The 89th Academy Awards proved two things last night. First, it proved this is Trump’s America now. Jimmy Kimmel tweeted at the president during the ceremony. Best foreign language film winner Asghar Farhadi criticized the commander in chief in an acceptance speech for an award he can pretty much thank Trump for giving him.
Gael Garcia Bernal shoehorned an anti-border-wall speech into his presentation of the trophy for an award that I think was called “best live action costume sewing or whatever, who cares, the point is this award has nothing to do with American foreign policy.” Donald Trump, it appears, owns more real estate in Hollywood’s collective mind than he does on the eastern seaboard.
Second, the Academy Awards proved it’s still committed to being terrible—overlong, mostly unfunny (save for the hilarious bit where Warren Beatty accidentally awarded best picture to the wrong movie), and, worst of all, suffocatingly self-important. For those of us in flyover country, it’s tough to stomach three hours of pretty people clutching awards they manufactured for themselves as they liberal-preach to the equally liberal choir filling the Dolby Theatre and cry about how brave they all are to play dress-up.
But it’s not too late to recover the self-deprecating glory of Hollywood’s past that Tom “Actors Are More Important than Ever after 9/11” Cruise proves never actually existed. There’s still time to transform the Oscars back into what Vanessa “Zionist Hoodlums” Redgrave and Sacheen Littlefeather show it’s never been. If Oscar producers want to rid the show of its chronic bloat and elitist smarminess, they can find the solution simply by looking for inspiration in the specter who haunts the dreams of Hollywood—the forty-fifth president of the United States. Can Trump make America great again? Who knows? But applying Trump’s brand of anti-elitist populism to the Academy Awards in five easy steps can certainly make the Oscars great again.
Step 1: Hire Hollywood Outsider Bill Burr as Host
In 1975, Bob Hope playfully teased actors for being promiscuous. It’s 2017. Trump is president. We need actors to be brutally ridiculed for being predictably smug. In the 1990s, Billy Crystal sang medleys about the best picture nominees. It’s the twenty-first century. We wouldn’t get the references today because, unless it had an Avenger in it, nobody outside of the Dolby Theatre has actually seen any of the movies up for the top award.
In 2014, Ellen DeGeneres took selfies with the A-listers in the audience. Half those people have since called half the country racists and morons. Ellen may still want to be their friends, but the deplorables sure don’t.
In Trump’s America, the Oscars don’t need another host who sucks up to celebrities. The Oscars need a host who will function as a Hollywood dehumidifier, who will suck all the elitist snootery out of the room. Enter Bill Burr, one of America’s greatest standup comedians and celebrity-political-endorsement-despiser extraordinaire.
Burr has no talk show in need of A-list guests to draw in big ratings. He appears content primarily focusing on standup. He has no reason to fawn at the feet of celebrities whose self-importance your average human finds absurd, which means that he’s our greatest hope to start next year’s Oscar broadcast the way America needs—by walking out on stage, looking at the crowd trembling with anticipation as it prepares to lavish itself with praise, and saying “nobody cares about your boring arthouse movies, people,” before spending his entire monologue rambling about how “Good Will Hunting” was stupid and has eternally ruined life for every non-Southie Bostonian.
If Meryl Streep is going to use her acceptance speeches to lecture red-blooded Americans for finding football more interesting than “Mamma Mia,” red-blooded Americans deserve an Academy Awards host who will mock her for it instead of inviting the audience to give the tragically underappreciated actress her 8,579th standing ovation.
Step 2: Fill the Theater with Real Americans
You might think it would be setting him up to fail to ask Burr to perform for a throng of narcissists who would likely boo every time he belittled their artistic achievements. However, there is a simple fix. Oscar producers simply need to institute a new rule: The only celebrities who get an invite are the ones nominated for an award. The remaining 3,000 or so seats go to average Americans. And how do we find these everyday citizens? Simple. Oscar tickets will be hidden, Wonka style, in jars of Miracle Whip distributed at Costcos throughout the country.
If a Washington outsider like Trump can sit in the Oval Office and tweet vitriol at those who oppose him, Oscar producers need to realize the time has come to let Hollywood outsiders kick Harvey Weinstein out of his seat and voice their displeasure at the celebrities who arrogantly told them how to vote, and had the audacity to be better-looking and richer to boot.
Step 3: Give the Audience Power to Cut Off the Mic
One of the reasons self-aggrandizing and obnoxiously political speeches dominate the Oscars every year is because winners can’t hear the sound of viewers rolling their eyes at home, but they can hear the ferocious applause of those who share their delusions of grandeur and politics. With a more diverse in-house audience, however, Oscar winners might be less likely to risk giving a speech that could be greeted with a bit more hostility.
Oscars winners would definitely be less likely to risk such a speech after producers enact step three and hand the primarily Joe-the-Plumber audience members an electronic voting device that automatically shuts off the acceptance speech microphone if 51 percent of the crowd decides it doesn’t like what it’s hearing.
I’d imagine that last night Viola Davis might not have said that acting is “the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life” if she’d been speaking to a crowd full of teachers, doctors, and pastors who had the power to hit the mute button before she got a chance to thank her parents. Likewise, congrats on your second Oscar win, Leo. Make another speech on how much climate change you’ve noticed from your private jet. See how it goes this time.
Step 4: Spice Up the Boring Awards
With all due respect to the winners of awards like best documentary-short subject, nobody cares about your artistic achievements, your snoozefest speeches, or your average-looking faces.
Not to worry, though. Just as Trump’s America is ready to drain the DC swamp, so Trump’s Oscars can easily trim two hours of boring awards belly fat into five minutes of thrilling excitement.
Just have a pre-awards show, Grammy Award style, to figure out who’s won the 15 or so awards that are never won by famous or rich people, then put them all up on stage in the middle of the show and tell them they can choose between getting their Oscar statuette or a free year of health insurance.
Granted, those people aren’t exactly Hollywood’s elite, so it might not be fair to humiliate them on national television. But they were arrogant enough to rent a tuxedo and thank the academy. And that’s enough to earn them the scarlet E in Trump’s America.
Step 5: Bring Back Applause during the Montage of Death
Every year, the Oscars features an “In Memoriam” segment, where somber music plays over images of recently deceased actors, screenwriters, and the like as a way of honoring the work of those who have passed on. Once upon a time, audience members would clap in response to the faces that flashed on screen, In recent years, however, Oscar producers put an end to this practice.
Perhaps using applause to indicate which deaths we were supposed to be sadder about was an exercise in bad taste, but Trump won, Hollywood. It’s time to get the PC police out of the Oscars and let the popularity contest once again continue in death. Plus, there’s one very practical reason to bring back applause during the montage of death—so we can figure out which dead person wins the contest to get CGI-resurrected as an Ewok in the next Star Wars movie.
Academy Award producers have a great opportunity to bring unity to our sorely divided country. All they have to do is open their doors and let the plebes from Toledo go after the patricians from Tinseltown. Follow the Trump populist model and soon we’ll all be blessed to watch the Oscars’ glory restored as those who love themselves too much finally get the comeuppance they deserve from those who love their neighbor too little.