Did Jerry Seinfeld Cross The Line At The Oscars? Yes He Did.

Seinfeld-OscarsThis open letter to the academy was sent to me, and to be honest it raises a great point that I thought about while the Oscars was on. The issue is how much disrespect Jerry Seinfeld (who I totally love by the way. Hell, I think he should Host the Oscars next year) showed the Documentary Category and documentary filmmakers everywhere with his “presentation” at the Oscars this year.

The Letter is from the director of one of the films that was nominated. I give it to you in its fullness:

John Sinno

Typecast Films

3131 Western Ave Suite 514

Seattle, Washington, USA

March 2, 2007

An open letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

I had the great fortune of attending the 79th Academy Awards following my nomination as producer for a film in the Best Documentary Feature category. At the Awards ceremony, most categories featured an introduction that glorified the filmmakers’ craft and the role it plays for the film audience and industry. But when comedian Jerry Seinfeld introduced the award for Best Documentary Feature, he began by referring to a documentary that features himself as a subject, then proceeded to poke fun at it by saying it won no awards and made no money. He then revealed his love of documentaries, as they have a very “real” quality, while making a comically sour face. This less-than-flattering beginning was followed by a lengthy digression that had nothing whatsoever to do with documentary films. The clincher, however, came when he wrapped up his introduction by calling all five nominated films “incredibly depressing!”

While I appreciate the role of humor in our lives, Jerry Seinfeld’s remarks were made at the expense of thousands of documentary filmmakers and the entire documentary genre. Obviously we make films not for awards or money, although we are glad if we are fortunate enough to receive them. The important thing is to tell stories, whether of people who have been damaged by war, of humankind’s reckless attitude toward nature and the environment, or even of the lives and habits of penguins. With his lengthy, dismissive and digressive introduction, Jerry Seinfeld had no time left for any individual description of the five nominated films. And by labeling the documentaries “incredibly depressing,” he indirectly told millions of viewers not to bother seeing them because they’re nothing but downers. He wasted a wonderful opportunity to excite viewers about the nominated films and about the documentary genre in general.

To have a presenter introduce a category with such disrespect for the nominees and their work is counter to the principles the Academy was founded upon. To be nominated for an Academy Award is one of the highest honors our peers can give us, and to have the films dismissed in such an offhand fashion was deeply insulting. The Academy owes all documentary filmmakers an apology.

Seinfeld’s introduction arrived on the heels of an announcement by the Academy that the number of cities where documentary films must screen to qualify for an Academy Award is being increased by 75%. This will make it much more difficult for independent filmmakers’ work to qualify for the Best Documentary Feature Award, while giving an advantage to films distributed by large studios. Fewer controversial films will qualify for Academy consideration, and my film Iraq in Fragments would have been disqualified this year. This announcement came as a great disappointment to me and to other documentary filmmakers. I hope the Academy will reconsider its decision.

On a final note, I would like to point out that there was no mention of the Iraq War during the Oscar telecast, though it was on the minds of many in the theatre and of millions of viewers. It is wonderful to see the Academy support the protection of the environment. Unfortunately there is more than just one inconvenient truth in this world. Having mention of the Iraq War avoided altogether was a painful reminder for many of us that our country is living in a state of denial. As filmmakers, it is the greatest professional crime we can commit not to speak out with the truth. We owe it to the public.

I hope what I have said is taken to heart. It comes from my concern for the cinematic art and its crucial role in the times we’re living in.

John Sinno

Academy Award Nominee, Iraq In Fragments

Co-Founder, Northwest Documentary Association

Yes, the Seinfeld bit was funny (at least I laughed at it), but even I, a die hard Seinfeld fan, have to admit that the way he said “Depressing films” showed a lot of disrespect to people and films who have waitied their whole lives for that moment. For Jerry Seinfeld to come out, not even talk about the category (which every other presenter did for their categories) and then just refer to the nominees as a group of depressing films… well… that was over the line.

It’s not that I think Seinfeld MEANT to offend anyone… actually I’m quite sure he probably didn’t mean that at all… but it is how it came across and I think an apology is probably in order.

Being funny doesn’t make it ok. Being popular doesn’t make it ok. Jerry seems like a great guy and probably meant no harm or disrespect at all… but I do hope he offers an apology. Just my two cents worth.

UPDATE – Jefrey left a great comment that nails it for me. He said: “it’s kinda like the father of the groom getting up and making a joke about the bride being a slut. Maybe it’s funny, but it’s not the time or place.”

It’s easy for the rest of us to say generic meaningless phrases like “it was just a joke” or “don’t take yourself too seriously”, but just like the wedding analogy, that was their moment… what they worked towards… and it’s supposed to be about them. Seinfelds remarks cheapened it. But as i said before, I highly doubt that was his intention… it just worked out that way.

