Oscars host Chris Rock last year. (Photo: Rob Latour/Invision/AP, File)
The conversation and media coverage about the lack of minority inclusiveness at the Academy Awards — and, by extension, in Hollywood more generally — has been the lead headline of this Oscars season. Expect it to be the lead headline of Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony as well.
A new Los Angeles Times story recaps the ripple effect that the #OscarsSoWhite controversy has had on the usual statuette campaign cycle and raises some interesting issues about how it could affect the big event.
The piece says that some academy members, frustrated by the organization’s recently enacted measures to inject more diversity into the voting body, might not attend this year and may even have opted not to vote.
“I don’t want to go,” says one unidentified academy member. “I don’t want to be in the room when Chris Rock tries to be funny about something that is not funny.”
If a few academy members don’t show up at the Dolby Theatre, those of us watching at home probably won’t notice. But if a sizable group truly abstained from turning in their ballots before Tuesday’s deadline, that could have some impact on the winner, particularly in the Best Picture race, which is more up in the air than it’s been in at least a decade.
The unnamed academy member is also right about Rock: He’s likely going to address the issue of race right up front, in his opening monologue. While that may make some people uncomfortable, it’s an enormous opportunity for the comedian to make a statement.
As Bill Carter wrote in a column earlier this week for the Hollywood Reporter: “[Rock] is a smart, experienced performer with a well-established point of view on the topic of race and Hollywood — and he surely knows a cultural moment when he sees one. The urge to say something that makes some noise may be inescapable.”
Rock’s presence and all the race-related brouhaha may also work in the telecast’s favor. Last year, Oscars ratings were down 18 percent and viewership hit a six-year low. Even if the masses aren’t all that pumped about the nominated movies, some may tune in just to hear what Rock has to say.
As comedian Jeff Ross, who has written for the Oscars in the past, told Carter: “I can’t remember the last time I was this excited to watch an awards show.” We’ll find out on Sunday if other people feel the same way.
Watch Oscar nominee Angela Bassett discuss #OscarsSoWhite: