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The Academy Awards seek to eschew politics and partisanship in favor of old-school escapism


America may be deeply divided, but politics and the culture wars wouldn’t be center stage at this year’s Academy Awards if the organizers had their say.

“We’re not interested in anecdotes or partisan controversy, we’re interested in Tom Cruise,” 95y An Oscars insider says of the star’s richest and most successful show this weekend.

“We want to embrace the diversity of talent and nominees this year, and we want to try to get back to the days of escapism,” adds the AMPAS source for 2023 Double Spirit hosted by Jimmy Kimmel Shindig. Escaping with this anti-war Netflix movie can be hard to sell All Quiet on the Western Front is on the ballot for Best Picture and other categories, but the broadcast, produced by Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss, aims to remain politically neutral and free of controversy, we hear.

Officially, the Academy had no comment on the role politics may or may not play in this year’s Academy Awards.

However, despite the full press by some of the industry’s heavyweights, the truth is that the ABC show will once again be one of the few awards not to feature Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s appearance about Russia invading his country. Vet Oscar Joe Biden won’t be backing down on either one, though he will be in Southern California early next week.

After the fiasco of Chris Rock being slapped on stage last year by Best Actor winner and now former AMPAS member Will Smith, the Academy and the producers intend to run a tight ship centered around cinema this weekend. Or as one well-placed distinguished participant puts it: “It got better last year, didn’t it? This year we want to literally keep our eyes on the prize.”

Regardless of the apocalyptic slapping heard around the world, this is a departure from most of the past few years when anger and disdain for Donald Trump often got more time than nominees and winners at the Academy Awards and nearly every other awards ceremony. As far as host Kimmel is concerned, with about 35 hours left before the Oscars begin, the late-night candid man is still fine-tuning his opening monologue. However, unless events occasionally require it, Kimmel’s opening segment is said to feature only passing political references.

From the dark depths of the Vietnam War era to Michael Moore’s victory speeches to the days of Trump, the Academy Awards have for decades grappled with the ceremony’s polarizing themes. Because Blue as Hollywood is open to the public and Red as Tinseltown can be behind closed doors, those stern notes on stage over the years have come mainly from presenters and winners taking advantage of the world-class platform the show still maintains. Far from the direct control of the network and producers, where reclusive music is often the only stifling recourse, the stars’ constant political pronouncements have earned the Oscars and Hollywood the derision and disapproval of conservative America.

Over the past decade alone, there have been Oscars when more activism than wrongdoing.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Joe Biden hosted the Academy Awards while he was vice president, as his office used the 88th Academy Awards in 2016 as an opportunity to talk about preventing sexual assault on campus and introduce Lady Gaga. Three years earlier, First Lady Michelle Obama presented Best Picture, after she and her husband hosted several Oscar contenders at White House events.

During the years Trump has been in office, the president himself has gone out of his way to call the ceremony irrelevant amid plummeting ratings, and the digs have certainly targeted Hollywood’s left-wing slant. Trump leans into his MAGA politics at his 2020 campaign rally, directly blasting the Best Picture award-winning, parasitein part because it came from South Korea.

This year, despite first lady Jill Biden’s appearance at the Grammys last month, her husband will almost certainly not be making another appearance at the Oscars, bi-coastal sources say, though Biden will be soon. The day after the Oscars on Sunday, the president is scheduled to fly to San Diego to meet British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. On Tuesday, President Biden will head to Monterey Park, the site of a mass shooting earlier this year, to talk about efforts to reduce gun violence. Leaving the City of Angels, POTUS will then travel to Sin City itself, Las Vegas.

Even without a head or two at the Dolby Theatre, this year’s show is under no illusions that it can squander that partisan perception in one night. with big hits Top Gun: MaverickAnd Elvis And Avatar: Water Road compete with All Quiet on the Western Front And Everything is everywhere at once At the top of the categories, the pragmatic hope is that Red State America and Hollywood itself will pick up the changing bell for the Oscars.

“Telling A-list talent not to do something is almost a guarantee that they will, right?” The insider of the ceremony states that there were no directions as to what the presenters and winners could and could not say. “But[we]hope everyone understands and respects the tone we’re trying to set this year.”

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.