So the faces were a little different, but most of the rules remained unchanged. There were stars and then there were big stars and then there was everyone else. The pre-awards parties at the Kodak Theatre were divided into levels — the higher the status, the lower the floor. Same with the seats. Same with the humor.In my view, one of the reasons that ratings for industry shows like the Oscars have dwindled in recent years is that the self-congratulatory bullshit best symbolized by Sean Penn this year is unacceptable to a younger generation. Someone like Jude Law or Kate Beckinsale or Colin Farrell gets hyped to the stratosphere for appearing in big budget movies that no one sees or cares about, the quality of live-action movies is such that it makes absolutely no sense to go to the cineplex anymore when the same experience can be achieved for a quarter of the price on your home entertainment system, and all the really good movies tend either to be quirky independent films with B-level or no-name casts (ie., Sideways, or Lost in Translation), PIXAR cartoons, or movies directed by Clint Eastwood. So when Chris Rock cracks wise about how Jude Law somehow got to play "Alfie" in half of the movies relased last year, while Sean Penn pompously asserts that he's one of "our" greatest actors, guess who the audience at home is going to support?
"Who is Jude Law?" Rock demanded a few minutes into an opening bit that drew roars from the cheap seats high in the back of the theater and raised more than a few hackles in the front rows. "Why is he in every movie I've seen for the past four years? He's in everything! Even movies he's not in, you look at the credits, he made cupcakes or something!" Hollywood likes to be kidded (Robin Williams is beloved, and where was Jack with his famous shades) but only in a kinder, gentler way.
Later, Sean Penn took the stage to tartly remind that Law is "one of our finest actors." Penn spoke for a different constituency, the insiders for whom the Oscars aren't a mere TV show (the way they are, say, for the folks at the Magic Johnson Theatres, whose raves about the movie "White Chicks" were beamed in to varied amusement) but a celebration of a serious art form.
Still later, at the after-parties, the buzz was all about whether Rock, the "outsider" host who had been hired on the promise that he might do something worth watching, such as being offensive, had merely managed to offend the wrong people.
"I thought what he said about Jude Law was unacceptable," muttered one producer after the ceremony, as he awaited his Governors Ball plate of slow-braised Kobe beef short ribs.
"You know what? Lighten the ... up! That little speech Sean Penn came up with, that's the reason people hate liberals," opined another producer, Nelson George, sitting across the room with Sean Combs (né "P. Diddy").
March 01, 2005
The L.A. Times, on why the reaction to Chris Rock proved to be divisive in ways AMPAS probably didn't imagine: