Howard Feldman

A poor performance at the Oscars

2017-02-28 10:00

I was hoping for so much more. I was hoping that ahead of this year’s Oscars 2017 someone clever had called all the celebrities into a gorgeous and gilded room along with their life coaches and yoga instructors and personal wellness people and lifestyle-eating designers and wardrobe managers, and explained to them that they are a fiction. And that unless there is a script, speaking is never a good idea.

I was hoping that someone would have explained to them that they are an illusion.

And that it’s best that they remain such.

Because the fantasy is their success.

Whilst they sipped on freshly squeezed mineral water that was sourced from a rare stream in the Himalayas, one that had been discovered per chance by the sherpas of Tibetan monks as they sought solace in the one-ness of the mountains, it was explained that no one, aside from those who live in La La Land, would want to hear their political views.

Or any other view whilst they are at it.

The nectar would have to be consumed within an hour of bottling, which is roughly when the cracks would begin to show in the carefully applied “natural look” make-up, so the message would have had to be swiftly delivered and not made too complicated to avoid unnecessary confusion.

But that didn’t happen and so the Academy Awards of 2017 will be the tipping point for the negativity that is to follow.

Hollywood has forgotten that its success and flamboyant and privileged lifestyle is funded not by the mannequins in the room, but by ordinary people across America. Some of whom had even voted for Donald Trump, which is why he is actually the democratically elected President of the United States. Whether they like it or not, that is the reality in more cinemas than the attendees could hope for.

It is very difficult to ignore the ironies of the evening itself. Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian film maker, boycotted the Oscars because the US “disrespected his country”. It would make a wonderfully powerful statement if it wasn’t Iran he was lauding, a country that swears weekly to destroy the United States and that is the number one sponsor of global terror. It is a country that hangs gay people who denies women multiple rights and whose leader has a genocidal ambition that could place the entire region in peril.

But the Hollywood elite applaud and nod in unison.

They react in Pavlovian horror to comment after comment on stage about the discriminatory practices of the new United States and lament the building of a border wall.

Then they leave to go to parties that are protected, secured, vetted and scoured clean of anyone who doesn’t have an Armani tux. While they sip their Champaign and drink their Himalayan water they repeat the lines that they have been told, because first and foremost they are actors.

The performing arts have always had a political and human rights agenda. It is vital that it does. The Greeks, Shakespeare and even locally in South Africa’s darkest days of apartheid, it was film and stage that could successfully convey a message that others were unable to.

But it was the production itself that would deliver the message and that would be judged on the merits of how successful it was or was not. Now it seems to be more about the political statement of the film, the country that it is from and the option of the stars that determines the narrative, not the work. 

We will all be poorer with this approach and so will the celebrities. 

The Oscars used to be about glamour and the arts and the films themselves. Not the agenda and message of the film that might or might not suit the narrative of the academy.

The Oscars 2017 was a stunning example of what happens when marketing people believe their own campaigns. It was a night that proved just how isolated and delusional Hollywood has become. So different is the valley in fact, that it might as well be the Himalayas.

- Howard Feldman is the author of Carry on Baggage and Tightrope and the afternoon drive show presenter on Chai FM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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