Once again I watched the Oscars waiting for a Sacheen Littlefeather moment.
You’ll remember her (unless you think Christopher Plummer is the name of someone
to call to fix that problem in the bathroom).
Littlefeather is the Native American activist enlisted by Marlon Brando to
accept his Oscar the year of his boycott. The Oscar was for Brando’s “Godfather”
performance, and for Littlefeather, it was an offer she couldn’t refuse. In full
native dress, she took the stage and proceeded to lambaste the industry for its
portrayal of Native Americans.
That was 1973.
We haven’t really progressed that much since then, have we?
The opportunity to make a difference at the Oscars is so tempting, given the
global audience. Why just promote a movie, a dress, yourself, when you can
promote something really important?
Sacha (Borat) Cohen came close with a threat to disrupt the red carpet scene as
a fake dictator. But in the end, he was just a fake dictator, a show business
The closest we got to exposing a little reality was in the documentary and
foreign film categories, when the Pakistani and Iranian filmmakers won their
But they were dutiful guests and didn’t have as much impact as Littlefeather in
I did catch one moment, on the post-Oscars red carpet show.
A retired Richard Dreyfuss spoke to a young entertainment reporter about his
exploits. Dreyfuss said he doesn’t go to movies anymore. In fact, he was on a
mission to get Americans to rededicate themselves to the Constitution. This led
to Dreyfuss challenging the right-wing Koch brothers to re-sign the preamble to
the Constitution. You know, the preamble, the part that introduces the
Constitution that reads:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,
promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves
and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United
States of America.
And then Dreyfuss said if they wouldn’t, the Kochs should explain why not.
And they should, considering how many shares they are buying of Democracy, Inc.
It was the only real pointed political moment I saw last night. And it was on
It made me think of Littlefeather, and how well-behaved Oscar was this year.
Nothing escaped that didn’t want escaping out of the Not-the-Kodak Center on
Hollywood and Highland.
So really, all we were left with were the movies and the stars and their
It’s not so bad. There was Rooney Mara of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
showing up in a backless designer gown and no tattoos. A dead giveaway this
would be a safe, fangless night.
I was rooting for “The Descendants.” It did feature a few Asian American actors,
and the first few minutes does put Hawaii in some perspective. When you see the
homeless on the beach, you realize “paradise” is a relative term.
But it was so traditional compared to the black and white and silent “The
I actually liked both films. But why are the marketers afraid to release these
films so that real people can see them? “The Descendants” got to the mall
cinemas late. And “The Artist” could be seen only in the art houses.
Meanwhile, I think “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas” ran longer at my local
suburban 63-plex than either of them. I’d give an Oscar to Kal Penn for Best
If “The Artist” is the big winner, I’d market the film as a story of our times.
A depression-era tale that speaks to our modern post-recessionary lives. How
many people can relate to a jobless person in an industry overrun by technology,
who takes to drink, loses his house, his love, and his personal belongings?
A lot of people.
And I’d get Uggie the dog out there more.
I don’t want to minimize “The Help.” It did win one Oscar for Octavia Spencer.
But it wasn’t a “Help” night.
It reminded me of the one year I covered the Oscars in 1985. “The Color Purple,”
directed by Steven Spielberg, had 11 nominations. But it didn’t win one Oscar.
Whoopi and Oprah, both shut out.
Could it be the color of the Academy?
The LA Times did something last week on the lack of diversity in the Academy,
6,000 or so members, mostly white, male, and over 60.
Sort of like Billy Crystal.
But it just means that an Oscar win isn’t really a “crap shoot” as Meryl Streep
likes to say. It’s determined by the academy members. Their tastes. Their
The Academy? It’s not racist. It’s just limited.
Sacheen Littlefeather, we need you.
By the way, if you want Asian American stories on film, the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival is coming March 8-18.
No shortage of Asian Americans there. By contrast, it will make you realize the limitations of Oscar.