But the biggest surprise of all was the startling, and unsettling to some, performance by none other than first lady Michelle Obama. Just when it looked as if a blowzy Jack Nicholson was getting ready to yuck it up over the Best Picture nominations, he handed the evening over to Washington, via satellite. Before opening the envelope to announce the winner, Mrs. Obama delivered a solemn homily about the cultural importance of movies.
She noted that films can lift spirits, broaden minds, and “transport us to places we never imagined." She went on to laud the nine nominated films, noting that they “took us back in time and all around the world.” She continued, “They taught us that love can endure against all odds and transform our lives in the most surprising ways. And they reminded us that we can overcome any obstacle if we dig deep enough and fight hard enough and find the courage to believe.”
To some industry insiders, the first lady's appearance was nothing short of disturbing.
“I find this downright Orwellian,” says Charles Evered, a screenwriter and director whose film “A Thousand Cuts“ was just nominated for the Saturn Awards, which recognize thrillers and science-fiction films. He acknowledges that movies are a business – after all, the Oscars are perhaps the planet’s most-watched industry trade show – but he also says they are an art form. "When the movers and shakers in the industry get so chummy with ordained powers, how can they be expected to make the kinds of films that deliver a genuine cultural critique of Washington politics?” says Mr. Evered, also a professor at the University of California, Riverside.