At last night's 84th Academy Award ceremony Sacha Baron Cohen shook up the red carpet by attending in character as General Admiral Alladeen, the lead role in his upcoming film The Dictator, and pulling a bit of a prank on an unsuspecting Ryan Seacrest
My first reaction to the unraveling of such an absurd event was to laugh; Mr. Cohen's character, in keeping with his previous characters Borat and Brüno, is edgy, absurd, and unorthodox. His comments regarding KMart socks and being doubles partners with Kim Jong-il had both teased chuckles out of me, but then he dumped the Supreme Leader's "ashes" all over Ryan Seacrest's tuxedo, and I found myself laughing even harder. What a stunt.
But was it just a stunt, or was there something more going on?
In the context of a time when the film industry faces economic challenges, people's interest in the Academy Awards is waning, and overseas political issues are the 800 Lb. gorilla in the room, Mr. Cohen's newest character and recent stunt could be seen as a stroke of genius. After all, does it really matter who wins the awards? The ceremony's host Billy Crystal hit the nail on the head when he stated the Oscars are just "millionaires giving each other golden statues." The people who still watch the oscars are watching for entertainment value and because the ceremony has inherent star power, not because they are actually invested in who wins. Although it was executed at Mr. Seacrest's expense, Mr. Cohen's prank was the right thing to do for the film industry, and it was the right thing to do for his soon to be released film that sheds comedic light on a fictional dictatorship: catch viewers' attention, make them think, and give them something to look forward to.
And I almost forgot, big-ups to Mr. Seacrest as well, for his flawless participation in the ordeal!