Sunday night's Oscar telecast came on with social tension, the tension of racial exclusion and the lack of equal opportunities within the entertainment industry system of hiring and marketing. And not just for actors. This goes for the tradespeople too -- editors, cinematographers, costume designers, directors and such. The Academy became a symbol of this lack of diversity but the real problem is within the branches of the entertainment industry that help put together the work that gave birth to the idea of the Academy Awards. Those branches are the studios and the talent agencies.
Host Chris Rock took on the "Oscars So White" controversy in his opening monologue and added America's race issues like "Black Lives Matter" into his performance. CBS and NPR film critic David Edelstein called it a "touchstone" monologue that made some excellent points. I agree. All the points he needed to make were made in the opening monologue. The issues needed to be raised. They've infected Hollywood for a long time. There needs to be diversity in the film arts. The art of film itself can promote and inspire diversity in the world.
If I was on the Oscars' telecast production team, what ideas would I have pitched for this year's show? What would I have added to the red carpet coverage had I been hired?
Honor Oscars Past with the presentation of Oscars Present. For example, showing a clip of Broadway, film and ABC hit sitcom star Miyoshi Umeki (The Courtship of Eddie's Father) winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 1957's SAYONARA...a film about racial acceptance and embracing diversity...
Peña is very funny in AMERICAN HUSTLE, another Best Picture Oscar nominee on his resumé. He starred in the 2014 biopic CESAR CHAVEZ with actress America Ferrera, former star of the hit ABC sitcom, UGLY BETTY. Peña played a member of Matt Damon's space crew in THE MARTIAN.
On Sunday night, there were some sophisticated and substantial Oscar acceptance speeches from the actors and the director. The speeches were not laundry lists of managers, publicists, hairstylists and agents. Leo DiCaprio, Best Actress Brie Larson and Best Supporting Actor Mark Rylance were most gracious and composed accepting their Oscars. The control room needs to chill with musically cuing the top winners to wrap it up. Alejandro Iñarritu was making an intelligent, wise point about racial acceptance and the arts when he accepted his Best Director Oscar for THE REVENANT. The music piped in and, to me, made the control room look bad. Wisely, the volume on the "bum's rush in melody" music was lowered as Inarritu continued his inspirational speech.
I would've made minority actors visible as presenters, honored minority talent that broke through race/color barriers in Hollywood history with clips of Oscars Past, respectfully acknowledged members of Old Hollywood, welcomed fine work done by members of film's new generation and noted work some stars had done on ABC as ABC is the network that presented the Oscars.
In 2000, I was the entertainment editor on the weekday hour-long magazine show, LIFETIME LIVE. I reviewed movies and gave film history every Friday on that ABC News production which aired on Lifetime TV. The show lasted almost one year. Although I wanted to, I was not asked to do more entertainment reports for ABC on other shows after the cancellation. Here's a trailer from a thriller that opens in May. MONEY MONSTER stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts. It was directed by Jodie Foster.
To see my celebrity interviews and film-related features, plus some personal comments on the need for diversity in film and TV, visit my YouTube page and click on the videos: