This week there was a kerfuffle over Sacha Baron Cohen, invited along with Best Picture nominee Hugo, not being allowed to attend the Oscars on Sunday because he wanted to do his red carpet interviews as his character in his upcoming film, The Dictator. Click here for a refresher.
This morning, Admiral General Aladeen, the subject of The Dictator, called into The Today Show to discuss his Oscar ban. The Today Show went along with it gamely—they have a history of playing along with Cohen—and showed exactly how the Academy should have played this situation: With eyes half-closed and fingers crossed, hoping things don’t get too out of control. And they didn’t. Cohen got in a few digs, including a pretty scathing sideswipe at Hilary Swank right at the end of the phone call (Lainey: obviously I loved this so much), and it was funny and really, not that big of a deal.
This is a bad exchange for the Academy. Cohen gets lots of free publicity for his movie—more than he would’ve gotten just by showing up at the Oscars in character—and he looks like a good sport, playing the whole thing off for laughs and not taking anything, himself included, too seriously. Meanwhile, the Academy continues to look like a group of out of touch fuddy-duddies incapable of poking fun at themselves. Again, these people are desperate, every year, to reclaim what they see as the “fading glory” of the Academy Awards telecast. Last year this involved a bit with co-host James Franco in drag as Marilyn Monroe. On stage. During the show. How is that better/more acceptable than a well-known comic actor doing a comic bit OUTSIDE the theater BEFORE the show?
Even if Cohen shows up in a tux on Sunday, which I’m sure he will—his tickets have not been revoked—and behaves himself and doesn’t feed into the “Oscars vs. The Dictator” dialogue happening, the Academy still loses. They don’t win if Cohen “behaves himself” because he’s already won this round. If anything, he’ll just look like even more of a sport, tacitly showing that he’s down with the conventions and isn’t pouting at not getting his way. And the Oscars will still be missing the shot in the arm they’re craving so badly.