The Real Reason Why the Oscars Killed Sacha Baron Cohen's Avatar Sketch
Word emerged yesterday that Sacha Baron Cohen would no longer present an Oscar at Sunday's Academy Awards. Reasons were offered and rationalizations were made, all having to do with Baron Cohen's rumored Avatar sketch and just how little tolerance James Cameron might actually have for self-deprecation. Fine. But here's another, even likelier theory to consider: The bit wasn't funny.
Not that the Oscars are historically a bottomless pit of belly laughs. They're usually inconsistent at best, and the putative show opening planned by co-producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman (spoilers at this link) doesn't indicate they're making a huge break in the opposite direction. But if the story first reported yesterday at Vulture happens to be true, then give some credit to Mechanic for putting his foot down once Baron Cohen's idea took shape:
Baron Cohen planned to appear onstage as a blue-skinned, female Na'vi, with Stiller translating "her" interplanetary speech. As the skit went on, though, it would become clear that Stiller wasn't translating properly, because Cohen would grow ever more upset. At its climax, an infuriated Baron Cohen would pull open "her" evening gown to reveal that s/he was pregnant, knocked up with Cameron's love child, and would go on to confront her baby daddy as if s/he were on Jerry Springer.
Ha? Former Fox chieftain Mechanic -- who oversaw Titanic for the studio back in the day -- was said to have aborted the skit on the basis that Cameron might actually get mad enough to walk out of the Kodak Theater. I don't pretend to know whether he would or wouldn't, but come on. He's an adult, and either way, this isn't exactly taking the piss. This is more like obvious, MTV Movie Awards-grade "humor" that would compel more embarrassment for faking a laugh than anything else. If the skit had any actual potential of killing, Cameron would probably be the first one behind it. But this is just... lazy. In fact, considering the relationship between himself and Mechanic, Cameron might have even enacted the veto himself on those grounds alone.
I'd rather assume, however, that Mechanic's taste stopped this one, if only because I need a shot of confidence that the rest of the show will reflect these kinds of tough (if obvious) choices. This is the Oscars, for crying out loud. Like, you've already spiked yet another bathroom-break-ready Randy Newman performance for the Original Song category. Why give any goodwill back when you're making so much progress?