The Shape of Virtue

At the outset of this year’s Academy Awards, Jimmy Kimmel joked that he’d give the person with the shortest speech a jet ski. I really wish there had been more of a competition for that jet ski.

By the time the evening was over it wasn’t just that I was bored. I mourned the time lost. It was time I could have spent doing almost anything else. And mind you, I didn’t even watch the whole thing. I couldn’t stand to, given that even what I did see was too much. I can only imagine the feelings of someone who actually gave up the full 220 minutes of his life to watch the full show.

If there’s anything America likes less than being lectured to by a gilded aristocracy, it’s sitting through close to four hours of those lectures while that same self-appointed nobility simultaneously sheds crocodile tears, pats itself on the back, and pretends to motivate itself to action.

Hollywood: “We’re Better Than You”
In what should go down in history as the #WeKnew Oscars, there was very little in the way of real self-reflection.

Sure, we were treated to fairly standard, scripted, and overly melodramatic tropes of “we need to do better,” but those were accompanied invariably by absolving kudos for their many unrelated accomplishments. Addressing the actual moral rot in the industry—the rot that allowed for hundreds, if not thousands, of Harvey Weinsteins to engage in unspeakable and bellicose depravity, excused for decades—was not on the agenda. Instead, the entertainment luminaries—outfitted with orange anti-gun violence pins (this year’s cause celebre) while protected by men with guns—once again took to our television screens with the ostensible purpose of entertaining us and used it, instead, browbeat American society at large.

Kimmel in his opening monologue set the tone when he had the audacity to posit that if Hollywood were successful in cleaning up its act “women will only have to deal with harassment all the time at every other place they go.” That’s right, Hollywood—an industry where the casting couch is so common that it’s a running joke and where pedophilia and rape are excused—is really no worse than American society at large. That became the thru-line of the evening.

Thing is, no one was watching. Overnight numbers were unsurprisingly low, possibly the worst rated Academy Awards since they started tracking and down at least 20 percent from last year’s debacle. Maybe Michael Mann can devise a way to hide the decline, but the Academy surely can’t—ratings have been plummeting for years. align=”right” The show has become a parody of itself—rife with obvious herd politics, preening sanctimony, contradictory messaging, and rank hypocrisy.

The ratings tank speaks to the fact that we live in a post-awards show world. It’s not that awards shows can’t be engaging, its just that everyone knows they’re not awards shows anymore. Just as the NFL stopped being about the game of football and instead became about who knelt and who stood, the Academy Awards have become about the politics and the moralizing instead of about the transcendent beauty and power of film.

Where once the awards show was about rewarding the art of artifice, a celebration of cinema itself (and the technical awards still, for the most part, adhere to this), it is now merely about creating an artifice for the purpose of allowing a propaganda platform to masquerade as an awards show.

Imagine the Alternative!
The Academy Awards attempt to create the illusion of earnestness, but everyone—even those who agree with the message being spread—knows that it’s a false earnestness. It is play acting, and bad play acting at that. It’s a moralizing vehicle set in an awards show. And apparently, fewer and fewer people each year care to tune in to a show that exposes what moral degenerates who tolerate sexism, pedophilia, and a debauchery most normal people can’t even begin to imagine, have to say about politics, ethics, or anything else. We’d rather just enjoy the fantasies they create on the screen and enjoy the popcorn. Their true selves pale in comparison.

For all the vaunted “soul searching” I was told we’d see but didn’t, I’d have been more impressed if they were honest. If we’re not going to just talk about cinema, but use the awards as a platform for social change we may want to include new award categories perhaps. I can just imagine it:

Or maybe even a montage (there were several montages last night) of “All the colleagues we partied with and kissed up to but were forced to pretend we never liked after they were outed as reprobates.” That might have actually made for compelling television. But, as it stood, the show was tedious in its presentation, predictable in its moralizing, and flat in its attempts at emotion and humor.

Further, the evening was a confusing jumble—unsure of itself and vacillating between what seemed like a thin broth of regret and an attempt to seem determined. Before the evening was up Frances McDormand would make sure that the audience would have to google “inclusion rider” and Jimmy “Man Show” Kimmel would go on awkwardly to opine that he wished he were a woman (this is, of course, after noting in his opening monologue that the Oscar statue, by virtue of not having a penis was a perfect man). Moreover, the audience would have to figure out how Kobe Bryant’s uncomfortable history in Eagle,Colorado squared with the demands of the #TimesUp and #MeToo Movements that the industry is working so assiduously to tout, and to wonder how it was that John Lasseter, the now disgraced head of Pixar, was not even mentioned when “Coco” won for best animated picture and best song, despite his being one of the first names in the credits.

“We don’t make movies to make money,” quipped show host Jimmy Kimmel, “We make them to upset Mike Pence.” So, predictably, after “Shape of Water” won for Best Picture, Twitter exploded with irrational schadenfreude. Even Vicente Fox got in on the act, trying to make political hay out of the win:

I guess they believe that because the movie was made by a Mexican-born, naturalized American director and was (tangentially) about interspecies sex it would somehow upset Trump and Pence. From the way Twitter handled the win, you’d think Guillermo Del Toro was a DACA recipient or a misunderstood MS-13 member whose activities funded revolutionary Samizdat. Once again, politics, not moviemaking. A beautiful movie couldn’t be enjoyed or discussed without this plodding and obtuse moralizing. And they wonder why the ratings keep falling?

People don’t want that from a Hollywood awards show and that’s why the ratings steadily have been decreasing for years. If you’re going to act like aristocrats, fine. Just don’t act like priests and scholars at the same time. If you’re going to telecast your activities as a glamorous night celebrating your industry, then make it about that.

Instead the show has become a parody of itself—rife with obvious herd politics, preening sanctimony, contradictory messaging, and rank hypocrisy. I don’t doubt that in the near future an aging social justice luminary such as Gloria Steinem or Angela Davis will replace Joan Rivers on the red carpet as “What cause are you supporting?” becomes the new “Who are you wearing?” and political causes and virtue signaling one-upmanship becomes the new fashion.

This year the audience was subjected to montage after montage, and speech after speech, about “making your voice heard.” Making your voice heard? This from an industry that already has the loudest megaphone in America and the widest reach in the history of the world?  Sorry, it rang false.

And the public wasn’t buying it either.

About Boris Zelkin

Russian-born Boris Zelkin is an Emmy Award-winning composer who has written the music to countless films, documentaries, television shows and major sporting events, including the Tucker Carlson show, Bill O'Reilly, "Gosnell," “FrackNation,” Citizen United’s “Rediscovering God in America II,” Roger Simon’s “Lies and Whispers,” the America's Cup, the Masters, the World Skating Championships, the U.S. Open, NASCAR, the Stanley Cup Championship, and the theme to ESPN’s NCAA championship coverage. Zelkin received his B.A. from Colgate University and earned his M.A. in religion from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He has written extensively on the culture for various online journals and was a major contributor to the recently released “Bond Forever,” a book about the James Bond franchise. He currently resides in Los Angeles but is always looking for a way out.

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12 responses to “The Shape of Virtue”

  1. Right. The violence and carnage in more than a generation of films was meant only to be ‘educational’.

    • They were just “trying to start a conversation.” I only wonder when the declining ratings of ALL the awards shows, Professional Football, and tanking CNN will result in their being removed from the channel line up. Only then will they realize that no one is buying their swill.

      • I honestly don’t believe that at least the major awards shows will ever be entirely removed. Also, given the perpetual motion mechanism of publicists and assistants assuring their clients that as celebrities they are relevant and their opinions are coveted by their adoring fans, combined with human nature (i.e. ego), insures that the ignorant, insincere, and boring emoting, self-promotion and self-congratulation will continue. And, their claim that they are trying to start a conversation is as bogus as everything else that they claim. They live in echo chambers where actual conversation is limited to shades of Leftism with no intellectual light or facts permitted.

