In a 3.8 Variety essay, Brent Lang attempts to draw parallels between the forthcoming Oscar tragedy happening in four days and the 1970 Oscar telecast (4.7.70), which honored the finest achievements in films released in ’69.
Bob Hope, 66, was the emcee that night, and Lang characterizes his crackerjack quips in a negative or even somewhat pathetic light — Hope as a snooty, sneering oldster who despised what was happening culturally (acid, hippiedom, Woodstock, antiwar demonstrations) as well as creatively within the Hollywood realm.
“This is really a night to remember,” Hope says around the 15-minute mark. “It’s such a novelty seeing actors and actresses with their clothes on.” Lang doesn’t mention that the mostly older audience, apparently not all that taken with liberated late ’60s lifestyles and choices, not only laughed but applauded.
“This will go down in history as the cinema season that proved that crime doesn’t pay,” Hope went on, “but there’s a fortune in adultery, incest and homosexuality.”
Lang’s point is that Everything Everywhere All At Once haters (i.e., pretty much anyone burdened with a sense of classic taste) are as out of it as Hope was 53 years ago.
For sure Hope was no longer in the swing of things (his 20-year movie star reign had spanned from the early ’40s to early ’60s), but his critique wasn’t about the quality of movies per se. Indeed Hollywood was launching its greatest creative period ever at the time. Hope’s ire was directed, rather, at the cultural changes that the Oscar-nominated films reflected.
Today’s beef (okay, my own) isn’t that the Best Picture nominees suck eggs (although some do) as much as the fact that woke Stalinist guilt-trippers are running the narrative and ready to pounce on anyone who trashes EEAAO by inferring racism. (The real racists of 2023 are accusing non-wokesters of same.) Academy members, no fools, are ducking their heads and going along, hence Sasha Stone‘s recent essay about “mass formation.”
But if you actually watch the Hope monologue, which doesn’t even begin until the 12-minute mark, it’s just his usual smart-ass routine — a crack here, a crack there, he’s never won an Oscar and never will, etc.
And yet, continuing with his “what’s happening to America?” pearl-clutching, Hope offers acidic commentary about the Best Actor nominees: “That’s what we’re honoring tonight…a sadistic king, a consumptive drifter, a male hustler, a school teacher dropout and a one-eyed sheriff.”
Or, in more descriptive terms, Richard Burton‘s King Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days, Dustin Hoffman‘s Ratzo Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy, Jon Voight‘s Joe Buck in same, Peter O’Toole‘s beloved educator in Goodbye Mr. Chips and John Wayne‘s Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.
What were the two biggest standouts that night? Fred Astaire dancing and the life achievenment Oscar given to Cary Grant. Key Grant excerpt: “I think there’s an even more glorious area right around the corner.”