I was watching the Oscars last night and was ashamed to see the utter disrespect for Charlton Heston during the memorial portion of last night’s telecast. It was actually a beautiful presentation and I thought the show overall was a nice effort (more about that later) but I thought it was marred by this moment. In case you didn’t see it, there were a series of monitors on stage and Queen Latifah singing “I’ll Be Seeing You” and as the names and pictures of the various people who passed away last year were flashed on the screens, people would applaud. Of course, some drew cheers and some polite applause. However, when Charlton Heston’s iconic visage was flashed on the screens – dead silence. Not a smattering of applause, nothing. Now it is possible that because of the music I was unable to hear the applause. I did a search on the internet to see if anyone else noticed it and I have found quite a few mentions of it.
This is really not out of character for a Hollywood who wears its politics on its sleeve. The slew of left-leaning movies coming out of Hollywood could fill a Sundance festival for weeks. But, of course, they never do very well at the box office. But Hollywood still pats themselves on the back for telling the “truth” and doing “the right thing” so now they feel much better. But why take such a cheap shot at a man who helped make the Hollywood they work in? Charlton Heston, in case you don’t know, is one of the last great movie stars. He has starred in such classics as “The Ten Commandments,” “Soylent Green,” “The Planet of the Apes,” and, of course “Ben-Hur,” for which he won the Oscar, his only nomination. (So apparently they didn’t respect him much when he was alive either.) In later years, he became politically active for conservative causes. He even served as President of the National Rifle Association, proudly lifting a rifle above his head and proclaiming in that wonderful resonating voice, “. . .from my cold dead hands!” It’s fine to disagree with someone’s politics, but that display last night was utterly shameful. There hasn’t been anyone since him to command the screen so powerfully as he did. One of the reasons they don’t make Biblical epics anymore is because he can’t do them.
I was listening to an interview with Orson Bean on the Dennis Miller show the other day. Again, I’m a little old school so if you don’t know who Orson Bean is, Wikipedia him. The subject of the blacklists from the 50’s came up. He was one who had been blacklisted. He said his great sin was that he was horny for a commie chick. He had been to some meetings but only because he wanted to see her. Anyway, he pointed out that he hoped someday the whole story would be told about the blacklists. That prior to the Republicans coming to power in the 50’s, there was a concerted effort in Hollywood to make sure actors who were conservative didn’t have a chance to work. A “black” list so to speak. It was the Republicans who overreached in trying to even the playing field and point out the communist/socialist bent of Hollywood. This according to Mr. Bean. He is clearly a conservative today and isn’t bitter about being blacklisted. I found this typical of the left though. They go out of their way to say, “It’s my ball and my rules and if you don’t like it, we’re not going to let you play!” But when the tables are turned, they scream bloody murder.
So all this history leads us to last night when this bastion of inclusiveness and acceptance took the occasion of a memorial for one of their dead colleagues to disrespect his conservative activism. This was supposed to be a fresh foot forward for the Oscars show, who hit an all-time low in ratings with last year’s show. Of course, the problem with the show’s ratings has little or nothing to do with the show itself. It has to do with the fact that Hollywood is not interested in the same movies the people who actually go to the movies are. As I said before, they want to feel good about how they are changing the world with their art, and in the mean time they are alienating the very people they want to connect with. The show last night was actually pretty well done. I liked the way they paid tribute to all the acting nominees by having an “A” list of past winners in that category say a few words about each of them before they presented the award. I also like the way they presented the awards in order as if you were actually making the movie. Starting with the writers and working your way up to the actors, director, and finally the big kahuna. Of course, there were a couple of uneasy moments: the inclusion of Bill Maher to present the documentary awards who referred to “our silly little gods;” the award to Sean Penn, who felt the need to further express his political views, as if we didn’t already know them. Other than that, it was fairly palatable. Still don’t care who won, but the presentation was ok.
So whatever good will was engendered by the new format was lost by this disrespectful moment. But hey, at least they didn’t do what they did to George Carlin. He was completely omitted from the memorial.