a mention on an important anniversary, such as is the 85th! My anger and siappointed is refreshed every time I comment or think about it. It’s not right and that’s all there is to it.


  6. I’m with you, Aurora. I was really disappointed in the show and especially the 85th anniversary milestone.

    So I wrote to the Academy and gave them my feedback. (Yes, I am one of THOSE people.) To me, it felt disrespectful of Hollywood history.

    1. Great for you! I love that you’re “one of those people” R.A.! Makes a hell of a lot more difference than a silly blog post. It is completely disrespectful to history and my “anger” grew as the next day passed. It’s not right I don’t care which way they cut it.


  7. Chicago marked te ressurrection of movie musicals after winning Best Picture in 2002, that´s why they chose to celebrate this decade. Everybody was pretty happy with this, except us, the classic film fans. 85 is a marvelous celebration number, and could have been used to do a great tribute to musicals in general. Only one thing I must ask: who, today, could sing and dance like the amazing entertainers from the Golden Age?

  8. Another excellent post, and as we discussed on Twitter it is indeed completely confusing – or IS it? I did some research. Basically, the producers, Neil Meron & Craig Zadan were the producers OF Chicago. So it was just a blatant case of self aggrandizement, at the expense of saluting an important faction of film history. Shameful!

    1. Thanks! When tweeps saw this post many said it was due to the producers and Chicago connection. Of course, that makes it all much more sinister, if you will, and makes the absurdity of the whole thing stand out even more. They should have somehow tried to disguise the fact so as not to leave so many of us scratching our heads and with bad tastses in our mouth. As I mentioned previously, I think in response to someone’s comment, those they “insulted” are the ones more prone to watch the damn thing in the first place.


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