Deadline Hollywood is reporting that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has banned actor Sacha Baron Cohen from attending the Oscars this Sunday, revoking his tickets to the Academy Awards ceremony. The star of Borat and Bruno had hoped to attend in character from his upcoming film The Dictator. Funny shenanigans from the red carpet (and maybe from inside the Kodak Theatre) surely would have ensued -- he asked the Academy for permission, and the answer seems to have not only have been a firm "NO," but the Academy is going so far as to keep him away out of fear that he might not take no for an answer.
It just goes to show how timid the Academy is. The ceremony will continue to be a boring dud as long as they don't loosen up. When they do try to be cutting edge, it ends up blowing up in their faces, like last year's misfire hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway, and this year's embarrassing implosion of the director/host team-up of Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy.
I can understand them not allowing Cohen to use the awards ceremony as a vehicle to market his upcoming film, but to outright ban him (or threaten to do so by revoking his tickets) is taking it too far. Sacha Baron Cohen is an Academy member in good standing and a hard working actor who recently appeared in Hugo (a motion picture nominated for multiple Academy Awards this year). He showed enough respect to the Academy to make his request in advance, and yet the powers-that-be slap him in the face.
Deadline Hollywood reports that the Academy is trying to backtrack now and claim that "Baron Cohen’s tickets had been pulled unless he gives the Academy assurances ahead of time promising not to show up on the Red Carpet in costume and not to promote the movie on the Red Carpet. The Academy made it clear that, without those assurances, it would not issue him the tickets." So he is not only forbidden to show up in costume (even though other folks in the past have worn some outrageous outfits on the Oscar runway before -- I'm thinking of Cher, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Bjork, just to name a few), he is also forbidden to speak about his upcoming movie. So much for free speech. If a reporter asks him on the red carpet what he's working on next, he must remain mum. But he allegedly is free to name drop the designer of his pre-approved tuxedo -- more evidence that the Oscars are more about fashion and PR than cinema art and movie-making. It's ridiculous hypocrisy.
Charlie Chaplin played Hynkel, the totalitarian ruler of the fictional country Tomania in 1940's The Great Dictator, and based on the trailer, Cohen's portrayal of the bearded tyrant General Aladeen in 2012's The Dictator looks to be just as satirical and laugh-inducing. Maybe the Academy is playing right into Cohen's hands by pulling the red carpet from beneath his feet. It still would have been ballsy (and maybe even classy) to let him attend and have faith that whatever his schtick, it wouldn't have been any worse than whatever Billy Crystal's opening musical montage Sunday night will be.
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