It was always going to be difficult for this year’s Oscars to balance politics and entertainment, the sweeping declaration with the plunging cleavage. The host, Jimmy Kimmel, got through his opening routine well enough, and without showing his cleavage either, but the strain was already showing.
The décor and the script were like a moral split-screen. We were told to celebrate ninety years of the Oscars, while disapproving of nine decades of exploitation and sleaze, some of it practised by people sitting in the audience at the Dolby Theater. What we got was easy jokes about Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump, and pompous announcements that it was time to send the casting couch back to the props’ store. Considering the political mood, this was weak stuff. And who really wants a four-hour lecture about tolerance and difference from a rotating cast of idiots whose faces all seem to have been palsied by the same Botox-crazed surgeon?
The wheels came off after about ninety-minutes, when the Oscar for Best Short Film went to Dear Basketball. Ninety minutes is about the length of a film, so perhaps it is unfair to expect coherence beyond that point. Possibly Dear Basketball is the Citizen Kane of short films; I haven’t seen it. But was it really a good idea, in this the age of #MeToo and Time’s Up, to give an Oscar to Dear Basketball’s executive producer, the ex-NBA player Kobe Bryant? In fact, is it a good idea to give Kobe Bryant an award for anything at all?
In 2003, police in Colorado charged Bryant with sexually assaulting a 19-year old female hotel employee. At first, Bryant denied having had sex with her. Then, when the police produced evidence and asked him about bruising to the woman’s neck, he changed his story.