There has been much hullabaloo over speculation as to what will happen if the Banksy directed doc Exit Through the Gift Shop ends up winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Banksy is a popular street artist who maintains a lot of his mystique through hiding his identity. He narrated Gift Shop shrouded in a hood and with voice modulation. Whenever pictures are shown of him, he is usually wearing a ridiculous monkey mask. Most likely, if Banksy were ever to be unmasked, we would all be faced with the stunning realization that he is… some guy. That’s why it’s very important that he maintains his secrecy. Mystery equals intrigue; intrigue equals people shelling out boatloads of cash for his work.
The Academy has been around show business for quite some time. They understand what Banksy is doing here. And yet, up until this point, they have made it clear that showing up to the Oscars wearing a monkey mask would be completely unacceptable. Academy president Tom Sherak reportedly told Banksy’s representatives, “We suggested to them that it might be a good idea that if he did win, one of them would accept in his place – that it would not be dignified for the Academy to have somebody come up wearing a monkey’s head.”
But why would they have a problem with this? The Academy executive director Bruce Davis explains, “The fun but disquieting scenario is if that film wins and five guys in monkey masks come to the stage all saying, ‘I’m Banksy!’ Who the hell do we give it to?” I think the key words to pick out of that quote are “fun but disquieting.” I don’t believe that the Academy has any problem with Banksy showing up in a mask, or planning some sort of elaborate prank, at all. Probably they have just gone on record saying they do in order to drum up some excitement and hype for the ceremony. This is showbiz after all, and the Academy leaders aren’t rookies.
New quotes that Sherak has given The Hollywood Reporter suggest this to be pretty much the case. He explains, “We said if he wants to come up, of course he should come up. No, we’d rather he not wear a mask. There’s no rule. We asked him to respect the night and respect the honor.” That’s a pretty big change of tune from saying that he should just have someone else come on and accept the award. I’d say these new quotes are meant to keep hope for a debacle alive. It has been widely reported that Banksy will not be allowed to show up in a mask, and it looks like Sherak was worried people were starting to write off a memorable moment. This new stance seems to say, “probably he’s going to come up with something crazy, and we’re gonna be so mad if he does, but what can we do to stop him?”
Sherak explains his position further, “Does that mean he couldn’t run on? Sure he could. Listen, he’d run right over me. I’m not gonna stand up to stop him. Nobody is, that’s not what we do. Would this be fun? I guess to some people. I guess it was a lotta fun when Blake Edwards ran through with a speeding wheelchair, or when the streaker came out.” Yeah, it sure sounds like he would be upset if something crazy and memorable were to happen. Don’t you do it Banksy! I’m warning you!
As the hype machine rolls on from Sherak’s end, Banksy has been holding up his end of promoting the Oscars as well by putting murals up all over L.A. They can be viewed on his website.
What do you think about all this? Does all of the promotion guarantee that Exit Through the Gift Shop will win Best Doc? Will the false controversy turn into big ratings for the ceremony?