Hollywood (API) -- Scrapping tradition and handing out awards in mid-season, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today awarded the Oscar for best actor to Barack Obama for the 1993 film The Piano, a movie about a mute New Zealand woman who wins her prized piano back by giving sexual favors to an illiterate ex-sailor. The decision to give untested and green president Barack Obama the award shocked actors, directors and moviegoers the world over. "Barack Obama has been a guiding light since his historic election last year," said academy president Tom Sherak. "There are some who might think it a little odd that we break precedent by giving him this prize at this point. But we felt that it was important to send a signal. Granted, we don't know what that signal is. But we have decided to be very forceful in sending it."
The news sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry for many reasons, not least of which was that the movie is almost two decades old, the subject matter is quite risqué and Barack Obama is not in it.
"I know that there are some who will say that Obama has not earned this Oscar yet, and that he is not even an actor. But when we were making the decision, we said to ourselves, 'We can't wait three years! It might be too late by then.'"
The Piano caused a minor sensation when it hit American shores 17 years ago. Made by New Zealand feminist filmmaker Jane Campion, the story touched on the sensitive themes of male domination, female sexual submissiveness, the brutality of eroticism, the exploitation of natives, the commodification of female value and suicidal despair. There was also a lot of sex and Harvey Keitel showed his penis.
About this time, Barack Obama was a constitutional law professor and a community organizer with Project Vote, which registered African-American voters in the state of Illinois. There is no evidence that Obama was anywhere near the set of The Piano or that he had any say over its outré subject matter and themes.
"I've got to say I'm scratching my head over this," said Campion. "I mean, I quite like Barack Obama. But my general feeling, and I say this with much respect, is that maybe the American president should have done some acting first. That is only my feeling."
Right wing-aligned actor Jon Voight was less sanguine.
"I worked for years to get my Oscar. I struggled and built from nothing. Barack Obama is a false messiah. A man whose mellifluous, honeyed words make him seem like a god when he is anything but and he's instead a false prophet of socialism and hedonist, communist depravity. But hey ... you don't have to listen to a lot of cantankerous crazy talk from me. Just let me remind you: He wasn't in the g** d***** Piano. Am I losing my mind? Am I having a stroke? Is the light on?"
Even the president's defenders were a little wary of embracing the prize wholeheartedly, and sensed that maybe there was a strange agenda at work.
"I believe the president can do anything," said his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. "But we're only nine months into his presidency and the only acting he's done was two seconds in an SNL skit. It kind of cheapens the award a bit if you just hand out freebies. But I guess he'll take it. Sure! Why not?"
Officially, said the Academy, it awarded him the prize for "making the world a better place through his tireless efforts to speak in front of people."
Obama himself said forcefully after the announcement that even though he's humbled by the award and proud that people see in him such a stirring symbol of human aspiration, he can in no way endorse the act of trading sexual favors for chattel goods such as musical instruments and thus he must distance himself from the film.
"I applaud Holly Hunter's performance," he said. "But how would it look for me to say to the young women of America, 'Hey girls, be careful if Harvey Keitel tries to turn you into a whore because you just might like it too much."
Opined film critic Roger Ebert:
"I sort of feel like they gave the award to Obama more because of what they're hoping he can do rather than for what he's actually done. Because even though I like him a lot, he hasn't had a chance to do a whole hell of a lot yet. Maybe a key to the city might have been a bit less gushy and obsequious."
"But then again, if I know Hollywood and American politics, I'd also say there's a more insidious game going on here ... at this point I think somebody's really just trying to rub Winona Ryder's nose in it that she didn't win that year. Everybody really hates her."