Peter Bart: What Should Chris Rock Do At The Oscars?

At Oscars time, Chris Rock could show his smarts, as well as spreading around a little love.

When he does his occasional stand-up routine, Rock asks this question about the Academy Award show: “What straight black man actually sits there and watches the Oscars? Show me one!”

Peter Bart Column BadgeChris Rock may not watch it, but a month from now he’ll be hosting the Oscars, and everyone seems to be offering advice about what he should or should not say. Since so many gurus are nattering at him, I thought I’d chip in.

My suggestions:

First, Chris should be sure to show up. Boycotting is not his style. Besides, as Ricky Gervais told him, “This sh*t is live. You can do some serious damage.” Chris is smarter than Ricky, and his “damage” will be a lot more interesting.

Chris Rock Oscars commercialSecond, he shouldn’t throw out his original speech and fire his writers, as Reginald Hudlin, his co-producer, hinted. None of the rhetoric of the past week should alter his strategy. Bob Hope, a frequent Oscar host, once confessed he “kept an earthquake emergency kit with food, water and spare writers.” There’s been no earthquake here, just a minor tremor.

Next, Chris must stand by his recent assertion that “Hollywood is a white industry just like the NBA is a black industry.” That’s a valid point, except that the NBA is better run. Movie admissions have been drifting down, because movies, unlike basketball, don’t appeal to a wide enough swath of the community. And overseas distributors offer lower guarantees for films with black casts, a policy that impacts the wages (and job opportunities) of actors.

john boyega 2He should also remind his audience that black actors aren’t being given a shot at good roles. He once pointed out that Chiwetel Ejiofor was likely not on the list for Fifty Shades Of Grey – a valid suspicion. On the other hand, J.J. Abrams went to a lot of trouble to write a part for John Boyega in Star Wars – too bad other casting directors don’t seem to notice him.

Further, he should remind the corporate heavies at the Oscars that the major studios must hire at least one African American studio chief, even though that may not be doing the candidates any favor. Black filmmakers like Tyler Perry and Will Packer can likely do better work and make more money on their own rather than submitting to a corporate chokehold at a Comcast or Viacom, but still there’s an important symbolism in being a studio boss.

Top-Five-Movie (1)In this vein, I admire the fact that, when Chris makes an indie movie, he tends to cast himself in roles that could be played by a white or black actor. In Top Five, for example, he played a comedy star who was bored with being funny and thus went off to make a vanity project — which bombed. A lot of white guys have done that, too, but Chris did them one better: He got a bidding war going for the rights to Top Five, finally selling it for an advance of $12.5 million at the Toronto Film Festival. To be sure, the movie bombed, too, just like the movie in the movie, but there’s nothing wrong with getting the last laugh.

But, returning to the advice mode, here’s a point he could make at the Oscars that might be enlightening for his worldwide TV audience: The whole process of choosing a “best picture” is an anachronism. This year’s favorites are a case in point: The Big Short is the best dark comedy, The Martian the best sci fi epic, The Revenant the best survivalist drama, Spotlight is the best socially aware drama and so forth. All of these top contenders excel in their own way but have nothing to do with one another. There is no clear “best.”

So Chris might tell his audience to spread their support around. Filmgoers worldwide are subconsciously boycotting too many good films, and that’s a boycott we don’t want to encourage.

  1. He should do what he always does on stage…bomb. At least this time, nobody will see it. (ouch) sorry, I’m in traffic…

    1. So true. So true. Also, I was thinking that perhaps those who host the Oscars should be those who are an active part of the community. At this point, he’s a snooze-worthy comedian.

      I’m a member, and I won’t be attending or watching. I’m disgusted that our organization has become a political puppet for the race baiting, PC crowd. By the way — perhaps our president, Cheryl, should be more than a mouthpiece for MY industry. She’s never made a film, directed a film, produced a film, acted in a film, etc.. She’s, simply put, a people pimp. She’s overstayed her welcome and recently proven that her aliegence is not to the members of The Academy, but to those who WANT to latch onto our legacy for their own advantage.

      It’s very sad, indeed.

    1. You’re not a sad nerd for feeling that way. You are a sad nerd for feeling the need to point it out, and for making it sound like you’re doing Bart some sort of favor.

  2. Peter Bart, as a white guy you have no right to judge Chris. You have no perspective. Stick to white dude topics.

    1. Spread the hate. Hate for black. Acting like and demanding to be considered disadvantaged and not equal.

  3. What about a latin american studio chief? I think it is just as blind and racist to only suggest african americans.

  4. I think a few casting directors HAVE taken notice of John since he blew onto the radar in Attack the Block: Jina Jay, Avy Kaufman, Kim Coleman, Amy Hubbard, Debi Manwiller, Chloe Emerson – all who have hired him. Not to mention Nina Gold, April Webster, and Alyssa Weisberg who cast Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I would bet they had a hand in introducing John to JJ…..

    1. Boyega’s screen presence in ATBlock is so staggering, as to be comparable to the last time B Lancaster and K Douglas shared the same screen.

  5. How about a new rule that only performances in a film that made $25 million domestically over its budget could be considered for nomination. The audience would tune in for performers and films they actually wanted to see.

    1. …..@thekeenguy……
      The idiot guy. The racist guy.
      The Asian guy. The Mexican guy. The hater guy. The bad vibe guy. The vomit guy.
      The junkie guy. The stoner guy.
      The self imprisoned guy.

  6. “Movies admissions have been drifting down…because movies don’t appeal to a wide enough swath of the community”.

    Really? Because I, and everyone else I know in the business, feel it has everything to do with how the inexpensive/more convenient delivery of those movies have changed i.e. Netflix, Redbox/DVD Express, and yes, illegal pirating among young audiences.

    Not to mention TV becoming much better and more competitive for the adult audiences.

      1. everyone loves Chris rock.
        He’s smart and talented.
        He never uses his race as an excuse to force society to accept him.

  7. Won’t watch. Have only tuned in for opening monologue last few years. Anything interesting that happens can be seen next day online w/o time investment. As a white guy, my expectations are that the humor will be ugly and at my expense. The quiet bigotry on both sides will be perpetuated. Not a fun night. The efforts and artistry of blacks in film are well represented and awarded. Quotas for individual achievement? In my minds eye, post 2015 Oscar wins by black artists will have an asterisk. In movies, it’s still B&W vs. color.

  8. I got an idea. lets boycott the movies altogether. lets see if these actors salaries drop dramatically if it makes a difference. I didn’t see will smith say he was gonna stop making movies. Nor George Clooney

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