Mark Steyn On The Oscar Best Song Snub, The State Of The Union, And House GOP Immigration Advice
HH: That song is Alone Yet Not Alone, which achieved a bit of Oscar history today in having been stripped from the Academy Awards’ ballot for best song in a little-seen move. The Academy’s Board of Governors met on Tuesday night to investigate allegations that have been levied against this nominee, and they stripped it. Bruce Boughton, who wrote it, had previously been nominated for his score in Silverado. Their hymnal, the lyricist, is Dennis Spiegel, was performed by Joni Eareckson Tada, a prominent quadriplegic evangelical minister. It’s like the third time in the history of the Academy this has happened, and joining me to discuss this and many other things is Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn, who actually probably is best positioned in all of the American commentariat to talk about the doings of the Academy Award. Mark, are you shocked, shocked to find that there was promotion going on inside of the Academy?
MS: Well, you say it’s only happened, I think, three times before. I was trying to think the last time there was a controversy over an Academy Award song nominee, I think it was The Last Time I Saw Paris, which was written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein after Paris fell to the Germans in 1940, and then of belatedly shoehorned into a movie with Dinah Shore singing it. And after that, and everyone was annoyed with it, because they thought it wasn’t really a song written for a movie. It was just a song someone happened to shovel into a movie. And that’s, so what’s that now, 73 years ago? I think that’s the last time there was a big controversy about a big song or a best song Oscar.
HH: So I don’t know whether or not to be suspicious. It is the Academy. It’s a Christian movie. Joni Eareckson Tada is one of the most famous evangelical spokespeople in the world, a quadriplegic evangelical minister. Does your Spidey-sense tingle that there was more at work here than upholding the very ambiguous regulations of the Academy about self-promotion, given what the Weinsteins do annually about all of their movies?
MS: Yeah, I think the idea of, you know, take the self-promotion out of the Oscars, and there’s not a lot left to it. We all know all that for your consideration stuff, and mailing out the promotion and all the rest of it. I don’t, so I would be surprised if that by itself were enough. Other than that, I mean, I would simply say I think the best song category is a category that is, has been in trouble for some years. You remember a couple of years ago, it was It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp that won. They have a hard job scraping up five songs to nominate each year. And I would be surprised, unless they had very good reasons for doing so, if they would exclude something that broadened the range, like this Alone Yet Not Alone song, because frankly, for that category, they’re always scraping around looking for stuff, and it’s, they don’t need to exclude anything. They need everything they can get their hands on, so there is something odd about this story.
HH: Oh, Mark, wouldn’t they have cold sweats at the prospect of Joni Eareckson Tada giving an acceptance speech?
MS: I doubt, well, you know, I think that would be true if it was best movie or best actor, or best almost anything else. But the best song Oscar, you know, if you go back to 1934 when The Continental won, and then 1935, Lullaby On Broadway, and 1936 is The Way You Look Tonight, 1938, Thanks For The Memory, 1939, Over The Rainbow, I mean, all, great, great songs came from this category. And it’s Deadsville now, and I would say this was the one category where they would, whatever was going on in it, they’d want to just broaden it and get people in there.
HH: You know, it’s remarkable, I had absolute confidence you could speak to this subject, and we did not tell you I was going to bring it up. I think that’s amazing. Well, let’s speak about other…
MS: I mention, by the way, Hugh, just in case everyone thinks I don’t know the 1937 best song Oscar, it’s a sort of pseudo Hawaiian number that Bing Crosby sang called Sweet Leilani. And everyone always felt the Gershwins were cheated that year, and that Sweet Leilani won because all the stage hands who got to vote in the best song Oscar category back then loved Bing and voted for Bing. And after that, they changed the rules and left it to the music departments.
HH: You know, Mark Steyn, I’m always your agent. I tried to get you on Dancing With The Stars. I’m trying to push you into the Senate race in New Hampshire. But now I think you ought to be on the red carpet for E! Entertainment. You’ll actually have something to ask these people.
