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Brett Ratner, the Gaffe and the Academy…What a Mess

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I was originally going to let this story slide, but since the rest of the Oscar community is staring down this incident with mouths agape, I suppose I’ll throw my two cents in.

For those of you who are not aware of said spiel, it took place at a forum for the director’s new film, “Tower Heist.” When asked by a reporter if Ratner likes to run though a scene and rehearse with his actors, Ratner nonchalantly replied that “rehearsing is for fags.” The slur immediately reverberated a vicious outcry across both news outlets and the blogosphere. Certain journalists including Mark Harris from Grantland and Sasha Stone of Awardsdaily immediately called for Ratner’s head served up on a platter. It is the opinion of many that Academy should be firing the director without a second’s notice, or at least push a forced resignation.

Ratner immediately followed up his remarks with a hastily worded apology:

 “I apologize for any offense my remarks caused. It was a dumb way of expressing myself. Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body. But as a storyteller I should have been much more thoughtful about the power of language and my choice of words.”

Now, from my posts in the past, I shouldn’t have to clarify myself as a fervently liberal individual, and not many issues are more important or close to me than gay rights. In this day and age of intelligence and enlightenment, prejudice in any form is completely intolerable. This goes double for an industry where art is the primary focus and freedom of expression is everything.

However, when it comes to calling for Ratner’s instant firing over this incident, I cannot jump on the bandwagon. The man’s remarks were stupid, ignorant and of poor judgment. Yet, society has created a weird and idiotic lexical pairing of the term “fag” to “loser” or “dork.” Ratner seems to have fallen victim to this failure of language and is in need of a severe crash course in proper english rhetoric. However, I have to concur that the man’s remark did not seem inherently prejudicial or hateful. Ratner is guilty of being a moron, not a bigot. This does not mean that I believe his apology, wholeheartedly. Maybe the man is a homophobe and another huge slip-up is on the horizon. However, I don’t think with this gaffe he has yet to the entire foot into his mouth and he cannot YET be burned at the stake.

Should he be reprimanded? Yes. Should his work and life be brought under strict observation and scrutiny. Absolutely. However, I cannot agree with the notion of his firing. We’ll have to wait and see if anything else comes to light that will fuel the fire. Should any more substantial evidence of hate or bigotry come forward, I’ll be calling for his pink slip as fast as the next self-respecting human being.

UPDATE: Well it looks like Brett Ratner faced the music and quit his post as Oscar producer. In all likelihood, this was an influenced, if not forced, resignation under the guidance of the Board of Governors. Personally, I think this is a shame. Not because he didn’t act like a complete idiot or because the Academy couldn’t do better, because he did and they can. It’s a shame because he probably was planning a killer show. One can only hope that Eddie Murphy will stay on as host. However, I can’t say I expect it since he was hand-picked by Ratner. If anything, the two were practically a partnership on the deal. A real shame.

Eddie Murphy the Next Oscar Host?

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Last year, the Oscars took another step out of their old playbook by bringing back the dynamic of two Oscar hosts. They also made an attempt to fetch a youthful energy to the show with a couple of attractive thirty-year olds, playfully trying to gear the show towards…I don’t know…teenagers, I guess. As it has gone down in the history books, both of these choices failed, miserably. The Academy needs to re-evaluate where it stands in terms of presentation. It now appears that they may have taken a smart stroke towards rehabilitating themselves.

For a while it was rumored that the Board of Governors was ready to crawl on their hands and knees back to Billy Crystal and beg him to return. It appeared for a time that Crystal was actually ready to accept. He even issued a list of demands. Said list, in my opinion, would have ruined the show for those viewers who are actually watching for the sake of the movies, rather than the presentation. One stipulation was to create another non-televised event for all technical categories, including Best Editing and Cinematography, saving more time for the actors’ limelight and a bunch of song and dance.

However, this week, it was announced that the show’s producer, Brett Ratner, has issued Eddie Murphy as his preference as a host. Ratner, a Hollywood director (who’s a studio favorite because his films usually bring in a crowd, though not thoroughly talented or classy) is helming one of Murphy’s films, “Tower Heist,” slated for release this year. Not only does Murphy have extensive experience as a stand-up comedian, and therefore not under-qualified as a primetime emcee, but was recently inducted into the Academy, following his nomination in the film “Dreamgirls.”

Speaking as a person who has never been a big fan of Murphy’s stand-up routine, his stint on Saturday Night Live, or his acting career (outside of “The Nutty Professor,” which people forget actually netted him the National Society of Film Critics award for Best Actor), I believe that Eddie Murphy would be a fantastic choice for a host. He’s vibrant, nostalgic and a little bit edgy. And despite the popular belief, due to many of his recent flops, he actually can by quite funny. He also might be the key to the wider audience that the Governors are searching for.

While Billy Crystal definitely does know what he’s doing and could probably pull off a pretty decent show, he is not going to bring in any new viewers who weren’t already watching the show a decade or so ago. Eddie Murphy has the ability to reach across a far range of viewer blocks. Grown adults will remember him from “Trading Places” and “Beverly Hills Cop.” My own generation is reminiscent of his work from “The Nutty Professor” and “Dr. Doolittle.” Finally, younger audiences will recognize his work in the “Shrek” movies and “Dreamgirls.” Even when his career is a on a downturn or he’s pissing people off, he still has an element of fulfillment to a viewer, sort of like comfort food.

Granted, Murphy is not a lock for the job yet. But as producer, Brett Ratner will have a lot of pull with the decision. If it be true, he has my endorsement. If anyone remembers, I had my disdain for the Hathaway/Franco decision from the very beginning. Therefore, I have faith that my outlook will hold true again.

In my real opinion, the absolute best choice, who would both put on a great show and bring in younger viewers in droves, is Conan O’Brien. I mean, honestly, who could do better? One day the Academy will realize this.

In the meantime, I’m satisfied with Murphy. Thank goodness, too, because I don’t believe we’ve had even a decent host since Jon Stewart. Calling him decent is an insult, however. In my opinion, he’s maybe the best host of the last decade, and then some:

UPDATE: It is official. Eddie Murphy will host the Oscars, and I’m actually feeling pretty pumped about it. Check out the official AMPAS press release. Here is an excerpt of Murphy’s remarks:

“I am enormously honored to join the great list of past Academy Award hosts from Hope and Carson to Crystal, Martin and Goldberg, among others,” said Murphy.  “I’m looking forward to working with Brett and Don on creating a show that is enjoyable for both the fans at home and for the audience at the Kodak Theatre as we all come together to celebrate and recognize the great film contributions and collaborations from the past year.”

More on this, later.