Oscars: Julius Caesar assassination joke too soon?

February 25, 2013

Until just a few years ago, the Academy Awards show was both long in length and long in the tooth, with aging mandarins like Jack and Clint camped out in the front row as tenured directors and cinematographers and costume designers creaking up the steps to pick up their hardware. The show included a ritual homage to Hollywood’s glorious past and a lifetime achievement award for someone who’d once directed Buster Keaton.

Now the show is hipper. Younger. Edgier. The producers decided we must have humor that offends the old, the staid, the stuffy, the frumpy and the frowny (I’m one of those, but I’m not going to tell you which one!). The way you can tell if you’re no longer the demographic prized by the show’s producers is if you were offended last night when host Seth MacFarlane joked that the only actor truly able to get into Abraham Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth.

Yes, Hank, “too soon.”

I’m still upset by what happened in Ford’s Theater in April 1865. I’ve reached the age when a lot of stuff that happened a long time ago doesn’t seem as distant. I would probably wince at a Julius Caesar assassination joke. Or a quip about Socrates drinking his poison.

You know how some people are still upset about the 1972 Olympics basketball game between the U.S. and the Soviet Union? Heck, I’m still upset that Athens blew that late lead against Sparta.

How far back do you have to go before I can just laugh about something? Hmmm… Probably back to the days of Ardipithecus.

Seriously, “Lincoln” was such a classy film from beginning to end, so thoughtful a political procedural, with the best actor in the world in the title role, plus a stunning ensemble and period costumes and set designs and whole business. I’m not quite sure how it didn’t win last night. It was serious, deep, inspiring. Hmm….Not edgy enough?

Whatever. My more knowledgeable movie-going sources assure me that “Fargo” was really good.

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."
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Joel Achenbach · February 21, 2013