So the biggest news last week was not really film related, but has the classic signs of scandal, downfall, and the potential for destruction we want to see in all blockbusters.
Bret Ratner, who has for months been considered the darling of Hollywood after being appointed the producer for the 2012 Academy Awards, and was being praised for resurrecting the career of Eddie Murphy to his ’80s heights, has been brought to his knees with one off-hand comment.
Always known for creating minor controversy with off-colour remarks and essentially frat-boy attitude, he decided to spice up a week of just talking about sleeping with Olivia Munn and Lindsay Lohan (not at the same time) to drop the bombshell that he is not a big believer in rehearsing scenes for his movies, stating “rehearsing is for fags”.
While all the other comments are swept under the rug with the idea of Ratner being Ratner, this one was so big that is caused a PR nightmare, only finishing with Ratner having to pull out of being producer of the 84th Academy Awards.
What made things worse was as soon as Ratner left, Murphy, who was not tarnished by the line in any way and could have kept his role easliy, decided to follow his mate Ratner out the door, dropping out of hosting the Oscars.
The whole thing has been a free-fall for the Academy, as after last year’s horrible attempt in trying to cash in on the youth audience with the horrendous Anne Hathaway and James Franco (I don’t throw blame one way or the other, both turned out to be bad, bad, choices), they have might have hit the target audience on the head with Ratner, and would have brought a lot of Gen-X SNL fans back with the hint Murphy was back to his Raw best (alebit with a lot less swearing during the ceremony).
But now Ratner has burned that bridge, we expected to hear the Academy going back to what it does best… playing it safe. There was no way that Ratner was going to keep his job, but now that he is gone there is no way the Academy are going to risk anything this close to the ceremony.
Of course they did not disappoint, as after announcing producer of Tower Heist Brian Grazier as the new producer (who has produced a number of high profile films, but never been in charge), they literally went back to the well, announcing that Billy Crystal as host.
Let me make one point clear before I start ranting, there is absolutely no space for any public figure (or any person for that matter) to use a derogatory term such as ‘fag’ so freely, so right now I have no sympathy for Ratner because he should know better, or know at least that a lot of people were going to get fired up so quickly.
But Ratner did not have a choice after his bombshell, and there was no way of coming back from it. Over at Cinema Blend they made the comment that the Academy Awards could be viewed as “the gay Superbowl”, and rightly so.
The Academy Awards are considered the pinnacle of the season, not only for the accolades they provide, but in the last 20 years or so they have become a highly stylised event, particularly the fashion segment of the ceremony.
So when Ratner threw around the word ‘fag’ so freely, he signed his death warrant on being involved in any way with the ceremony. And its a shame as well, as he had the potential to turn it on its head.
While someone pointed out to me that the ratings are not really affected by the host (usually the trend goes towards the films nominated, as the highest rated ceremony ever was in 1998 for Titanic, while the lowest was in 2008 as No Country for Old Men won), what the Academy was trying to do was make itself actually relevent to a younger audience, one that has always been out of grasp.
That was essentialyl going to work if Ratner and Murphy had pulled it off, as both could have taken two age demographics (Murphy for his work in the ’80s, Ratner for his ability to draw in the young audience, proven with films such as Rush Hour and X-Men: Last Stand), but now that Ratner has embarrased the Academy, they have gone back to their safe place.
Crystal has always been a favourite for his academy, simply because his brand of humour will never offend anyone. His role has always been something of a average crowd puller (45.18 viewer average for his previous times as host), and will never put the Academy in a bad light.
The only problem is that he is only an average crowd puller, and now the Academy have tried for two years in bringing in the younger audience, and essentially failing, they will probably stick with the tried and tested formula until the numbers drop so much.
What is interesting is that they could have used this problem to entice, and essentially show how far they were from Ratner’s comment, with an gay icon at the helm.
We have heard how well Neil Patrick Harris has done hosting the Tony’s, but he would not be considered a film icon. Same with Justin Timberlake and Ellen Degeneres (both have been in films, but wouldn’t be that strong in the industry to warrant a hosting gig), however there is one name that would have been perfect.
Oprah Winfrey has been involved in film making, as an actor and producer, including her key role as producer of Precious, which was nominated as GLAAD for her portrayal of a lesbian couple as heronies.
Also with her hosting duties on her show out of the way, Oprah would have been the perfect choice to take the helm. While it would not have brought in a fresher demographic, it would have been a bold choice that would have driven up the ratings.
But I guess the Academy are not that brave.
Stay tuned next week for Popcorn Cinema’s unveiling of the Oscars auction!
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