Hollywood used to be a place where larger-than-life celebrities possessed the intangible quality of “star power.”
However, things have changed over the course of time and have done so in a manner that appears to be as dramatic as the cinematic art itself so frequently manifests.
The entertainment industry has been thoroughly transformed by a tidal wave of new technologies. And the ever-present insecurity, of which executives who run the largest studios often speak, has caused a torrent of franchise films, sequels, and reboots to be overrepresented on the marquees of movie theaters across the country.
Only a small portion of today’s celebrities actually have the ability to lure a ticket-buying public to awaiting cineplex seats, and although many reasons could be cited to explain Hollywood’s present predicament, one factor that clearly has taken its toll is that of computer generated graphic effects, which have served to drain attention away from individual personalities.
Social commentator and cultural observer Camile Paglia recently penned a piece for The Hollywood Reporter, which accurately pinpoints the loss of “grandeur” within the entertainment industry.
To put it plainly, stars seem to have frittered away a magical mystique that they once possessed, and once lost, a fame element such as this is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recapture.
Uncomfortable as it is, this core concept regarding fame was illustrated to the max at the 89th Academy Awards, which took place February 26 at the Dolby Theatre.
The awards ceremony itself has become a pale specter of Oscar telecasts of the past, with ratings on the wane as monotonous hyperbole and political preaching increase in intensity.
Having had the opportunity to cover Hollywood for numerous years, this author is of the opinion that jealousy is one of the primary root causes of what has tarnished Hollywood’s star.
Cheered on by her peers at the recent Golden Globes, Meryl Streep simultaneously awarded the rich and famous “victim status” while releasing a not-so-subtle attack on President Donald Trump.
A number of winners at the Screen Actors Guild awards followed Streep’s lead by over-politicizing the event with their contemptuous remarks and partisan pap.
In a thinly veiled granting of permission to go on the attack against the current administration and other perceived political rivals, Cheryl Boone Isaacs spoke at a recent event for Academy Award nominees. The president of the Oscar-granting Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences encouraged attendees to “speak out against those who try to put up barriers.”
In an interview with France’s Canal Plus, George Clooney’s comments appeared to be laced with jealousy along with a great deal of bitterness.
“When Meryl spoke, everyone on that one side [political opponents] said, ‘Well, that’s elitist Hollywood speaking,” the actor stated, adding that the president “collects $120,000 a year from his Screen Actors Guild pension fund. He is a Hollywood elitist.”
Many in the world would agree with the assessment that currently the most famous person in the world is none other than the person at whom Clooney pointed a finger.
Interestingly, Hollywood’s most sought after commodity is not financial wealth, as some might think; rather it is the all-important acquisition of fame.
Clooney, whose star power may presently be less substantial than during previous periods in his career, appeared to let jealousy leak out in a swipe that he took at White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Clooney referred to Bannon as a “failed film writer and director.”
The truth is during his tenure in Hollywood Bannon produced 16 documentaries.
“He [Bannon] wrote a Shakespearean rap musical about the L.A. riots that he couldn’t get made,” Clooney said. “He made a lot of money off of Seinfeld. He’s elitist Hollywood, I mean that’s the reality.”
Ashley Judd appeared to harbor a great degree of resentment against the current administration when, in a comparison between a sexual crime and the election outcome, the actress claimed that the election results were worse than having to suffer through a sexual assault as a child.
At a rally given by the United Talent Agency (UTA), one the most powerful talent agencies in Hollywood, Jodie Foster and Michael J. Fox provided a sneak preview of some of the Academy Awards politicking that was to come.
UTA normally hosts a lavish pre-Oscar party on the Friday night before the airing of the Academy Awards, but this time around it substituted a political event as an apparent warm-up for the award ceremonies.
“This year is a very different year, and it’s time to show up. It’s time to engage,” Foster said. “It doesn’t matter where you born, who you voted for. … All the colors in the identity rainbow — this is our time to resist. It is the time to show up and demand answers. It’s all of us trying to tell our elected officials to do their job.”
And Fox drew cheers when he said, “One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”
When the day of the event finally arrived, prior to the start of the Oscar telecast stars appeared on the red carpet wearing blue ribbons as a display of support for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Host Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue urged viewers to “reach out to one person you disagree with and a have a positive conversation.” Kimmel then said this could “make America great again.”
Kimmel also referenced President Trump’s tweet that was a response to Streep’s Golden Globes speech by referring to the “mediocre early work” and “underwhelming” performances of the actress, saying that she has “phoned it in for more than 50 films.”
“CNN, LA or NY Times … please leave the building, we have no tolerance for fake news,” Kimmel said, alluding to the president’s least favorite news outlets.
The best foreign language film award, a category usually ignored by the entertainment press, became the most politically charged presentation of the ceremony.
President Trump’s executive order, which seeks to create a temporary moratorium on travel from countries that the former Obama administration had classified as harboring dangerous terrorists, created a predictable winner in one particular category.
Asghar Farhadi, an Iranian client of UTA, took the Oscar for his film “The Salesman.” Farhadi had spoken at the UTA rally via a taped message from Iran. He was a no-show at the Oscars but sent a statement, which was read at by a representative of the film, Anousheh Ansari.
All five nominated directors for best foreign language films released a statement prior to the telecast expressing disapproval in their views of “the climate of fanaticism and nationalism we see today in the US and some many other countries.”
The biggest award of the night quickly morphed into the biggest fiasco in Academy Award history. The Best Picture Oscar was initially awarded to “La La Land,” and after acceptance speeches were already underway the monumental mistake was noted and duly corrected.
“Moonlight” was the actual Best Picture winner, and Hollywood’s once-golden legacy, the loser.
The Academy Award ceremonies are supposedly designed to honor excellence in the most prestigious form of entertainment. But the dearth of noteworthy films and relatable content, and the inability of stars to keep their politics to themselves, all serve to illustrate how out of touch with the viewing public the industry has become.
In a town famous for its creativity in production, Hollywood still cannot seem to get its act together.