The Oscars happened a full week ago – or, in layman’s terms, about 4 billion tweets ago. (No, really.) Given the frantic pace at which our culture moves nowadays (for example, I suspect that the use of parenthetical statements may become passé before I manage to close this one), that constitutes an eternity. In other words: the 2013 Oscars are now, like the Civil War and VHS tapes, an object of historical study.
Here, then, are my scholarly historical findings.
First: It was a clever, wonderfully paced action movie – the kind of film that Hollywood supposedly once made, but which these days is the exclusive provenance of Ben Affleck. Not the year’s best film by any stretch of the imagination, but still a really good flick.
Second: It depicts a tale of Hollywood redemption. The message of Argo is this: “Hollywood is a silly, upside-down place, but in the end it saves lives and gives us all hope. Sure, it may be full of hot air, but that’s the hot air of freedom, my friends, and don’t you ever forget it.” You can see where Hollywood voters might enjoy that theme.
Third: It is a tale of Hollywood redemption. By 2005, Ben Affleck’s career had devolved into schlock and sewage, a typical Hollywood decline into commercial crap. But he rebounded like a champ, directing a trio of smart, entertaining movies – Argo being the third and best. It’s Hollywood’s favorite kind of story: not just a comeback, but a comeback that tells the world, “Hey, crack all the jokes you want, but Hollywood has more class and artistry than you think.”
Lincoln was better. But Argo was better for Hollywood.
Somebody brings a chimpanzee to a grocery store. It goes crazy: knocking over aisles, flinging feces, singing off-color songs about breasts. Do you yell at the chimpanzee, tell it to grow up; “this is a public space, dammit, and you’re going to behave yourself, you selfish chimp”?
No. You yell at the idiot who brought a chimpanzee to a grocery store.
Seth McFarlane has his shtick: crude humor, button-pushing, sexist and racist tropes. He also loves old-timey big band music numbers. Anyone with a passing knowledge of Family Guy could have predicted what we saw last Sunday – typical McFarlane humor, couched in ill-fated attempts at self-deprecation (which is not really in his emotional vocabulary), and lots of musical interludes. This is exactly what the Academy wanted – a nod toward tradition, but more importantly, an “edgy” host to draw in the crowd that doesn’t usually watch the Oscars: young people, especially men.
It worked out great for the Academy: high ratings, lots of buzz, and everyone blames the chimpanzee.
I don’t mean to let the chimp off the hook. If he wants to live with humans, he really should learn some manners. But he didn’t suddenly get an itch to go buy groceries; he was invited by Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, and Academy president Hawk Koch.
I say let’s blame them.