      • Just checked Afrin: Kurdistan24: 9:51 PM – 10 Mar 2018: “#BREAKING #Turkish warplanes bombarding the center of #Afrin. as Troops pushing more northern the city.Total five Turkish fighter jets raids recorded since the early morning.” Wonder if TRex is feeling better in Nairobi.

        original comment: Hi there. In the Other Swill category:Foreign Policy. Having caught up with Sec Tillerson in Africa, I just read this March 8, 2018 dialog between Mr. Mead, the former draw for TAI, and Sen. Coons, d, DE, at Hudson Institute, one of the few think tanks that has more than a few Realists. Mead convinced himself that there are four foreign policy schools in American history, and that POTUS is a Jacksonian. Coons is the SFRC Africa expert, and, a Wilsonian who confesses in this transcript that he does have a bit of Jackson (the Truman strain). He posted at TAI in January, 2017 on what America’s policy should be in Africa. I was his sole comment, a complete dissection back then. It would be hopeful, until you realize that Tillerson is in Africa, and we do have a foreign policy, as you also noticed (TY! yes, I did read Garfinkle’s unbearable assemblage of syllables, because TAI’s web IS the blob):

        The good news is that Coons noticed what I did about our Embassy in Athens, and that Turkey v Greece makes it about Turkey, not the Kurds, nor the USA. Before I go check on the Siege of Afrin (and return to TR in 1916 offline), adding that UNSCR 2401 stipulates “reaffirming that sieges directed against civilian populations in Syria are a violation of international humanitarian law, and calling for the immediate lifting of all sieges” and that Tillerson had a sick day on March 10, no doubt from indigestion over the reports of the USA-Turkey working group meetings in DC March 8-9. Mattis really should send in the Apaches on Mar. 11, to deliver medical supplies. :)
        MARCH 8 DPB:

      • Everett,

        This hasn’t anything to do with your post. I am just replying to let you know that I am deactivating my account. I have completely failed at “communicating” with the conservatives on these boards. I am afraid my support for bipartisanship, centrism, and incrementalism really is a lost cause. Something strange has happened the past couple of days. People who have regular conversations with resorted to insults and seem to have lost their patience with anyone on the left.

        My patience has run out also. It isn’t productive getting ridiculed all the time.

        It has been great learning from you and I wish you well.


      • I am saddened to hear this Chris. Especially in the light of the probable win for Conor Lamb in Pa. that middle ground does exist. Though I didn’t always comment on your posts I think I’ve read every one of them and losing your voice at this time shows how difficult it is for one in the political middle to survive.

        I’ve been taking care of my mother for the last eight days and haven’t been as active on the net as I usually am. I will have to go back to your posts these last few days to see where the train wreck occurred. Do take a break if you have to, but come back when you can.

        I may try contact you via the “way-back” machine sometime in the future IF email notifications still go out to a deactivated account. I’m not sure how that works. I did notice that CJL_1976 isn’t your usual avatar name so will it remain open or are you closing it as well?


        Edited: I went into my “following” tab on Disqus to see your conversations of the last few days and it has disappeared–so I guess when you de-activate it erases everything. I hope you see this as I would hate it if you left never knowing whether I responded or not–or left you thinking I turned on you as well.

      • He’s back, EB– look for posts by Nicholas P. Trist. He’s responded to D4x and
        myself, so if you check our comments cache on our respective home pages,
        you’ll see our interactions. Good to hear from you.

  2. So no really popular movies won (the ones most of us went to see) wonder if Black Panther Will break that trend next year ? After all the uproar from the minority community of an almost totally minority cast successfull movie would be epic.

    • Black Panther takes place in a black run country Wakanda that’s a near Utopia. There are NO Wakandas in real life but plenty of Detroits, New Orleans, Chicongo shooting ranges, Jamaica disgorging half its population and countless failed swamps in Africa committing slavery and tribal genocide to this day. Of course the fantasy movie flattering blacks will win to shore up the lib pretense that white racism is what’s holding blacks back around the globe, not their own choices and limitations.

  3. Love the reference to Michael Mann’s “hide the decline”! Clever.

    I did watch the last minute of the show and recorded it:

    “Make your voice heard! Stand up and cheer for Roman Polanski who just happened to drug and sodomize a 13 year old girl on multiple occasions. Oh, did that one already? Okay then. Well, uh, go tweet some good virtue signaling stuff. Be sure to stop by the booth after the show to buy autographed copies of Jimmy Kimmel DVDs in which he asks women to grope his crotch and ogles young women’s backsides in “The Man Show”. All proceeds go towards keeping this sinking ship, uh I mean this great awards program going. Good night and remember folks out there across the nation, do as we say, not as we do”