There’s No Business Like Grievance Business

Stigall Column

The Chris Stigall Show
March 05, 2018 - 12:39 pm

Philadelphia (1210 WPHT) –  I’ve been a casual movie fan most of my life.  I don’t see tons of movies, but I’ve seen most of the popular comedies over the last twenty-five to thirty years.  A few popular dramas and classics, too.  But after watching the 90th annual Academy Awards this past weekend, I can categorically say Hollywood doesn’t want or need me around anymore.

It’s not just my politics.  Hollywood hates Republicans.  I understood that long ago and it’s not new.

The thing is, I remember watching Billy Crystal host the Oscars and laughing at his song and dance lines teasing the industry.  I remember the year largely panned by critics when David Letterman hosted.  He was a fish-out-of-water in the pomposity and phoniness of the town he was hired to entertain for the night. Chris Rock was another host who made the Academy audience squirm.

Who can forget the granddaddy of all bulls in the Hollywood china shop, Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes?

These hosts found fun within their industry.  They were show business people ribbing other show business people.  Maybe there was a barb or two about the politics or news of the day, but the focus was mostly one of fun, celebration – and mocking – entertainment and entertainers. We were all included.

Hollywood used to be comprised of people you wanted in your living room but were larger than life and untouchable.  They were talented, great looking, usually patriotic, seemingly friendly folks you’d want to meet and enjoyed watching.  I’m not talking idolatry, just famous people who were broadly popular to most people.

What I watched Sunday night was a room full of people full of judgment, and lectures, and self-importance.  Their lectures oozed from every corner of the broadcast like the inescapable “Blob” of Hollywood’s yesteryear.

Got a cause or grievance?  It likely found its voice during this year’s Oscars.  #MeToo, #TimesUp #OscarSoWhite to name a few hashtags.  There was a pitch for amnesty for illegal aliens, AKA “dreamers” or “DACA.”  Sexuality and transgender issues?  All you like.  Gun control? Check.  Demands of respect for foreign nations and the religion of Islam?  They had that, too.

It was a veritable grievance buffet so lacking focus and so full of lecturing diatribes on multiple subjects one of the songs performed actually encouraged the audience to just “stand up for whatever you believe in!”

That should pretty much cover…everything. I guess.

Boilerplate Trump/Pence/Fox News jokes in tow, host Jimmy Kimmel opened the show observing the Oscar statue represented just the kind of man we need for these times.  “Hands where we can see them, not talking, and penis free.”  I’m not kidding.  He said that.  Not only did he say it, it was met with actual cheers from the audience.

After Best Actress winner Frances McDormand encouraged all women nominated for any category to stand, Kimmel returned to the stage and declared, “I wish I was a woman!”  I don’t doubt he meant it.

Best Picture this year went to some bat-dung crazy film about a woman having sex with a fish.  I learned during the final acceptance speech that it was symbolism for kicking down doors and making movies that teach us about the power of not just loving seafood, but LOVING seafood…and who are we to judge that love?  Or something.

How in the hell Gary Oldman was allowed to win for playing Winston Churchill is positively stunning considering all we sat through. “Darkest Hour” is a wonderful film about the tough, often unpopular, resolute leadership of Churchill, which ultimately saved the world.  It was the only moment the entire night I felt like I had a thread in common with Hollywood.

Remember when Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert used to review new movies on their syndicated weekend TV show?  Sometimes they’d argue.  Sometimes they’d agree.  Their discussions always focused on writing, or story line, or acting quality, or camera/technical work.  It was subjective stuff all of us could enjoy, understand, and critique together.

This year’s Oscars made clear those subjective things no longer matter. Now, I must view each film as an exercise in virtue signaling to pay for the past sins of the films I’ve enjoyed without thinking.

Casts must feature different colors.  Genders of actors must be interchangeable and their sexualities fluid as well.  The actors themselves must be paid equally.  Their religion and nationality must be celebrated first before they utter a scripted word.  Most of all, if there is a man in any kind of power on the set of the film I’m watching, he’d better be wearing a “Times Up” pin.

Hollywood doesn’t seem interested in entertaining me these days.  Seems they’d prefer to treat me as though I’m the guilty party in a human resources dust-up at the office.  That makes watching movies and awards shows a job.  And already have one of those.    So, I’ll just keep watching the movies I loved before I had to think so hard about them.

Besides, someday my socially engineered grandchildren will benefit from hearing about the good old days of Hollywood when enjoying a movie wasn’t a cause, but a pastime.