HAMMOND: Oscars Post-Ratner – What Now

SHOCKER: Brett Ratner Out As Oscar Producer

The Brett Ratner situation is a sad mess all around. Sad for Ratner, sad for the Oscar show that he was to co-produce, and sad for the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences. The Academy in the past has weathered its share of nightmares surrounding the show, but never something quite like this. In 1967, an AFTRA strike nearly KO’d the telecast until the walkout was settled just three hours before showtime. Similarly, a WGA strike in 2008 was threatening until it was settled a few days before the airdate. In 1968, the show was nearly cancelled after Martin Luther King’s assassination but postponed for two days instead. In 1981, the Oscars were delayed a day after President Reagan was shot. As for participants, actors have refused to accept the statuette for myriad reasons, and winners have gone to political extremes in their speeches, but the Ratner situation is a new one for AMPAS.

The interesting thing is that outcries for Ratner’s ouster targeted the Academy even though Ratner’s offensive remarks were made during appearances in support of his new film Tower Heist for Universal (Friday night’s Q&A at the Arclight, where he uttered the gay slur, and Monday morning’s radio phone interview with The Howard Stern Show, where he made derogatory comments about women.) His words had nothing directly to do with the Oscars, yet it points to the power of the Academy Awards as an iconic symbol.

Ratner was an unorthodox choice to produce the Oscars. But he was part of a movement begun by the Academy last year with the selection of hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco to make the show more young, hip, and different. Hathaway and Franco bombed. But I had the pleasure of moderating a panel with Ratner for this year’s TCM Classic Movie Film Festival in April and found him exceptionally bright, informed, and savvy. I think this real movie fan would have produced a great show. I know he had great ideas for it. Despite his terrible judgment and stupid actions this week, I am sorry we won’t get the chance to see what he might have done. Ratner already was shaking things up. He changed talent bookers by hiring Melissa Watkins Trueblood over 38-year Oscar booking veteran Danette Herman, who is now just a consultant. The writing staff also is all new, and many are Ratner cronies; I doubt they’ll stay on board. That’s not a huge problem since the Academy hasn’t officially announced the team yet.

On the other hand, host Eddie Murphy also has his writers attached and they will stay on board — if Eddie stays on. Murphy, co-starring in Ratner’s Tower Heist, has appeared on many talk shows lately saying how much he is looking forward to hosting the Oscars as well as giving props to Ratner, who talked him into taking the gig. There is some media speculation that, with Ratner gone, Eddie will follow him out the door. I see that as highly unlikely — and I also don’t think Ratner himself would let that happen. Granted, Ratner’s exit caused a big ripple inside Hollywood. But Murphy’s exit would be a high-profile PR nightmare inside and outside Hollywood, creating the impression to the general public that the Oscars is in complete chaos.

So what happens now?

Luckily, Ratner was paired with veteran Don Mischer, who has vast experience producing these kinds of telecasts, from the Olympics’ Opening Ceremonies to the Emmys to presidential inaugurations. This was to be Ratner’s first involvement with the Oscar show; Mischer for the second year in a row is serving as a producer and as the telecast director. Of course, the Academy could just let Mischer handle the show on his own as he has done countless times and won countless Emmys. But last year’s telecast was not critically well-received. And Mischer also directs, which takes a lot of prep time away from producing chores. So the Academy likely will look to replace Ratner with someone who can hit the ground running. But finding an available and experienced producer won’t be easy on such short notice. It’s hard enough finding the right producer in the best of circumstances, not the worst of circumstances like now.

The natural choice would have been to turn to the unflappable veteran who produced a record 14 Oscarcasts: Gil Cates. But his sudden death last week provides yet another reason why he will be so missed. Another two-time producer of the show who could quickly step in, Laura Ziskin, also passed away this year. Academy president Tom Sherak could turn to his former business colleague and pal Joe Roth, who produced the 76th Annual Academy Awards. Or the Academy could look beyond the usual suspects again. No matter what happens, Mischer will be the glue that holds it all together. I had the opportunity to work with him last year when I wrote the Governors Awards show, and Don is simply the best at what he does. No worries.

