“Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh suggested several years ago that the unanimous high court ruling in 1974 that forced President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes, leading to the end of his presidency, may have been wrongly decided.” — A.P. News
As a federal judge and coach of my daughter’s basketball team, my judicial philosophy for the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences is straightforward. The Academy must be independent and interpret movies for their amount of musical numbers and high-profile celebrities, not for their ability to reveal the complex vulnerabilities of marginalized American life. That is why I believe that the 2017 Oscar for Best Picture may have been wrongly decided — heresy though it is to say so. Moonlight may have stolen the Best Picture Award away from La La Land.
The Academy overturned the one chance for 2017 to officially be the “Year of the Musical Revival.” Instead, the Academy held that Moonlight was a delicate evening primrose growing from the bleak concrete that is the American cultural zeitgeist. That was a huge step with implications to this day that most people do not appreciate sufficiently, and maybe the tension of the time led to an erroneous decision. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are precedent on precedent.
I believe that the Academy must reward scripts with mostly-white mega-stars and a musical score, not scripts with a diverse, under-the-radar cast and prescient aesthetic liminality. I remember what Louis B. Mayer, founder of the Academy Awards, said in Federalist 83: “The rules of awards ceremonies are rules of common sense. And the rules of common sense say that a beautiful white man tap-dancing is Oscar-bait, goddamnit.”
We should not have investigated why the 2017 presenters’ envelope announced Emma Stone as winning Best Picture for La La Land. Some may ask why my views on envelope investigations have shifted over the years. To them I say that when I was on the team investigating the envelope for the Best Picture win for Shakespeare in Love over Elizabeth, it was a different time. I had a different understanding of Academy privilege. And my understanding changed, of course, on September 11, 2001. I realized in my subsequent time working for the Academy that the challenges America faced from the War on Terror were too burdensome to investigate these envelopes. America now requires the uninhibited, executive action of presenters.
If you ask me about the La La Land team rejecting the Best Picture Award live, onstage, during the ceremony, and giving it to Moonlight, I would say that that is a potential hypothetical. As a judge, I do not deal in hypotheticals.
That is also true of Academy self-awarding. The question of the Academy self-awarding Best Picture Award is something I’ve never analyzed. Therefore, it must also be a hypothetical question that I cannot begin to answer.
I am grateful to my mentor, Justice Kennedy, whose son, Justin, works for Deutsche Bank, which was at one time the only the Wall Street firm willing to lend Donald Trump money. If you had to sum up Justice Kennedy’s entire career into one word, it would be either “liberty,” or “overly-nostalgic jazz pianist.”
Therefore, as a carpool dad, I believe the Academy should give Best Picture to any movie that somehow depicts a lifetime Supreme Court nomination by a president facing criminal indictment positively. That is my personal opinion, not my constitutional interpretation. Thank you.