You can’t watch the Academy awards. Not in person, in any case, unless you’re a seat-filler. It’s by invitation only, to Academy members, and the Academy determines the guest list. So how do you get to be a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? Why, your name is endorsed by your Academy branch’s executive committee, then you are sponsored by two existing Academy members, and membership is by invitation of the Board of Governors. So when it seems like the judging criterion is a bit biased, that’s because it is, thank you very much. And if you don’t like it, well, we’ll just pass you over for membership this year.
But they do throw a heck of an awards show. Actually, they throw four, but only one is televised; because who wants to see overweight, balding technicians get Oscars for Science and Technology?
The Oscars is supposed to be a classically formal affair. Dinner dress has been the norm, but full dress has not been unheard of. (On the Awards Parade Formality Continuum, the Academy Awards fits in somewhere between the snooty Tonys and the extravagant Golden Globes.) Before we go further, let’s set the bar high with Kirk Douglas at the Oscars in 1950. That’s how it’s done.
No one opted for dress suits at this year’s Oscars. Well, host Billy Crystal tried. (No, Zach Galifianakis and Will Farrell, presenters in all-white dress suits and cymbals, don’t count.) Billy Crystal’s suit was just awful. The jacket was cut well enough, but everything under it was four shades of wrong. White tie is an exacting mistress who will not tolerate tepid commitment. Crystal could tell something was wrong, too; he seemed uncertain and ill at ease wearing it. It seemed as if the clothes themselves shamed him into dressing down into a less-distracting dinner suit for the second half of the show. That’s too bad, really; Crystal’s age and gravitas have grown him into the role of Oscars host, one who should be able to confidently wear proper white tie. The brash young outsider joking his way through the show has matured into a latter-day Bob Hope, who gives the Oscars the self-deprication it so desperately needs to be accessible to Joe America, and keep it from sinking into a self-congratulatory event for Hollywood insiders who take themselves far too seriously.