OSCARGATE 2011: Ratner, Murphy Out, Grazer, Crystal In.

It’s been a eventful week for Brett Ratner and, by proxy, the Oscars A week that resulted in a complete overhaul of the Oscar telecast.

It all started last Friday when Ratner’s latest film, Tower Heist was released. Ratner participated in a Q&A after a screening. When asked if he rehearsed with the cast before shooting certain scenes, Ratner replied, “Rehearsal is for fags.”

The comment was picked up by all the entertainment news outlets, and a video of Ratner saying the slur was briefly uploaded to YouTube. This led Ratner on Monday to issue an apology to film blog, The Wrap:

“I apologize for any offense my remarks caused. It was a dumb way of expressing myself. Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body. But as a storyteller I should have been much more thoughtful about the power of language and my choice of words.”

The apology was timely but wasn’t enough. GLAAD issued the following statement:

“This apology is a good start, but we’re working with Ratner’s people for more action, to clearly send a message to Hollywood that the anti-gay slurs used by bullies and bigots have no place in the world of entertainment, or anywhere else.”

Apparently, the “more action” GLAAD was working for was Ratner stepping down as Oscar telecast producer, because that was what Ratner did the very next day.  Ratner once again released a statement, explaining why he stepped down.

An Open Letter to the Entertainment Industry from Brett Ratner

Dear Colleagues,

Over the last few days, I’ve gotten a well-deserved earful from many of the people I admire most in this industry expressing their outrage and disappointment over the hurtful and stupid things I said in a number of recent media appearances. To them, and to everyone I’ve hurt and offended, I’d like to apologize publicly and unreservedly.

As difficult as the last few days have been for me, they cannot compare to the experience of any young man or woman who has been the target of offensive slurs or derogatory comments. And they pale in comparison to what any gay, lesbian, or transgender individual must deal with as they confront the many inequalities that continue to plague our world.

So many artists and craftspeople in our business are members of the LGBT community, and it pains me deeply that I may have hurt them. I should have known this all along, but at least I know it now: words do matter. Having love in your heart doesn’t count for much if what comes out of your mouth is ugly and bigoted. With this in mind, and to all those who understandably feel that apologies are not enough, please know that I will be taking real action over the coming weeks and months in an effort to do everything I can both professionally and personally to help stamp out the kind of thoughtless bigotry I’ve so foolishly perpetuated.

As a first step, I called Tom Sherak this morning and resigned as a producer of the 84th Academy Awards telecast. Being asked to help put on the Oscar show was the proudest moment of my career. But as painful as this may be for me, it would be worse if my association with the show were to be a distraction from the Academy and the high ideals it represents.

I am grateful to GLAAD for engaging me in a dialogue about what we can do together to increase awareness of the important and troubling issues this episode has raised and I look forward to working with them. I am incredibly lucky to have a career in this business that I love with all of my heart and to be able to work alongside so many of my heroes. I deeply regret my actions and I am determined to learn from this experience.

Sincerely,
Brett Ratner

I’m sure that there are many who read the slur Ratner  used and said, “What’s so wrong about that? It just a word.” It seems obvious from Ratner’s sincere statement above that he did not intend it to be as derogatory as it turned out to be. But the slur in question compared a task that Ratner found no value in to homosexuals using an insulting term. Looking at it that way, it’s easy to see how Ratner’s words could hurt people.

Anyway, from there, it became a question as to whether or not Eddie Murphy would stay on as Oscar host. The conventional wisdom was that he would, but, as the Academy would find out the next day,  it turns out that Murphy and Ratner was a package deal:

“First and foremost I want to say that I completely  understand and support each party’s decision with regard to a change of  producers for this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. I was truly looking  forward to being a part of the show that  our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I’m  sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great  job.”

The search for a new host would begin just as the search for a new producer was ending, as it was announced later that same day that Academy Award winning producer Brian Grazer would step into fill Ratner’s shoes.

The search for a replacement host last just over 24-hours as well as it was announced today by the Academy (and confirmed by Crystal himself via Twitter, just to prove he’s hip enough for the job) that eight-time host Billy Crystal will be returning for a ninth time hosting. The last time he hosted was in 2004.

While most of the message board posters have been a bit snarky about Crystal’s return (general consensus–he’s too old/not trendy enough), as a long time Oscar watcher and fan, I can tell you I am ecstatic about this.

Billy Crystal simply works well as Oscar host. Yes, he’s a comedian from the old school, but in this case, that’s not a bad thing. He’s one or two generations removed from the era of comedy where being a good master of ceremonies was an essential attribute. He knows how to keep a show moving, how to keep the viewers entertained, and how to keep the broadcast sharp. And he’s done job before! Eight times! He could probably do the show in his sleep! And, really, if you say you don’t think he’d be better than the Hathaway/Franco debacle of last year, I’ll say you’re lying.

In replacing the team of Ratner and Murphy with the team of Glazer and Crystal, the Oscars might have lost an element of hipness and danger. But it gained competence and skill in return. In my opinion, Ratner’s week of speaking without thinking is the best thing that could have happened to this year’s telecast. I’d be watching either way, but now I can actually look forward to the show instead of being cautiously optimistic.

 

About William Gatevackes 1671 Articles

William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.

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