Every year I watch the Academy Awards, and try to see the movies nominated for Best Picture before the show. This year I saw Selma, The Theory of Everything, Boyhood, and Birdman beforehand. I watch the post-Oscars E! Fashion Police episode too because, let’s face it, the Oscars are as much about fashion, hair and make-up as they are about movies.
After Joan Rivers unexpectedly passed last summer, I wondered what would happen to her show. The new E! Fashion Police launched in January and seemed like a success until the fateful Oscars show. Giuliana Rancic made an inappropriate joke about Zendaya’s dreadlocks (watched it twice and it gave me pause both times), which started a Twitter war. Zendaya was offended and Instagrammed it. Kelly Osbourne tweeted “Don’t put me in the middle. These are my friends. I said not to do the joke.”
For those who don’t follow entertainment or Twitter, the Oscars were Sunday, February 22; Fashion Police aired February 23; said Twitter war was February 24 – 25; and by Friday, February 27th, E! announced Kelly Osbourne was departing Fashion Police “to pursue other opportunities.” That’s generally code for got canned, but reports went back ‘n forth: some said she quit, others reported she was asked to leave. Given the intensity of the week, it kind of made sense either way.
The following week I saw some online comments from Kathy Griffin, but it was her March 12th announcement she’s also quitting the show that really got my inner P.I. / psychologist going. Her “I Will Survive” manifesto made me sit up and take notice. To put Kathy’s statement into my own few words, it goes something like: “Hey E! I was successful before I joined your little show and I’ll be successful after I leave it.” All of this begs the question: Is something seriously wrong at E!? With half of the shows’ staff departing two weeks post Oscars, most notably after these women expressed their opinions online, one wonders. Or are these women truly just standing up for what they believe in?
They say “Art Imitates Life.” So what are these movies about and how does it relate to the E! drama? Here’s my take:
The planning and filming of Selma, a movie about the historic civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, began before Michael Brown got shot in Ferguson, MO, last August. This tribute was in the works long before the protests and riots in Ferguson; before #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter became lexicons of our culture. An amazing movie, it was nominated for Best Picture and Original Song. If you haven’t heard Glory, here’s a video of John Legend and Common performing at the Oscars; it’s as awesome as the movie and a tear-jerker in itself. (The fact there are more black men in Corrections today than were slaves absolutely flabbergasts me.) Two weeks after the Oscars, President Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the Selma march on that very bridge with his own speech. POTUS speaks very eloquently; to summarize his half hour speech in my own few words, it goes something like: “People, of course we’ve made progress. If we hadn’t, I wouldn’t be standing here! Do we have a way to go? Yes, absolutely. But we’re still better off than we were 50 years ago. Keep fighting.” His speech is worth listening to; it’s full of faith and hope and love.
The Theory of Everything is a beautiful movie based on Jane Hawking’s memoir: Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen. It depicts Stephen and Jane falling in love in college at the same time his ALS was diagnosed; how she married him despite his illness, bore his children, and took care of him, the kids and the house so that he could do the amazing work he has done. It’s a movie that accurately shows the trials and tribulations of life as a handicapped person and caring for one, particularly with a chronic disease that worsens over time. The movie was nominated for five Oscars: Best Picture, Leading Actor, Leading Actress, Original Score and Screenplay. Eddie Redmayne won the Oscar for Best Actor.
Boyhood is a phenomenon since it was filmed in intervals between 2002 and 2014. It’s the story of a boy growing up with divorced parents, told from the child’s perspective. It’s a gritty, too-true-to-life story of a father too young to be a father, and a struggling, single mother who remarries a man who ends up being an abusive alcoholic. After she has the courage to leave him, she gets involved with another man who also turns out to be controlling. The boy tries to successfully navigate growing up among these quite imperfect adults. Boyhood received six Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Supporting Actress/Actor, Directing, Original Screenplay and Editing. Patricia Arquette won for Best Supporting Actress. Her inspiring acceptance speech is a rallying cry for equal pay.
Her speech was not only in response to her character, but in response to the Sony email leak last November that outlined the disparity in pay among male and female actors. Many cheered Patricia on afterwards, but some complained that actresses make millions and have nothing to complain about. News flash: That’s why it’s called “Equal Pay for Equal Work” –> it applies regardless of the type of work.
Birdman is a wonderful movie about a middle-aged actor who was once a huge success, who is trying to return to his former glory. In his journey back, he realizes he still loves his wife and builds a real relationship with his daughter, with whom he’s never been close. Birdman is a movie about never giving up, coming back after adversity, and remembering what is truly important in life after your ego gets out of the way. It received nine Oscar nominations and won four: Best Picture, Best Director, Cinematography, and Original Screenplay.
Each in their own way, these tremendous movies boil down to two things: Love and Sacrifice. But if I were to hashtag them, they’d be: #BlackLivesMatter, #HandicappedPeopleMatter, #WomenAndChildrenMatter, #MiddleAgedPeopleMatter.
Anyone who works in marketing, market research, politics, TV ratings and other big data analysis, knows that the world is often sliced and diced into: age, gender, race, education, income, religion, geography, sexual preference and anything else folks think may be important to a buying, voting or watching decision. It might make ‘business sense’ but it’s a soulless way to interact with people.
It’s these categorizations and stereotypes that permeate society to create underlying and unconscious biases. Soccer mom, anyone? One could suggest Birdman won Best Picture because the majority of Academy voting members are over 40. Or Patricia Arquette won because America loves its long-suffering single mother who will do anything to raise her kids. All you have to do is watch football, American Idol, The Voice, or any other sport or reality show to hear the praises of single mothers being sung often and loudly. Did Selma win Best Original Song because, well, you know, black people grow up singing in church?
Which brings me back to E! Fashion Police. I loved Joan Rivers; grew up watching her on Carson and watched her nip and tuck herself to stay relevant. Some could call her a crusty old broad or tough old bird. Perhaps Joan had a free pass on making inappropriate jokes because of it. Kelly, you’re right, the joke shouldn’t have been told. Kathy, you’re right, you will continue to be successful. Go forth and prosper. E! Fashion Police, here’s an idea: Stick to fashion and let the snark go. People will still watch. Just like people kept reading Perez Hilton after he decided to be nice.
Some who study cycles say we’re experiencing the same cycle of change we did in the 1960’s; 20th century’s decade of the civil rights, women’s lib, sexual revolution, and anti-war movements. In addition to my hashtags above, gay marriage, LGBT rights, mental health awareness, body acceptance and many other rights are currently in the news. Demonstrations on college campuses protesting how rape cases are handled (and dismissed) and the twenty women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual harassment (or worse, rape) are more examples.
If we refocus the lens and zoom outside of the United States, we see the same trends. Democratic uprisings. Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani woman who demanded an education, and who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on behalf of women, children and education. In the Middle East, where we’ve been handing out guns like candy for over a decade and training people how to fight; now some of those same people are banding together to make their voices known worldwide to ask us not so politely to cease and desist.
It’s almost like all of those held down are lifting their heads up out of the mud (to quote Teri Garr), raising their faces to the sun like flowers, and saying, “Hey, people! I matter.”