The 81st Oscar’s Sour Milk

by Kiko Matsing

And I thought Mikey Rourke was a shoo-in. The 81st Oscars almost hit a political-speech-free home run last night when the Academy had to bypass The Wrestler‘s come-back kid, and give the podium to commie hobnobber, Sean Penn. You’d almost think they did it for the ratings. The Oscars of the recent past have been the left’s equivalent of the right’s talk radio; they manage to get at their political adversaries at just the right nerve. Year after year we have to cringe at the awkward politicization of the thank you speeches. Yes, the occasion calls for gratitude, and grace–like the prayer–is the proper decorum–not some milk curdling speech by privileged Hollywood on human rights. I do welcome such militant talk with my NGO friends who toil in the fields with the disabled, the impoverished, and the marginalized, but not from celebrities who jet set to godforsaken Third World countries and then think they know more about social justice than the rest of us.

Remember the standing ovation Michael Moore got for Bowling for Columbine that turned into uneasiness and booing when he began that tirade, “we like non-fiction when we live in fictitious times…”? Oh, was it about Bush’s 2000 win and the Iraq war? I thought for a moment that he was referring to his award and his staged documentaries as being fictitious

This one is probably my favorite Oscar political speech: delivered–or, rather, not delivered–by Sacheen Littlefeather of the Apache Indian tribe on behalf of Marlon Brando who refused the award in protest of the negative depiction of Native American Indians in movies and television. Now that was a powerful speech, delivered respectfully, with grace and unsettling candor–and it spoke of grievances that directly addressed the industry. Roger Moore and Liv Ullmann–quoting profundities from Ingmar Bergman–looked like a pair of stiff-lipped cardboard cut-outs.

What’s with this trend in long-drawn-out, gushing thank you speeches from best actresses? Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, and now Kate Winslet. They seem to have forgetten in the euphoria of the moment that the award was only for a particular performance, in a particular film. For goodness sake, it’s not the Nobel–must they thank everyone they know?! It’s unbearable to see these beautiful women in imposing ball gowns reduced to hysterical prom-queens. They should learn manners from Audrey Hepburn’s fluent, unaffected, whittled down air. Now that’s class.