The big Oscar imbroglio this week has nothing to do with Brett Ratner's big mouth.
Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, the man who gave us "Borat," wants to bring his latest character to the Academy Awards ceremonies. The folks behind the event are understandably nervous. Deadline.com reported yesterday that the actor would be banned from attending the ceremony because he insisted on arriving to the red carpet ceremonies dressed as the Middle Eastern leader he plays in "The Dictator."
Baron Cohen earned his Oscar ticket by co-starring in "Hugo," the Martin Scorsese film up for 11 awards this weekend. But he has a history of turning reality into his own personal "Candid Camera" gag. "Borat" deftly blended scripted material with real-world high jinks. His follow-up comedy, "Bruno," proved far less successful with that mashup technique.
So the risk averse Oscar producers clearly don't want any part of Baron Cohen's shtick, even if they might be reconsidering their stance. But for once, their instincts are sound.
The Oscar ceremony is about honoring the best achievement in film in a given year. Yes, it's also a chance to see glamorous movie stars looking their very best and hear some beautiful acceptance speeches - along with some you'll wish had never been uttered. But in a movie industry overflowing with hype, the Oscars is the one night of the year when overt promotion is put aside.
Baron Cohen's Dictator character would only be working the red carpet, not the ceremony itself. But it's still an extended plug for his new comedy. Yes, it could be a hoot given his extraordinary comic talents, but we'll have plenty of time to see his Dictator character on "The Tonight Show," "Conan" and any other show willing to give him a seat.
Let Baron Cohen bask in the glory of "Hugo" and spare us an unexpurgated pitch to see his newest comedy. Movie lovers deserve a respite from the marketing machine, if only for a few hours each year.