Yesterday, there were rumored announcements that Chris Rock would be hosting this year's Oscars ceremony. The speculation didn't take long to lead to actual truth as today it was announced that he would in fact be hosting. While yesterday's piece explored why this is both a good and bad idea, I have decided to dedicate today's piece to commemorating the feud that he raised with actors Sean Penn and Jude Law. The following is a look at that night and the jokes that almost corrupted Rock's chances of hosting again.
Rock isn't someone who is kind with words. Yes, he's often insightful, but there's usually a barrage of colorful language and insults surrounding them. It's one of the reasons that he's been considered one of the greatest stand-up comedians in history. He's even showed up to the Oscars before and since, doing bits about how easy voice acting is. However, it was the night when he actually hosted that things were at their most conflicting. They didn't even seem to be that way until sometime into the ceremony when things went from playful insults to actual turf wars.
First up, the opening monologue, where Rock first made the jabs at actor Jude Law, whom he considered to be an inferior actor. He was only one of the many people he attacked, though Law got an extended riffing about appearing in several movies. The riff included commentary on him doing catering and possibly starring as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The routine starts around the 2:30 minute mark:
It may be difficult to remember, but at the point of the ceremony's broadcast, Law had appeared in six film within a year's time frame, including The Aviator and Closer. The year previously, he received a Best Actor nomination for Cold Mountain. Even if Law hasn't necessarily faded into obscurity, it's important to note that he was a big deal at the time. The joke was more of a reflection of his workmanship than a direct insult. However, when he got called an inferior Tom Cruise, that's when things got heat up.
Jump to later in the show. Sean Penn makes a quick rebuttal at the start of his presentation of the Best Actress category about how Jude Law is among the finest actors working. What's more confusing is that he opened with the line "Forgive my compromised sense of humor." It's also not entirely clear how mad Penn actually was by the situation.
It's a small moment that doesn't really have much of an impact. However, it proved that Rock struck a nerve. Beyond Penn's remarks, Law finally commented on the situation months later. It seemed at the time that he wasn't offended by the playful jab. However, he mentioned that he began to take it personally. In a New York Times article, he stated that:
"At first I laughed, because I didn’t think he knew who I was. Then I got angry as his remarks, I felt, became more personal. My friends were livid. I was moved when Sean came to my defense. As a celebrity I know I’m fair game for a lot of things that I don’t like, but Rock crossed the line when he made his point and got his laugh then seemingly wouldn’t stop. It’s very unfortunate that I had five or six films come out at the same time. However I had no control over that."
It's interesting to see so many people outraged over one incident. While it has likely been blown out of proportion, what should be noted is that Penn isn't free from making his own controversial remarks. At this past year's ceremony, he presented the Best Picture award to Birdman, directed by Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Even if the vibe was friendly, having worked together on 21 Grams, the statement does seem a little hypocritical. As he presented the award, he stated - almost free of context:
"Who gave that son of a bitch his green card?"
The remark failed to receive as much attention as Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress (Boyhood), but is very reflective on how Penn doesn't play fairly when it comes to jabs. It will be interesting to see how things go this upcoming year with Rock, especially if he remains just as aggressive in his comedy as he usually does. Will it be a replay of his last time? Who knows. If nothing else, it will be very interesting to find out.