Hall of Shame: The Oscars Really Really Like Sam Smith
    • MONDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2016

    • Posted by: Don Saas

    A couple weeks back, I wrote about the Grammy's and why Kendrick Lamar losing to Taylor Swift for Best Album was a big deal. I prefaced all of that with a larger discussion about why I can't watch the Oscars anymore because they're aren't for cinephiles; they're for casual film-lovers (which is not quite the same thing as casual movie-goers), and I talked about how that doesn't mean the Oscars are bad. It just means that they serve a demographic of which I am no longer a member. Click the link above if you want to see the whole spiel. I'm going through it all again.

    Good...did you read it? Great. Thanks. Cause now I want to tell the Oscars in my official journalist voice to fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuccccccccccccckkkkkkkkkk offf.

    A handful of times each year, the Oscars don't simply award something that isn't the best (the Oscars have a tendency to award safe, universally acceptable vague pleasure over genuine artistic ambition); they give the Oscar to something that is actively bad. Do you all remember that time Crash won a shit ton of Oscars? Or how about Driving Miss Daisy or the time we let Sandra "Miss Congeniality" Bullock have an Academy Award for the white savior nonsense that is The Blind Side? Or how about the two years in a row we've now suffered the mass delusion that Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu is the Best Director working in Hollywood (go here for a tweet thread with my full thoughts on The Revenant/Birdman director's collected filmography)? Or, oh man, how about the time that Forrest Gump, one of the most patently offensive and overtly and comically manipulative big Hollywood blockbusters of the last 30 years, somehow convinced millions of Americans that it was a classic?

    Yeah, f*** the Oscars.

    This year though the Oscars made one of their most patently awful decisions since the time Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture but nobody thought to nominate Do the Right Thing. If you're a regular Baeble reader, you know our thoughts on "Writing on the Wall," Sam Smith's theme song for the James Bond film Spectre. It sounds like it was ripped out of a Baz Luhrmann directed Bond in an alternate universe where Baz Luhrmann would ever be hired to helm the Bond franchise and Luhrmann also had a heroin addiction that would make William S. Burroughs blush. It's campy, artificial sentiment that hits like about 20 ambien right to the spine. "Writing on the Wall" is one of those tracks that are probably illegal to play against prisoners of war because exposing folks to it is a war crime. You know, Sam Smith and Slayer...the war crime bands.

    So of f***ing course it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Maybe the Academy suffered from a shared schizophrenic break and thought Mr. Smith was Adele? He is British...although Adele -- patron saint of soccer moms everywhere -- has more of an edge of Sam Smith who had the gall last night to claim that he was the first openly gay performer to ever win an Oscar (which is just...not true as Dustin Lance Black, Bill Condon, Stephen Sondheim, and others could attest). Sam Smith is getting to the point where he's so safe that he's become the queer artist straight people say they like so they can say they aren't homophobic. Congratulations, Academy. You're now the awards body version of the "I'm not racist/homophobic; I have a black/gay friend!" guy.

    It's an especially galling loss considering the fact that Lady Gaga and ANOHNI were nominated in the same category. I would have preferred a win for ANOHNI (the first transgender artist ever nominated for an Academy Award who also happened to write a stellar song about global warming) but in terms of someone who the Academy would have ever recognized, Lady Gaga took the cake with her heart wrenching campus rape anthem, "Till It Happens To You." Her performance of the track was as brazenly a political moment that evening as Chris Rock's opening monologue, and now she's a footnote in the history of the evening and we get to say Academy Award winner Sam Smith instead. It makes the bile rise in the back of your throat, doesn't it? Say it loud. Return after you've stopped gagging.

    And of course, speaking of Chris Rock, I wish I had more time to write about #OscarsSoWhite but I'll leave off with the fact that Rock's monologue mostly hit all of the right notes. The bits where he was shading Jada Pinkett Smith came off like unnecessary mocking of folks with actual grievances against the Academy but, for the most part, he did an excellent job of explaining the realities of systemic racism in Hollywood (the bit where he made cracks about Leonardo DiCaprio getting great roles everywhere but Jamie Foxx [who won an Oscar a decade before Leo finally took home the gold last night] doesn't get the same opportunities was the best moment of the monologue). And watching all of the (white) actors in the audience have no idea how to react was the icing on the cake.

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