In the HBO/Entourage fantasy version of the Nikki Finke story, Hollywood’s most ruthless blogger stops at nothing to punish a source who gives a scoop to a rival publication. In that fantasy, she meticulously plots her revenge and goes in for the kill by dropping an item about, let’s say, a deal that was this close to being finalized, her perfectly timed report killing it and costing the players involved millions; making them have to pull out of that Hawaiian dream house they had just put the down payment on, causing their wives and families to desert them and ultimately, the players to take their own lives, crying out “Curse you Nikki!” as they leap into the abyss.
In real life however, Nikki’s revenge is more like a crazed outpatient leaving a bag full of her own feces on her target’s doorstep, but stumbling en route and smearing herself with the intended revenge matter, finally running down the block cackling to herself at full volume after she manages to smear a handprint on the front door.
There is no knowing the motive for any particular Nikki item. Within the complex psychology of Hollywood’s crazy aunt in the attic, there probably never is sorting out anything as clear as motives. But there are some items from which the sound of cackling rings so loud, and the unpleasantness is so ham-fisted and ill-targeted that it is hard not to see the image of that feces-handprint when you read it.
So this morning Academy CEO Dawn Hudson (full disclosure: a friend) sat for her first major interview about all the fusses in Academy land. She had the entirely good sense to give this interview to The Hollywood Reporter and not to Her Lunacy, whom of late has thought herself something of the ultimate authority in Academy affairs.
Six hours later, this story appears about Sacha Baron Cohen being “banned” from the red carpet. To most observers, the idea that Baron Cohen would be “banned” was silly on the face of it. And indeed, ninety minutes later the Academy gave a statement saying he was “not banned.” So this is essentially what Nikki’s ruthless revenge generally amounts to: 90 minutes of hassle for all involved while they have to correct the thinly sourced, wrong-headed twisting of the facts that she puts forward - while of course grandstanding that she is the only real journalist in the world, like, an outpatient standing on a park bench in top hat and tails proclaiming that she is Cornelius Vanderbilt.
90 minutes of hassle later, nothing of her revenge is left to the parties slimed but the icky feeling of having been caught in some sort of horrible psychodrama and of course the lingering smell of those handprints.
As I say, there’s no proving that revenge was the reason for this silly piece, as the Finke psyche is ultimately as unknowable as the void of space, but throughout the piece, telltale signs of the psyche having become unhinged are apparent, like those handprints. Let’s take a little tour through the masterwork, shall we?
• Sentence One: “The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has pulled actor Sacha Baron Cohen‘s tickets from the 84th Academy Awards.”
Really pulled them? How does that work? By now they would probably be in his hands…Did they send someone to break into his house and “pull” them out of his hands?
• In the update she added two hours later after the Academy denied it had “banned” Baron Cohen, Nikki wrote: “the Academy’s Managing Director Of Membership Kimberly Rouch phoned Paramont’s awards staff to say Baron Cohen’s tickets had been pulled unless he gives the Academy assurances ahead of time promising not to show up on the Red Carpet in costume and not to promote the movie on the Red Carpet. The Academy made it clear that, without those assurances, it would not issue him the tickets. So he’s banned” How is that, a blanket, “he is banned.” The Academy, has rules for dress codes, behavior, etc at the show. If they call someone and say, I’m sorry if you show up naked we can’t admit you, does that mean that person is “banned”? If they call someone and say, “I’m sorry if your hands are smeared with feces and you are trying to rub them all over everyone, we can’t let you in” does that mean the person is “banned”?
• But I do love the syntax of her “So he’s banned.” Final petulant harumph, desperately trying to have the last word and put the final period on a conversation that’s gotten out of her control.
• “Of course, the next best thing to that publicity stunt is all the media coverage which this ban is going to generate for Baron Cohen’s film.” Gee, I mean, who in the media would fall for that? Can you imagine!…Oh, I mean…um…
• “Loosen up, people. Frankly, the Academy looks like uptight wankers with this treatment of one of the globe’s funniest comedians.” One of my favorite Nikki tropes is when she proclaims people should just loosen up, usually said directly after she’s released hurricane of crazy. Another thing Nikki should steer far clear of is positioning herself as an expert on “funny,” her humor tending to run along Tourettes’ish lines of shouting swear words at full volume. Any sane person who has seen the trailer for The Dictator would know that Baron Cohen has forfeited his one of the world’s funniest claims.
• “So the Academy has decided to act like dictators about the actor playing The Dictator. Ugh.” See above about steering clear of comedy.
• “An Oscars spokesperson acknowledged to Deadline yesterday: ”We would hope that every studio knows that this is a bad idea. The Red Carpet is not about stunting.” Oh really? Then why did Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park crossdress down the Red Carpet as J-Lo and Gwyneth Paltrow in evening gowns in 2000? Or Ben Stiller appear as an Oscar presenter in full blue Avatar makeup and hair in 2010?” Okay, first of all, small point but in those examples above, they were not dressed in the costumes of movies they were promoting. Ben Stiller, you may recall, wasn’t actually the star of Avatar. He probably should have been, but he wasn’t. Second, those are your precedents for why something should be allowed? Because of that hilarity? If these no costume rules had been enforced, humanity would never have known the wonders of Ben Stiller dressed like an Avatar character?
• “At the 2007 Oscars, Baron Cohen was asked to be a presenter and said he would do it only if he could be in character as Borat. And Oscars’ Powers That Be said, “No way.” He didn’t attend. But this is the first time he has been officially banned from the show.” I’m sorry, but how is this time not exactly the same as that?
• “Purists feel that the Oscars is no place for such in your face promotion. The Academy hasn’t even allowed movies to be advertised during the Oscarcast, until this year. Then again, these Oscars have very little suspense because it’s a forgone conclusion that many of the winners of the marquee categories are already known and The Artist will win Best Picture. The prospect of Baron Cohen’s Red Carpet walk was the closest thing to drama.” Does Nikki really believe that having people dressing in costumes for the movies they are promoting would make the Oscars more fun? Is lack of product hype really the problem Oscars suffer from? Particularly when the product is as rancid and stillborn looking as The Dictator? Baron Cohen doing another third world accent dressed in an advertisement for his film would add some drama? And we need to do that because there’s not a tight race for Best Picture?
• “And a trailer for The Dictator certainly was one of the raciest ever allowed by the MPAA during the Super Bowl, where Baron Cohen’s character was hilariously depicted running a competitive race while and leg-shooting rivals with a starter pistol as they got close to him.” Yes, hilariously indeed. Who can argue with hilarity like that? Who can argue with logic like any of this?