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“Room” deserved better than Sacha Baron Cohen


Looming over the Academy Awards, a diversity issue. The Academy nominated an all-white group of actors and directors for the second year in a row. Chris Rock, the show’s host, did a really good job framing his monologue and subsequent bits around this topic. The pre-produced sketch inserting black actors into scenes from some of the nominated films (The RevenantJoy, etc.) was hilarious, so was the Compton one.

Knowing Chris Rock would talk about this issue, I was worried about it overshadowing the performances and films actually nominated. They were nominated for good reasons, guys. Chris Rock wasn’t the problem. Some presenters took it upon themselves to push the issue forward. Do you think Kevin Hart’s spiel was scripted?

And then Sacha Baron Cohen took the stage as one of his famous characters, Ali G, to introduce Best Picture nominee Room. What he did pissed me off.

First of all, it wasn’t even supposed to happen.

Much like the character, Ali G, he brought back to the stage and the movies he’s made, his rant was dumb, rotten and awful. Trying satire, he threw shade at the diversity issue by making jokes that missed big-time, when all he had to do — all the producers asked him to do — was introduce an excellent film about something very serious and terrifying.

Maybe the producers are a little to blame, because the people they chose to introduce the Best Picture nominees seemed rather random. But, again: Cohen wasn’t supposed to do that. Go back to that Daily Mail article. They warned him.

But I don’t blame the producers. Yeah, let’s do it different next year. But some presenters gave wonderful introductions. On the red carpet pre-show, Olivia Wilde explained that she was very excited and honored to present Brooklyn as a nominee. It was a film she loved, so the Oscars were an appropriate vehicle for her to go on stage and honor it.

She did, so eloquently.

Cohen acted like he didn’t even know what Room was.

When he finally needed to introduce it, he said: “… and now here’s a movie about a room full of white people.” How disrespectful can you be? A lot of people worked very hard to make this film and, let’s go there, every other film. And yet, Cohen goes up there making jokes, being an idiot. Room deserved way, way more than that disgraceful minute.

And guess what? Everyone knows it.

Did you notice how uncomfortable Olivia Wilde was standing next to him on stage? That’s the way Cohen made me feel, and I hope you, too.

Cohen robbed a wonderful film of the acknowledgement it deserved. To the people watching the Oscars who maybe haven’t seen these films, the introductions can be important endorsements. By introducing Brooklyn, Olivia Wilde is generally saying, “You should see this movie. I loved it. You will, too.”

Thank goodness Brie Larson won Best Actress only a few minutes later.

Chris Rock had the topic under control. It only took one bonehead to ruin it, and that was my concern. Cohen is that guy at a party who steps into a storytelling late and makes a joke that takes it too far. That guy thinks he’s being funny. Cohen was tone deaf to the issue and disrespectful to a great film and the people who made it.


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