Stability is something the Academy Awards needs right now.  All the talk about moving the show a month earlier in order to trump other awards show isn’t what’s needed now. Can you imagine the panic that would be on had that happened this year? What will save the Oscars is nothing more than a good show about some good movies. If there’s a silver lining in any of this mess it may be that the Academy will put all of its focus and energy now on doing just that.

  1. Sorry, Nikke and Pete. Tempest in a teapot. No one cares who produces the Oscars – when a star is invited to present or perform, it’s not due to the producers, but due to the fact that it’s “The Oscars;” seen worldwide and in front of Hollywood royalty. You are making this much more than it is. It’s a bullshit gig.

    1. I agree. The Oscars are like the Superbowl – people remember it for who wins, not for who produces the halftime show.

      Honestly, I wish Hollywood would stop trying to reinvent this wheel – you can’t. It is what it is – an overstuffed turkey. The dozen or so technical awards are bad enough – do we need to see a tribute to Shakespeare or film noir? All the public wants to see who wins the four acting awards, maybe director, and picture. A nice opening number, maybe a two-minute comedy bit somewhere in the middle, a handsome in memorial tribute, and you could cut the show down to an hour, the rating would be through the roof.

      1. The Oscars are not just for the public, they are actually also for those people you mentioned who receive the awards. People doing the technical work are a huge part of a movie’s execution, and if the public doesn’t understand that, tough shit. There are other ways to liven up the telecast rather than to put those awards on the chopping block.

      2. Perhaps i’ts helpful to think back a bit further and note the choosing of the current president by the Board which had a direct impact on this incident. At the time of his election, Mr. Sherak said that the Board wanted Mr. Hanks but that Mr Hanks was too busy and couldn’t serve. Ergo, the Sherak-Ratner connection.
        I wondered then – as well as now – well there are 1300 actor members in AMPAS, everyone likes Tom Hanks, great.

        But why aren’t the actors on the Board available to serve? It’s because of the inane system of choosing branch members. Instead of making each member simply mark a box: “can serve” it lists all the names, random alphabetical order.You circle 10 and then there is a PriceWaterhouseCoopers calculation signifying most “votes.” Maybe 90% say the hell with it anyway.

        For the past 2 decades the ballot simply said “one must be in California.” (At an exec committee meeting once, I raised the issue of why not include New York actors? I wasn’t invited back.)

        Thankfully, the issue was at least addressed. Now there is the similarly inane system of seeing an asterisk by names with “mailing addresses in California.” I still think, why not Dianne Weist, John Lithgow, James Woods, Kathy Bates or Treat Williams (each of whom I worked with)on the Board? And, even if no New Yorkers, why not actors who can serve?

        When you get PR and marketing people calling the shots in an arts organization, some air gets blown out of the balloon. I think that a distinguished director, writer or actor, would not have chosen Mr Ratner in the first place.

  2. I hope Eddie follows Ratner out the door. Is it just me or is he coming off as utterly humourless lately?

    1. No. It’s not just you. His default position these days is to play that loud Ebonics donkey from shrek in every interview. Tired.

      1. “loud Ebonics donkey”. You just made me laugh the fuck out loud! Thank you. Your observation is spot-on. Eddie is too talented for that crap. Lately, he seems to pick the payday over the challenging project.

  3. I will tell you what will happen, due to the slate of “Oscar” movies coming out in the next few weeks and the “controversy” surrounding Brett, this year Oscars will become the Tony awards. Get your tux ready NPH.

  4. “Rehearsals are for fags” – Brett Ratner

    “Words have meaning, and they have consequences” – Academy president Tom Sherak

    I agree, Tom.

    Like if you use words to name names and get writers black-listed.

    Yet that didn’t stop the Academy from handing out a lifetime achievement award to Kazan.

    I’m proud I’ve been able to highlight the Academy’s hypocrisy without alluding to Polanski.

