Behind the Screen – Please, Oscar Winners, Check Your Politics at the Door

The day is April 3, 1978. At the 50th Annual Academy Awards, held that evening, “Star Wars” will be given seven Oscars. Steven Spielberg will receive his first Oscar nomination. “The Turning Point” will set a record, later tied by Spielberg’s “The Color Purple,” by earning 11 nominations and winning nothing. And “Annie Hall” will be named the year’s Best Picture.

But the image that stands in my mind is of the great writer Paddy Chayefsky coming to the podium to present the Screenplay awards. Earlier in the evening actress Vanessa Redgrave had received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Julia.” Outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where the award ceremony was being held, members of the Jewish Defense League had picketed the awards due to the fact that Redgrave had narrated the pro-Palestine documentary “The Palestinians.” When Redgrave gave her acceptance speech, she thank the usual people: family, co-stars, director. She then thanked her fellow Academy members for not being phased by “the Zionist hoodlums” they encountered outside. She finished her speech to boos from the audience.

Looking perturbed, Chayefsky stood at the microphone and said the following, “Before I get on to the writing awards, there’s a little matter I’d like to tidy up–at least if I expect to live with myself tomorrow morning. I would like to say, personal opinion, of course, that I’m sick and tired of people exploiting the occasion of the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal political propaganda.” As the audience applauded he paused, then continued. “I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation, and a simple ‘thank you’ would have sufficed.”

And THAT, dear readers, is what I’m looking forward to coming this Sunday night. Award shows are a way to escape from the day to day grind the world holds for us. To sit with friends and try to win the Oscar pool. NOT to hear whose a lousy President or why global warming is coming to kill us. Do you know who I voted for in the presidential election? No you don’t. Do you know why? Because it’s none of your business. And why does it matter? If YOUR decision on who to vote for is based on MY decision – or George Clooney’s or Brad Pitt’s or Ted Nugent’s – then you shouldn’t be allowed to vote. If Jimmy Kimmel has some fun at the expense of the new President, or pokes fun at the current events happening around the world, that’s great. Everyone likes a good chuckle. So I beg you, presenters and winners both, give a little thanks to the man upstairs and head back to your seat. Thank you in advance!

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