Y'all ain't got no love for Miramax?
The NY Observer has a pre-&-post-mortem on the Oscars from Bruce Feirstein, who concludes that Chris Rock successfully brought in and held onto the vital 18 to 34 year old viewers, vindicating his Oscar performance regardless of what stuffed shirt Academy governors and Sean Penn think. I'm pleased to hear it, even if I didn't think Chris did as good a job as he could have.
There's a bunch in Feirstein's piece about the conflict between nostalgia for old Hollywood glamour and the need to interest a younger audience, but the most promising observation made by this piece was the hint of a conflict between Los Angeles and New York, symbolized by the win for Clint Eastwood and Million Dollar Baby over Marty Scorsese and The Aviator. Putting aside the fact that Scorsese's movie is steeped in Hollywood aura and myth, and that both filmmakers have long careers in the movie industry, this is potent stuff.
To take an apparent tangent, P. Diddy's ("So dis is da Oscars..") presentation did give me giggles, partly from thinking how much better Dave Chappelle would have been playing him than he was. I also couldn't help noticing the opportunity missed: since he was presenting the song from Polar Express, he should have dropped a few classic Puff Daddy lines: "Polar Express, playboy... can't stop, won't stop.. see, it's an express, playa..."
That wasn't the only opportunity missed, however. Diddy's appearance got me thinking (as did Prince's; why did he and Johnny Depp switch outfits?) that the Oscars don't need to be like the MTV or People's Choice Awards. They should try to be more like The Source awards.
Really, I mean The Source awards did it right. In what I believe was their first televised ceremony the East Coast-West Coast rivalry represented by Bad Boy and Death Row records was really kicked off by loud booing from the NY audience and a fantastic response from then King of the World Snoop Doggy Dogg: "Y'all ain't got no love for Death Row? Y'all ain't got no love for Snoop and Dre?" Of course, the highlight was Suge Knight of Death Row ridiculing Puffy as the executive producer always "all up in the videos... dancin'." Even after the murders of Tupac and Biggie Smalls (which contributed to suspending the awards for a few years) things were back to a boil in 2000 when a brawl broke out after only a few awards had been bestowed, forcing them to cancel the rest of the event. 2001 went off without a hitch, but some guys got stabbed at an after party and I think the 2002 awards were cancelled as well.
I think The Source awards have taken things a bit too far, as last year's awards were taped and shown well after everybody knew what had happened. Still, I imagine the Oscars would benefit if people tuned in just to see if Steven Spielberg is gonna tell Terrence Malick to suck his stiff gold manhood. How cool would the Academy Awards be if they were afraid to have them every once in awhile because something might happen? Nowadays, the Oscars are in greater danger of being cancelled out of fear that absolutely nothing will happen.
On another note, Feirstein mentions the Estrich/Kinsley beef (their exchange can be sampled from the Washington Examiner, Parts 1 & 2) which has recently swirled out of its previous confines to become the talk of conservative columnists, although I guess that was where it was going eventually after Estrich made Kinsley's Parkinson's disease an issue.
I'm more amused than shocked by all of this. There's almost nothing more entertaining than academic or pundit brawls that come so quickly to resemble rap beefs. Estrich is distinguishing herself as the Leftist academic equivalent of Eminem, who famously dissed fellow white rapper Everlast by making references to his heart condition (twice!) Beyond that, Eminem is best known for having beefs with practically everybody who isn't on his label (and maybe some who are, I'm keeping an eye on the growing beef between labelmates 50 Cent and The Game, along with whoever else jumps in.) Still, his best-known battles are against people who can't even really defend themselves: pop acts like Limp Bizkit and Christina Aguilera or the feebleminded like Insane Clown Posse. I remember Michael Kinsley as frequent moderator for William F. Buckley's Firing Line debates in the 80s, and he strikes me as the kind of guy who really can't defend himself.
Still, there aren't nearly enough rap-style beefs in the punditocracy, so I'll have to take what I can get. Ironically, even though everybody in the rap game talks about beefs being about "respect" and keeping hip hop "pure" or whatnot, it seems most of the time to be more about ego and promotion. I think the Estrich/Kinsley fracas is more of the same, although I don't know if any of Estrich's crew are as liable to ride up on Kinsley.