MS: (laughing) Well, I don’t know about that. I love going to the movies. I mean, actually, one of the things I most like about being a dad is like taking my kids to the movies. And that’s when I remember everything I like about the movies. I just wish I liked more of the individual…
HH: Oh, I think you on the red carpet…
MS: I like movie going. I just wish I liked more of the movies.
HH: Oh, I just think if you were on the red carpet, I once did that for PBS as a joke. And I asked Steven Seagal what was the greatest threat to world peace, and it looked like he was going to chop me like in half like Congressman Grimm, so I don’t, I’ve never done that again. Now another category that’s in deep, deep trouble is the State of the Union. Do you remember anything from 48 hours ago?
MS: No, I don’t. I mean, I must say, and I hate to come the unassimilated foreigner on you, Hugh, but I absolutely loathe the State of the Union. I always get annoyed when people, very clever people like Charles Krauthammer did on Tuesday night, deplored the monarchical excesses and say that it’s like a speech from the throne in a British Commonwealth country, because in fact if you look at those, they’re all very businesslike. If you look at, I mean, at the risk of driving your affiliates to cancel the show, if you look at David Johnston, Her Majesty’s viceroy in Canada and his speech from the throne…
HH: Oh, Lord…
MS: …last fall in Ottawa, he’s got a little thing at the beginning where he congratulates the Queen on the birth of Prince George, and then it’s all business. He lays out the government’s legislative program. And once in a while, like when it was the Queen spoke at the Throne Speech in Canada centennial year in 1967, or in Australia in 1954, the year after she came to the throne, you get a bit of fluff around it, and it all gets a bit…but this, this is not businesslike. Nothing he says is going, it’s not a legislative program. Nothing he says is ever going to happen. It’s like staging, it’s like the head of state staging a partisan pep rally in the heart of the Legislature, and it should be repugnant to a republic. And you mentioned my Senate run from New Hampshire, if I am elected to the Senate from New Hampshire, I won’t be going to the State of the Union.
HH: There you go. Well, that’s, run on that. That’s a start. But I wonder, do they do this in Bermuda as well? Let’s just kill the affiliates completely dead. Do they have an opening of parliament and a queen speech in Bermuda?
MS: They do. The governor of Bermuda does it, and again, it’s very businesslike. You get the speaker of the senate and the speaker of the house assembly. And you asked me that. I know you, Hugh. You asked me that question as a joke, but in fact, the Bermuda legislature is one of the oldest in the world. And they have, so they elect the new speaker of the house and assembly, and the new speaker of the senate, and they’re in their full-bottomed wigs, and the governor says members of the senate, have you elected your speaker, members of the house of assembly, have you elected your speaker, and then he does, and again, he then does the queen’s speech and lays out the legislative program businesslike. It’s just very businesslike. And all that stuff will happen. Nothing this guy said on Tuesday night is going to happen. It’s all nonsense.
HH: Oh, and it’s already forgotten. Have you ever been invited to play Celebrity Jeopardy?
MS: (laughing) No, you’re getting, I like it when you’re trying to put me on Dancing With the Stars. The Celebrity Jeopardy thing, I’d rather not do. I’ll stick with Dancing With the Stars.
HH: Yeah, but there’s a charity aspect of that. You could run the board for weeks on end. Nobody knows this stuff. If we could do, like, Broadway musicals for $5,000, I’ll back it. You know, I’ll take a piece of that action. I want to be part of the Steyn syndicate when you go on Celebrity Jeopardy. But the bottom line, nothing, today at the House Republican retreat, one-third’s against doing anything on immigration, one-third’s against doing anything in 2014, and one-third is for pushing forward, which means of course that we’ll push forward, right?
MS: Yeah, I think that’s true. And I think they have to be very careful here, because this is one of those issues, you know, a lot of this talk about oh, Tea Party Vs. the Beltway cocktail crowd gets very exaggerated, because there’s more common ground between those groups than people think. But on immigration, the elite have a fundamentally different view from the party’s base, and they’ve got to be very careful not to get out of step on that.
HH: Mark Steyn, I hope that the announcement on the New Hampshire race is forthcoming. They left you off of the poll between Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown. I, for one, am outraged. www.steynonline.com, America, for everything Mark writes, www.steynonline.com
End of interview.