  5. Resigning was unnecessary and clearly now very problematic. And the “People’s Choice Award Show” was right on the nose. The Oscars are not an A1849 program and nor should it be. And it shouldn’t be about the ratings or the advertisers.

    Put on a good show. The viewership will follow. Move it back to March so that everyone has time to view all the movies. This way every Oscar show won’t be repeats of the Globes and SAG — which was rare in 2003 but far too commonplace now.

    1. In my opinion, the Oscars totally sold their soul, when they ‘arranged’ to have jennifer Aniston, who’s about as close to winning an Oscar as Kim kardashian, ‘present’ at the telecast where both Brad and Angelina were nominated for Best Actor/Best Actress. It was so inconsiderate to turn the Kodak into tabloid central with that silly drama, and have the story of the night be (showdown!!) and take away from the other nominees. Disrespectful to Pitt as well. That was a clear ratings and tabloid ploy, using Pitt and Jolie, and trashing what should have been a happy night for the nominees.

  6. Too bad he didn’t ply a 13-year-old girl with alcohol and ‘ludes and then sodomize her–then Hollywood would have tried to get him citizenship and an Oscar.
    Instead, he used…a word (a word you can hear regularly bandied about in gay circles, if you actually listen).
    Enough of this P.C., Soviet-style thought-police thuggery.

    1. Why do people keep saying it’s okay for straight people to use the word because gay people do? Can you really not see the difference?

      1. Either a word is offensive or it isn’t. It does not depend on who uses it. If a gay person says ‘fag’, that’s okay. But if a straight person says it, that’s an insult. What about someone who’s bisexual? What about a woman? Or a hermaphrodite? What about a straight man who loves gays? What about a gay man who hates men? It’s ridiculous to start parcelling up who can and cannot use words. The word is either offensive or it is not, doesn’t matter who says it.

        1. No, the context in which a word is used is vital to how that use is perceived. To argue otherwise is either being purposefully perverse or simply stupid, possibly both.

          1. Context is relevant. But this isn’t about context. Ratner was clearly making a joke. The problem wasn’t the context of what he said, it was the fact that many people believe the word fag can only be legitimately used by the gay community. Who says something is not context.

      2. Yes, we see the difference: it’s how self-perceived “victims” get one over on the majority. “I can say this, but you can’t say that.” It’s nothing more than an attempt at thought control.
        You don’t own any words or thoughts. You as a group have absolutely no right whatsoever to control what I say or think or feel. Particularly when you’re being so hypocritical about it.
        Freedom of speech should be just that in this country: freedom to say what you feel, regardless of who it offends.

      3. No, we cannot see the difference. If something’s clearly being said jocularly, ironically, or humorously, then it’s just you being prissy. So stop being such a goddam thought Nazi and pull your finger out of your butt. You’re not actually doing your cause any good in the long run.

    2. Jamie – stop using that tired ‘Well, they say it all the time, why can’t I say it?’ nonsense. Same rule applies as the N-word. Perhaps this will be a teaching lesson for the next producer. Words DO have consequences.

      1. Personally, I find the n-word offensive whether it’s said by a white, black or green person. As for my own right to use the word, what difference does it make how much black blood I have flowing through my veins? Language can be offensive based on context, but never based on who’s using it. Certain words are offensive, and claiming to be part of a minority group does not get you a bye. Either you find a word offensive or you do not. If it’s offensive, stop using it. If it’s not offensive, then everyone can use it.

        1. You’re missing a big point: what you call offensive, someone else doesn’t. Who’s in “charge” of policing what’s offensive or not? That’s what’s hilarious and sad and hypocritical about all of this–it’s supposed to be the liberals, after all, who are all about “don’t tell us what is or isn’t offensive in our art or literature or music or especially our OWN thoughts.” And yet it’s the P.C. thugs on the left who are completely on board with determining an arbitrary line that can’t be crossed by certain people. Well, that’s bullshit, and it’s deeply un-American.
          I’ll think, feel and say what I want, whenever I want, and you’ll NEVER stop me. And I allow you that same right.

