Film & Television

Academy Awards 2017: The Oscars That Launched a Thousand Tweets

Last week, I presented a workshop on using social media to build your brand and business. I advised the attendees to focus on Facebook if they were selling to consumers, on LinkedIn if they were selling to businesses, and on Twitter only if they were a pop star.

Apparently, the people watching Sunday night’s Academy Awards didn’t get the memo.

From Marlon Brando to Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Gere to Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, Hollywood celebrities have used the Oscars as a platform to protest for decades. In fact, back in 1972, Jane Fonda made news for not using her win for Klute as an opportunity to speak out against Viet Nam. Last year’s ceremony, notable for its homogenous nominees, was punctuated by articulate and often impassioned references to the need for more diversity and opportunity. #OscarsSoWhite became a popular hashtag, taunting the Academy and making a case for change. Indeed, we saw a number of black actors, writers and directors recognized this year. And a powerful film about a gay black man’s struggle to come of age walked off with Best Picture. After a mix-up, a handful of erroneous acceptance speeches, and an apology.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Before the ceremony even began, there was a Twitter movement to boycott the Oscars in order to show support for President Trump, who has been outspoken about the media elite (which Hollywood falls squarely into). A “Twitter Rally” was organized with hashtags #WinnerIsDJT and #TrumpWins4USA. If Trump’s supporters did stay away from the Awards, they spared themselves many (many) jokes at his expense from host Jimmy Kimmel, as well as speeches from winners and presenters that spoke pointedly about the need for inclusion, in the industry and in our nation.

After a crowd-pleasing musical number by Justin Timberlake (“Can’t Stop The Feeling,” featured in the nominated movie Trolls and in Zumba classes everywhere), Kimmel used his opening monologue to get in a few political digs. “This broadcast is being watched live by millions of Americans,” he boasted, “And around the world in more than 225 countries that now hate us.” Taking a more serious tone, Kimmel encouraged people to “have a positive, considerate conversation” with those they disagreed with, before directly responding to one of the President’s award season Tweets:

“… Of all the “great actors” here in Hollywood, one in part has stood the test of time for her many uninspiring and overrated performances. May I say, from her mediocre early work in “The Deer Hunter” and “Out of Africa” to her underwhelming performances in “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “Sophie’s Choice,” Meryl Streep has phoned it in for over 50 films over the course of her lackluster career. This is Meryl’s 20th Oscar nomination. Maybe even more amazing, considering the fact that she wasn’t even in a movie this year, we just wrote her name down out of habit. Meryl, stand up, if you would. Everybody please join me in giving Meryl Streep a totally undeserved round of applause, will you? … Nice dress by the way. Is that an Ivanka?”

Ouch. Later, Kimmel observed that the show was half over and Trump hadn’t tweeted about it yet. So, he checked in with POTUS, mischievously Tweeting #MerylSaysHi!

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  • Mary Bailey February 28, 2017 at 8:52 am

    In her rousing acceptance speech, Viola Davis did thank Denzel Washington profusely. But her highest acclaim went not to him but to August Wilson, the writer of “Fences” and a 12-play cycle about disenfranchised people whose lives and dreams have not been part of movie culture until now.

    • Alexandra MacAaron February 28, 2017 at 11:17 am

      You’re right! She absolutely did! “So, here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.” She also acknowledged him when she won the Tony 7 years ago. (He had passed away 5 years before.) “To August Wilson, I think it’s so fitting that the play ends with Gabriel opening up the gates of heaven.” The wonderful thing is that with the critical, commercial and now award success of “Fences,” we can look forward to more of Wilson’s plays being adapted for the screen!