By Aaron Kliegman
The Oscars is not for you — or for me. The awards show is for the film industry, the collection of creative people who make movies. Really, the ceremony is for celebrities, who strut the red carpet and sit in the audience with auras of self-importance so pungent they can make your nostrils sting.
True, many industries aggrandize their heroes with awards. Hollywood is different, however. Celebrities there are generally famous and wealthy, and they all seem to know each other and attend the same parties. The Oscars is kind of like a meeting of an exclusive club — only everyone with a TV has their own personal camera to watch what happens.
Enter the host of the Oscars, who is supposed to invite the audience watching at home into the club, if only for a night. The host is a bridge between the moviegoer and the move star. Celebrities with egos the size of their bank accounts do not like to poke fun at themselves — often, the most famous among us are also the most fragile. Instead, the stars of Hollywood try to be cool and appear above it all, dripping with false modesty. The host cuts through this divide by making jokes, often directed at the nominees, and making the evening relatable to those outside the biz.
Of course, there was no host this year. After comedian Kevin Hart stepped down from the gig last year when his old homophobic tweets resurfaced, entertainers have been too afraid of being vilified to take on the job. Woke culture, which champions victimhood, has deterred comedians from one of their most prominent platforms. So, the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony was, well, just a shrug and an “eh.” There’s not much more to say about blandness. A bunch of people in the movie industry thanked each other and talked about things that most people care little about. There was nothing especially engaging or relatable. Boring, predictable, and unrelatable are not the adjectives with which Hollywood wants to be associated. Yet here we are.
The Oscars had other problems this year. Can someone please explain how a movie can win Best International Feature Film and Best Picture, as the South Korean movie Parasite did on Sunday? The former category is meant to honor feature-length films produced outside the United States with predominantly non-English dialogue. Nothing wrong there, but presumably, because the category exists at all, nominees for it should not be eligible for Best Picture. Otherwise, why have a category specifically for international films? Just eliminate the category altogether, or make international films separate. Mixing the two distorts the nominating process.
Beyond the mechanics of the evening, the Oscars had one other, all too familiar problem: shoving left-wing politics in the viewers’ faces. We all understand Hollywood is liberal, but no one cares about an actor’s views on the political news of the day. Take Brad Pitt, who won Best Supporting Actor for his role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Pitt deserved to win, but he did not need to open his acceptance speech by taking a shot at Republican senators who voted against calling witnesses at President Trump’s impeachment trial. “They told me I only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week,” Pitt said. “I’m thinking maybe Quentin [Tarantino] does a movie about it. In the end, the adults do the right thing.”
The line was off-putting, but we should not be surprised. Last week, Vulture reported that A-list Hollywood actors such as Pitt are hiring political speechwriters to pen their brief acceptance speeches. Yes, apparently 45 seconds of thanking everyone is too tall of a writing task. Or celebrities feel a need to throw in political jabs but just don’t know how. Either way, many A-listers are using Fenway Strategies, a speechwriting and communications firm founded by former Obama administration officials Jon Favreau and Tommy Vietor, to craft their remarks. Fenway’s principals have a laundry list of connections to prominent Democrats. The Democratic Party, it seems, is effectively writing acceptance speeches for Hollywood.
No wonder this year’s Oscars drew its smallest audience ever. The cultural importance of the Oscars seems to be steadily eroding. Honestly, the trend is sad. I almost pity those celebrities who fail to see their lack of importance and relevance outside of entertainment. Do they realize that regular people, not their wealthy friends, are the ones who make them famous?
WHAT NEWT’S READING
A collection of news stories and reports you should not miss
Why the Federal Reserve Needs Trump Nominee Judy Shelton
By Richard Rahn
President Trump has nominated Judy Shelton, an economist, to be a member of the Federal Reserve’s seven-person board of governors. Critics such as Elizabeth Warren have called Shelton, who is eminently qualified, radical. Shelton is an intellectual ally and disciple of Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek, both of whom similarly support less taxation and government spending and recognize the importance of a monetary anchor like gold.
No, the Trump Administration Is Not Cutting Medicaid
By Seema Verma
The Trump administration recently released the Healthy Adult Opportunity (HAO), which gives states flexibility to design Medicaid programs tailored to the needs of their adult beneficiaries. The HAO also holds the states accountable for improving quality and ensuring access. Yet critics immediately claimed the administration had announced “cuts” to the Medicaid program. Such claims are false. HAO, which is optional and available to a limited population, does not cut Medicaid funding. Moreover, it is a break from recycled, stale policies that have failed.
The State of the Democrats
By Kimberly Strassel
Wall Street Journal
The Democratic Party is deeply — and perhaps fatally — divided between progressives and moderates. This division, which became evident during the 2016 presidential primaries, could doom Democrats in November. In Iowa, for example, the two candidates pushing Medicare for All (Bernie and Elizabeth Warren) received 47 percent of the final vote, while the three less extreme contenders (Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, and Amy Klobuchar) received 51 percent. The broad split is only growing more intense. Trump may unite Democrats nonetheless, but that is hardly a foregone conclusion.
Pete Buttigieg Is No Friend of Religious Liberty
Pete Buttigieg is a front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is a self-proclaimed Christian, but his rhetoric and policies undermine, rather than support, religious liberty. For example, Buttigieg has embraced the Equality Act, which would force faith-based institutions and religious individuals to embrace fluid gender identity and even perform dangerous gender-transition treatments. In other instances, Buttigieg has indicated that, as president, he would not be a champion of religious liberty.
Black Worker’s Wages Are Finally Rising
By Jeanna Smialek and Ben Casselman
New York Times
Black workers are currently enjoying their lowest unemployment rate on record. Moreover, their wages are also increasing after a decade of stagnation. But, the Times notes, the unemployment rate for black Americans is double that of whites, and black workers make less many than white workers. The paper highlights one man’s story to show the hopes and limitations for black workers in today’s economy.