  7. Eddie should walk — much better for his mystique and his earning potential if people wonder “what might have been” then if he does the show and fails.

    Clean slate time for the Academy but I’d love to see Aaron Sorkin produce this show and get an interesting, funny host in there like Tina Fey instead of Eddie, who hasn’t been funny since the mid-90’s.

  8. The Stern interview and his well-known attitude toward women would have been enough for me to boycott “his” oscars. The last thing this business needs to is to reinforce sexism and misogyny. Good riddance.

  9. Maybe Hollywood can stop reinforcing the idea that all action-heroes on the screen must be “straight” for movies to make money (homophobic and unproven).

    Gotta love hypocrisy.

  10. Regardless of whether or not the public–or industry–cares about who produces the Oscars, Ratner should have never been hired in the first place. It just seems like par for his course that he leaves under these circumstances, since he is a essentially a classless hustler, not a filmmaker, so the show will–one can only hope–be in better hands. Like my cousin’s or three-year-old’s, either which would have been better hands.

    No, the REAL problem with the Oscars is that the show is an overlong, self-congratulatory, humorless, immature snoozefest with zero suspense. I remember as a kid–actually even more recent than that–when there were ACTUAL surprises when the awards were announced. Now with all the campaigning and the 10,000 awards that precede the Oscars, it becomes a coronation with a largely predetermined outcome. The Academy Awards USED to be about merit–what was the most “outstanding” work done THAT YEAR. Now it’s a lifetime achievement award (i.e., Scorsese, “The Departed”) or a result of buzz and hype (i.e., Jennifer Hudson, “Dreamgirls) and not reflective of any real merit in creative work.

  11. Does nobody remember Eddie Murphy’s “Raw” and “Delerious”? Go to YouTube and do some light searching. Eddie goes on…and on…and on…about “faggots.”The complete absence of logic here is making my head spin.

  12. I’m not a Brett Ratner fan. But, I’m not going to stand by while there is a witch hunt on this guy.

    Ratner resigning is serious overkill. He makes one stupid remark and glaad is jumping all over it because they are on a witch hunt. They are acting like he wore a KKK outfit and said, “Burn all the gays!” Yeah, right. Most of us live in reality and this is serious overkill. Talk about being overly dramatic. Seriously, go to the south and actually do real work with people who are truly against homosexuals.

    Also, I call out to all directors to not cast Olivia Munn. She trashed Ratner in a book and showed no class. SHE IS AN ACTRESS LIKE MANY BRATTY ACTRESSES THIS DAY SHE HAS HAS NO RESPECT FOR US. Ratner’s immediate response was to say he was dating her. He then later took the high road and said they never had an association and he said nice things about her. AGAIN, HE TOOK THE HIGH ROAD WHEN 90% OF THE PEOPLE OUT THERE WOULD NOT. I SURE AS HELL WOULD NOT HAVE. He says stupid things from time to time which everyone including you who is reading this says. Yet, he’s nice enough to then apologize. When bratty disrespectful women like Olivia Munn says on her twitter just a few days ago that she only dates guys who have seen the inside of a gym.

    Bret Ratner doesn’t deserve the witch hunt. He has shown class and being a nice guy when several people out there would not. Again, what he said about gays is wrong, but don’t blow it out of proportion. I’m a director and if I ever said anything stupid than I would apologize. If it gets dragged out by a bunch of exaggerating losers than I will reveal who the sleaze bags agendas are really about.

  13. Ridiculous that you have to be politically correct at all times. If Brett Ratner is really homophobic, or bashing or bad mouthing an individual, it’s up to that person to address it with him–that has no bearing on whether or not he would/could do the job, and the Academy is ridiculously hypocritical–(they are just words, after all-spoken to/about ADULTS–this wasn’t him saying something about a kid or a vulnerable teen)….

