The Hot Button
The Hot Button
THB #111: The Forest & The Trees

THB #111: The Forest & The Trees

Sometimes it takes a lot of repetition for something simple to become more clear. And what I realized this morning is that I am seeing - over and over and over again - the trees - which may be very important - keeping this industry from even considering the forest - which is more important - in a serious way.

The still-flashing light is the Will Smith Incident at The Oscars. It happened more than a week ago, but people, some serious, are still churning on “What is going to happen to Will?” when Will checked out 4 days ago. He cancelled The Academy and as on Oscar night, The Academy ain’t going to do anything, paralyzed by its fear and incompetence.

Will Packer checked out too, covering his own ass with distinct and blurry lies in his Good Morning America “interview,” in which he was never really challenged to provide details that would make his lies evident.

Meanwhile, the only ongoing stories are:
1. How Dawn Hudson and President Puppy failed to act with over 40 minutes, including over 13 minutes of commercial time off-air
2. What was agreed to on both sides of the Tuesday March 29 Zoom call between Smith & The Not-So-Dynamic Duo
3. How the Board of Governors was manipulated and apparently lied to by their CEO on Wednesday, March 30
4. A detailed description of what actually happened in those 43 minutes between Smith ending his screaming and being announced as the winner of Best Actor.
5. Everything else about the latest failed Oscar show.

Hmmm… #5, eh?

Yeah. That is the part of the meeting on April 18th that will not get enough time, as the uncalled for paranoia about how Will Smith affects The Academy will remain in focus, even though nothing but surface action will be taken.

Wait, it gets worse. None of those 5 action items will likely be major parts of the meeting. Because, again, of the uncalled for paranoia about how Will Smith affects The Academy. That will be the priority. Anger at Will. Frustration with Will. Arguing over the never-real nothing of physically removing him from the Dolby Theater bubble.


2nd worst ratings for Oscar in its history
3 Host Failure
Host plays horny single girl, ogles men and feels some up
In Memorium dance upstages industry dead
Betty White
8 Categories were given clear 2nd class status & show still over 47 minutes
Set busier than Times Square on D-Day
Worst pre-show ever
Will Packer obviously over his head
Will Smith Debacle

“50% increase in the ratings!”
Amy Schumer was funny about The Slap (telling the world’s oldest “did something happen? joke)
Can you imagine if a man had done that?!
What’s wrong with some church culture?
We love Betty White
We can fix those rolled in packages… accept them as the future
Finally, something for black people at the Oscars
There was a pre-show? You know, we make a lot of money on that
He won’t be back again
800,000 more people tuned in for the last hour

It struck me last evening sometime… the drama around Will Smith is going to allow the current $700k+ CEO of The Academy - who chose Will Packer, who squeezed the 8 category sidebarring past the full Board of Governors, who did nothing to keep Will Smith from accepting an Oscar after he assaulted a presenter live and then shouted epithets, who went wildly over budget on the poorly conceived and executed Academy Museum, who lied for years about who was being added to The Academy in A2020, who has allowed - if not encouraged - various splits within the ranks of Academy members including down racial lines, who may have lied about ABC’s position on their Oscar contract with AMPAS (which she renegotiated), and who has failed to come clean about what happened on Oscar night (I don’t know why they swallowed that fly) - to keep her job, racking up another $700k+ picking her successor to take over after Oscar 2023.

Trees. Look at the trees. Manage the trees.

This column wasn’t intended to be so focused on The Academy or Dawn Hudson.

The LA Times wrote about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association last February. A long expose of financial malfeasance and bad behavior. But it was the sidebar story, Who really gives out the Golden Globes? A tiny group full of quirky characters — and no Black members that has become the focal point - almost the only point - of contention since.

It’s not that the tree that is “no Black members” isn’t important. But it is the only issue that HFPA has really resolved, though it does seem committed to not sharing so much of the profits from the TV show amongst the members. Still, the organization is now being run by the production company that produces the show for NBC, which coincidentally is owned by the same folks who own all the major trades in Hollywood. No conflict there!

The problem is, if you look at the financial issues with HFPA, then you have to start looking at the whole financial structure of the Oscar Industrial Complex… and that implicates everyone.

Also, by prioritizing the racial issue, the undeniable fact that every player involved with HFPA in award season knew and had known for years that there were no Black members… Casablanca’s shockedshocked is not something anyone wants to address directly in 2022.

Trees. Look at the trees. Manage the trees.

And though I might write about it too much, the question of why the future of theatrical movies has become tied to the streaming business… theatrical is a healthy patch of trees, only about 10% of the forest, but it is perceived as more valuable than the regular 90% of the forest that is TV-evolving-into-streaming, so in the ultimate act of irony, the greater perceived value of theatrical movies is being spent on streaming services, thus destroying the actual value of theatrical movies.

But don’t think about that ugly, stupid forest. Trees. Look at the trees. Manage the trees.

It is a long-held truth of Hollywood that no one at the top of the food chain gets fired for job performance, but for some other thing… usually, challenging or pissing off the person above them, causing an act of “self-defense.”

The tree. Not the forest.

Back to Will Smith… why does he resign from The Academy?

Because people were talking about the forest. Too much for comfort and weeks more to come before the Governors meet again. Almost no one can stand up to arrows coming from so many directions. So you resign… which is like planting a brand new tree to take the focus. People like that. Focusing on the one tree is easier… comforting.

And when the Governors do meet, the great likelihood is that many will measure the moment. If they don’t need to plant a new tree to distract, they won’t. If they do, they will. Whatever will keep people from looking at The Forest.

Mind you… fear of examining The Forest is not an accusation of any kind of guilt. It can be that, but it doesn’t have to be that.

The Forest is deep and complex and not inherently safe. And we have other things to do. Where’s my mocha half-cap oat milk latte?

#MeToo has its 5th birthday this fall. And thank goodness for that moment in history. For a minute, the forest was being as closely examined as the trees.

A lot has happened in these last 5 years. Many of the conditions holding women back have been improved. But The Forest hasn’t changed as much as one would have hoped. A big part of that is that we keep going back to the trees. Harvey Weinstein. Giant f-ing asshole tree. Re-open the Woody Allen case. Purge a number of disgusting studio execs (and pay them a ton as they go).

The trees matter. But if we are easily distracted by the 70+-year-old trees, will we ever get to the younger ones? Because they are still out there. You know they are.

When is the last time you heard about someone of power under 60 being taken down because of their sexual abuses?

Trees. Look at the trees. Manage the trees.

The Academy needs to take a good, deep look at their forest. But by whom?

Grow a new tree. Put a big ol’ target on it. Hand out arrows, like you are helping the shooters.

If the tree falls, roll it.

But that is another metaphor for another day.

Until tomorrow…

The Hot Button
The Hot Button
An inside perspective on the Film/TV/Streaming Industry from a 30-year veteran seeker of truth.