Month of Movies: Academy Blows It by Barring Banksy from Attending Oscars in Disguise
Let's pretend you are a producer of the Academy Awards show or a member of the esteemed organization that hosts the annual event. Your mission is to celebrate excellence in the motion picture artists. You also are compelled to keep your show exciting, rewarded with viewers and relevant to a worldwide audience with increasing competition for their attention every year.
So someone nominated for an award this year wants to attend, but he needs to attend in disguise, his face covered to protect his anonymity. Kind of cool, right? He might even do something wickedly fabulous, like wear a monkey mask!
What would you do?
I know what I would do. I would say "Right on, bring it, this is almost as wonderful as that dude who streaked in 1974! We'll give you an aisle seat up front!"
Even better Academy. The masked man is the world-renowned street artist known as Banksy, nominated for his first film, documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop! Surely you will permit Banksy -- who has come to define and advance street art, guerrilla art and post-modern message busting and culture slamming -- to attend while maintaining the anonymity that is interwoven into his persona and that he feels is necessary to continuing his work! Right?!
Nope. No dice. According to Metro:
The star asked if he would be allowed to accept the prize in disguise if he won in a bid to keep his identity a secret.
But Academy Awards bosses turned him down over fears that would invite copycat gatecrashers.
Academy Executive Director Bruce Davis told Entertainment Week: 'The fun but disquieting scenario is that if the film wins and five guys in monkey masks come to the stage all saying, "I'm Banksy," who the hell do we give it [award] to?"
After the nominations were announced, Banksy called his Oscar nod a 'big surprise'.
He said in a statement: 'This is a big surprise. I don't agree with the concept of award ceremonies, but I'm prepared to make an exception for the ones I'm nominated for. The last time there was a naked man covered in gold paint in my house, it was me.'
Really, no? Come on now. Of course they could figure out how to safely have Banksy attend. If they wanted to.
Perhaps the Academy is more worried about their brand being subverted into a Banksy stunt than they are worried about security issues. To their defense, Banksy shenanigans are highly likely. Banksy's bread and butter is railing against capitalism and authoritarianism through street stencil art installations and performance art, and some viewers have suggested that the nominated documentary itself is a fraud, or at least some sort of uber meta prank-umentary. Stunts are what he does, and does well. Though typically official permission is neither a worry or barrier.
It's also possible that simply asking to attend in disguise is a publicity stunt, and if so, it's working. It's true that Banksy is one of the most eloquent critics of contemporary corruptions and compromises, but he keenly deploys the modern tools of PR and fame. It is completely reasonable to assume that the Oscars event -- from the request to attend anonymously to the red carpet to the televised show to after parties -- would serve as an enticing blank brick wall just asking to be Banksy-ed.
Which is why I want him to attend. The Oscars could use a little subversive tension.
I also think Banksy deserves it. Exit Through the Gift Shop is brilliant, incredibly brilliant, and if any parts of the story were contrived, that would make it even more brilliant. The film is bright and creative, darkly cynical, skillfully edited to tell a compelling story, and ultimately strangely inspirational. I hope Exit is rewarded with an Oscar.
I also hope that Banksy is allowed to attend in his monkey mask, anonymity intact. Not that it matters to him. He's making his mark on L.A. anyway, and I doubt that he's done. (Check out this piece in SlashFilm or scan through Capturing Banksy to see the series of installations that have been appearing throughout the city this month.) But it matters to me. If he can't attend, I might have to take to the streets, stencil and spray-paint in hand, and have something to say about that.
Come on, Academy. Don't be that corporate sellout guy who doesn't get it. Let my Bansky go.
What would you say? Would you let Banksy attend the ceremony? What do you think about Exit Through the Gift Shop?
Contributing Editor Deb Rox thinks Banksy should win an award for this Simpsons opening scene. Basically, Banksy should win all of the awards.