    And words have power to influence—but only if you let them…
    This group-thought-police–and political maneuverings is sickening, and permeating Hollywood and Broadway (see how Josh Gad got screwed and overlooked in all Tony award run-ups)

    The gay mafia is affecting a Blacklisting of their own…and it’s sickening…

  14. Casting Director, it was NEVER about the most outstanding work done in a given year. Let’s look at the record,

    1. Cary Grant–zero acting Oscars, two nominations for forgotten dramas, and when Greg Peck, the president of the Academy, wanted to give him an honorary one, he practically had to get down on his hands and knees in order to get the Academy to agree with him,

    2. Alfred Hitchcock–zero Oscars. Nominated for Rebecca, Lifeboat, Spellbound, Rear Window and Psycho, lost every time. Got a Thalberg in 1967, walked on the stage, said “thank you” and left.

    3. No one can ever take away the words “Best Picture winner The Greatest Show on Earth,” a trashy spectacle that beat out High Noon and Quiet Man, and Singin in the Rain wasn’t even nominated.

    4. No one can ever take away the words “Best Picture Winner Crash,” awarding a work of stupid racist garbage over four far better nominees.

    5. The condescending, trite Driving Miss Daisy winning in a year when Spike Lee’s masterpiece, Do the Right Thing, wasn’t even nominated.

    6. Robert Mitchum, one of Hollywood’s greatest actors, was only nominated once, for a minor film in the scheme of his career. No love for Cape Fear, Out of the Past or Night of the Hunter.

    7. And sorry you guys, comedy is harder to do than drama. And acting like a retarded person does not mean that you’re really “acting,” it’s school kid stuff (Sean Penn in I Am Sam, I’m looking at you).

    Everyone makes mistakes. But ultimately, the Oscars are meaningless when it comes to how you’ll be remembered in history. Matt Damon thinks they should be given out ten years after the years given movies have been released, and so do I.

    1. Joe, point taken. I agree with all. It just seems to have gotten worse in, say, the last ten or fifteen years or so with the proliferation of awards and the web and blogs and all that sort of thing. The Driving Miss Daisy / Do the Right Thing problem reminds me of the year I started to lose faith (1990?), when Scorsese was nominated for GoodFellas, possibly one of the greatest directorial feats of the last 30 years, and Kevin Costner won for Dances with Wolves. What more needs to be said? I suppose it was always thus. And, oh yes, there should be an Oscar for casting. We are the only creative crew with main title credit for whom there is no award.

  15. There’s a rule that you never trash a fellow director.

    That goes especially for actors. Olivia not only broke that rule, she stomped on it and laughed. Don’t cast her in your movie. We have to stick together.

  16. Is this that big a deal. COME ON! the producer may be a movie fan, but he’s a terrible film maker and that comment may have had 1. an ignorant slur and 2. an inside view on his his movies turn out like crap. (No rehearsals!)

    This is a big to do about nothing. Come Oscar time no one is going to care.

  17. “Exceptionally bright, informed, and savvy”?????

    Compared to what, a parakeet?

    Seriously, Hammond, are we talking about the same little entitled ratboy?? How hard did he brownnose you??

    Ratner is intellectually and physically lazy, an overstuffed Kardashian type who has used everyone around him to Sammy Glick his way to the top.

    He doesn’t care a whit for making films, but he loves the power and money that come with them. This is a fat little boy who bragged about pelting a homeless man with a water balloon, who spends his time on set trying to get phone numbers from extras, instead of rehearsing and setting up shots and doing what a real director should do.

    Maybe, since he’s being sent to reeducation camp, they can educate him on how to rehearse and make good films.

  18. Wow, Pete, that’s quite a defense, perhaps your inner frat boy uncloseted? Because really, if you’re intelligent and/or gay, female or a minority, this is ipso facto stuff.

    But I do agree that if the Academy wanted to go young they certainly had chosen well with Ratner – I mean, he’s 12, right?

  19. About 10 years ago I had to school my kid about using the word ‘gay’ to describe something they didn’t like. I think this stuff happens when industry types are trying to show how hip and youthful they are.
    That said, I think he should not have resigned. Hollywood takes itself way too serious sometimes.

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