Poor Oscar. The apolitical statuette has been clutched by many a winning hand railing about this cause or that outrage since the polarizing days of the Vietnam War.
In 2003 when Michael Moore won an Oscar for his documentary “Bowling for Columbine,” he used his acceptance speech to blast President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, saying, “We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons…. We are against this war, Mr. Bush! Shame on you, Mr. Bush! Shame on you!”
That might have been the most politically charged moment in the history of the Academy Awards, which has seen Vanessa Redgrave talk about “Zionist hoodlums;” Bert Schneider, producer of the anti-Vietnam War documentary “Hearts and Minds,” read a message from the Viet Cong; and Best Actor Sean Penn, who won for the film “Milk,” speak out in favor of same-sex marriage in 2009.
Moore said what a lot of other celebrities – and indeed a great many everyday Americans – were thinking. But it was one man’s rage.
Tonight’s entire Academy Awards ceremony will be conducted against a backdrop of protests against President Trump and his policies.
United Talent Agency, one of the big guns of Tinseltown with some 300 agents, canceled its Oscar party and held a rally outside its headquarters on Friday to protest Trump’s immigration policies. It also pledged $250,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union and the International Rescue Committee, which aids refugees.
Also on Friday, directors of the five movies nominated for Best Foreign Language Film issued a joint statement “denouncing the rise of fanaticism and nationalism in the United States and beyond,” according to The New York Times.
And speaking of The Times, in a not-so-subtle response to Trump’s attacks on the press – including a tweet in which he called The Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN fake news and the enemy of the American people – the newspaper of record will run a commercial during the Oscar telecast that talks about what “the truth” is.
The spot, which cost $2-2.5 million if it is in line with the rates Ad Age says are being charged for 30 seconds of Oscar airtime, has a tagline that will be part of a larger campaign. It reads: “The Truth. It’s more important now than ever.”
Ratings for last year’s Oscars were at an eight-year low, but the expected fireworks could spark viewership tonight. If so, Hollywood will have only one person to thank: America’s ratings-obsessed President.