In an effort not to have a repeat of the awkwardness caused by director Michael Moore when he accepted the award for outstanding documentary in 2003 for "Bowling for Columbine," in recent years the Academy has "gerrymandered" eligibility rules in the documentary category, critics say. However, the Academy's best-laid plans came to naught. The most outspoken critic of the war on privacy and the Bush administration turned out to be Packy the Penguin, star of director Jean Valjean's "Penguins on the March," who accepted the award last night for Best Documentary on behalf of Mr. Valjean, who was unable to attend. Mr. Packy's remarks have inevitably come under attack in the mass media (Tom Shingles of the Washington Post called it "one of the worst Oscar speeches" ever), but many felt they were the highlight of the evening.
After accepting on behalf of himself and his director, the formally-dressed star explained: "I have invited my fellow documentarians on the stage with us... They're here in solidarity with me because we like privacy. We like privacy and we live in times when the President of the United States has his eyeball on the keyholes of our igloos. We live in a time when we are forced to document fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president who spies on us for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fiction of herring shortages or the fiction of casually-dressed penguins, we are against this war on our privacy, man or penguin. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And, in my case, any time you've got the head of the Maritime Union and Danny DeVito against you, your time is up. Thank you very much."
Mr. Packy's last sentences were drowned out as the program's producers cued the orchestra and he was essentially cut off. By this time there were a number of audience members loudly booing, as well as some cheering. Backstage after the event Mr. Packy was asked about what set him off, and he pointed to a recent report in Capital Hill Blue about reporters being investigated for writing unfavorable stories: "Using many of the questionable surveillance and monitoring techniques that brought both questions and criticism to his administration, President George W. Bush has launched a war against reporters who write stories unfavorable to his actions and is planning to prosecute journalists to make examples of them in his 'war on terrorism.' Bush recently directed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to use 'whatever means at your disposal' to wiretap, follow, harass and investigate journalists who have published stories about the administration's illegal use of warrantless wiretaps, use of faulty intelligence and anything else he deems 'detrimental to the war on terror.'"
Mr. Gil Gravitas, the Academy's chairman of the documentary division, later said, "The academy's board of governors is presently considering eliminating the short-documentary category altogether and banishing documentary features to the science and technical awards, which are presented in a separate ceremony by a designated bimbo."
This story was published on March 7, 2006.