This is an excerpt from the 77th Academy Awards ceremony hosted by actor and comedian Chris Rock in 2005. In this skit, Rock suggests that there is a discrepancy between the movies celebrated by the Academy and nominated for Best Picture, and the movies that are most popular and enjoyed by everyday viewers. He furthers this contrast by visiting the Magic Johnson Theaters, a cineplex in downtown Los Angeles, to ask audiences to name their favorite movie of the year. The African American audience members list movies such as “Alien vs Predator,” “Saw 2,” “Chronicles of Riddick,” and “White Chicks,” none of which were nominated for Academy Awards. When he asks whether they have seen the movies nominated for Best Picture such as “Sideways,” “Million Dollar Baby,” and “Finding Neverland” they all say ‘no,” and even scoff at the suggestion that these movies might be among their favorites. Mid-way through the skit, he interviews Academy member and actor, Albert Brooks, who has seen all the nominated movies but emphatically and ironically claims “White Chicks” was the best movei of the year. The skit ends with a shot of actor and comedian Martin Lawrence, defiantly claiming that he is deserving of an Oscar statuette.
What kind of “argument” is Chris Rock making by contrasting the Kodak Theatre (site of the Academy Awards) with the Magic Johnson Theaters? Why does he decide to visit the Magic Johnson Theaters to make his point? Does the skit also make a commentary about race and class and the kind of taste one might have based on these identities? If so, how?
How do you decide what makes a film (or other media) great? Who gets to decide this? Is the group making these decisions marked by a particular race, class or gender?
How might you characterize the differences between the movies nominated for Academy Awards, and the films the people in this clip singled out as their favorite movies?
What were your favorite movies this year? Now, look up the films nominated for the most recent Academy Awards. Have you seen these films? If so, did you enjoy them?