With the 88th Academy Awards just two days away, all eyes are zeroing in on comedian Chris Rock. The host is in a very tricky spot this year, given the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the many boycotts and “tune outs” planned against the telecast on Sunday night, and while there’s no doubt he’ll address the issue (some, like Harvey Weinstein, are predicting Rock will “annihilate” Hollywood), everyone’s currently wondering just exactly how he’ll go about doing it. Just yesterday, Indiewire looked at Rock’s 1999 Oscars appearance, in which he handled the controversy over blacklist supporter Elia Kazan receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award with some uncomfortable comments, but his 2005 hosting gig might also provide a hint at what Rock has up his sleeve.
Nearly everyone judges a host based on his or her opening monologue — and Rock did get off a good #OscarsSoWhite joke when he claimed that it might have well been the Def Oscar Jam since there were 4 black nominees — but the highlight of Rock’s last outing was a hilarious pre-recorded bit that found the comedian interviewing moviegoers at the Magic Johnson Theater in Los Angeles. Rock asked interviewees what their favorite movie of the year was, and their answers were the kind of populist fare (“Alien v. Predator,” “Saw,” “The Chronicles of Riddick”) the Academy would never recognize in a million years.
When he asked them if they had seen the year’s Best Picture nominees — “Sideways,” “Finding Neverland,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “The Aviator” — not one answered yes. As for whether they had seen the Wayans Brothers’ “White Chicks”? He got a unanimous and resounding yes from everyone.
In a just a quick two minutes, Rock confirmed what most of us have come to realize quite clearly this year: The Academy is out of touch with the rest of the country. Taking this route again on Sunday might be the smartest way for Rock to remain bitingly funny and ruthlessly critical. After all, how much of the general public has seen Best Picture nominees like “Room” and “Brooklyn,” compared to the $160 million smash “Straight Outta Compton”? You probably already know the answer to that one.
Rock is going to have a walk a pretty tricky line between celebrating the Oscars and criticizing them, and proving their irrelevancy to the moviegoing public at large might be the best way to do it.
It’ll most likely be impossible for Rock to outright condemn the organization he’s meant to represent at the ceremony, so the best thing he can do, and will most likely do, is prove just how out of tune they are and have been for decades. Whatever Rock does end up doing, let’s hope it’s as funny, inspired and smart as this short bit from his 2005 hosting stint. Watch the entire clip above.