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54 thoughts on “Did Jerry Seinfeld Cross The Line At The Oscars? Yes He Did.

  1. It’s funny that no one is refuting anything the guy said in his latter. Just a bunch of Jerry fanboys who celeb worship. Jerry is funny, therefor anything he does is ok. Sheep.

    The Sinnon guy brought up some very valid points and concerns in his letter, and all you fanboys can do is cackle. Sad. Very sad

  2. Weren’t we all applauding Seinfeld’s bit recently? Now that one disgruntled “filmmaker” (somehow I doubt he had a whole lot to do with making the film itself) has expressed his discontent with Seinfeld’s presentation, it seems a lot of people are changing their opinion. Talk about conformity.

  3. Hi Alfie,
    After joking around yesterday with you about sand you know where,
    and then snowleopard asked if you had a web site I replied for you,
    “www.sandyweiner.com…. Funny thing is, it is a real website after all, a photographer named Sandy Weiner. So I have been putting it
    as my web site when I post. (pass your cursor over my name and check bottom of screen.)
    I thought everyone had started to notice it.
    Irony has it’s own sense of humor.

    Take care Alfie.


  4. I prefer his honest unscripted presentation rather than a dull teleprompted bland run of the mill presentation. All the other presentations were insincere. Forgettable. Seinfeld gave the impression that he had seen the films and cared about the award instead of being some mindless robot. And these films *are* depressing.

    Secondly, who are you defending? The morons who will listen to Jerry Seinfeld and say “hey, I haven’t seen those documentaries but now Seinfeld says they’re depressing, I think the people who made them are worthless hacks and I won’t bother watching!”

    As far as I’m concerned, he never discredited the films, merely stated the trend towards poignant and almost gut wrenchingly terrifying films that reflect something that seems like fantasy but sadly isn’t. Saying they are depressing is a COMPLIMENT. It shows how these films hit a chord, how they need to be watched, how we need to ponder the subject matter.

    Awards presentations should be personal. Most presenters are so vacant I wonder why they bother.

  5. Ted I am undecided too to be honest .

    But I am not one of these people who will catagorically rule it out as a possibilty…..

    I just find it funny that some sectors are out to demonise environmentalists or environwhackos as rush limbaugh calls them when I just don’t think wanting to planet to live is such a bad thing…..

    isn’t it wiser to work on the side on caution rather then just say fuck it and let whatever happens happens?…

    lets say we are destroying the planet but we do nothing about it because we think it might not be true…..wouldn’t it be better to do something even if peoplelike gore are wrong?

    I am not explaining myself very well but I just feel it doesn;t hurt to do something and wind up being wrong. if it is true and we ignore it it effects everyone on the planet regardless of your political leanings…it really is not a political hot potato – it is something that should be taken seriously as I kind of like the planet living…..

  6. First of all, no matter what you think about the global warming issue, the movie was not Oscar worthy even as a documentary. The win (along with the song win) was given as a result of politics, not merit.

    Secondly, I haven’t decided what I believe in this area. I do however want to learn via truth instead of propaganda.

    Give me a real documentary on the subject. I’d love to watch one that uses real science and shows multiple sides of the debate.

  7. Alfie:

    In Scoville’s defense, I’m currently a graduate student in Earth Sciences. Both my climatology Professor and my Meteorology professor believe that the current warming is part of the normal cycles of the planet. My climatology professor completely dismissed the idea, while my meteorology professor said that if humans are contributing to warming, it’s only to the tune of a few hundredths of a percent of the warming that has taken place.

    I for one am undecided, but when one looks beyond the surface of the argument, there is no consensus on what ATMOSPHERIC scientists believe. Many of the scientists who are represented as “global warming experts” actually have no training in climatology, let alone paleoclimatology. A growing number atospheric scientists are saying that the warming is due to solar output, even though such an opinion is not likely to get you grant money or tenure.

  8. No one has anything to say about the IRAQ comments in the letter posted? Or did no one bother to read the entire letter?

    I’m surprsied no one has mentioned it (except me), yet this is starting to turn into a (another) global warming thread.

  9. Scoville – do you believe that we – the human race – are having no effect on the planet and the environment at all. that there is absolutley no global warming and that everything is fine. That we should just continue doing everything the way we are and not worrty about a thing?

  10. Whatever. The Academy had Seinfeld up there to be funny, and he was. Can’t blaim him for being his normal sarcastic self. If you want to get upset about it, blaim the Academy for asking Seinfeld to present. It was obvious to me that he was being sarcastic and that he didn’t actually believe the documentaries were all “incredibly depressing.” I thought he was actually poking a little fun at the people who don’t watching documentaries because they think docs are only “incredibly depressing.” That exact phrase is the number one thing I hear from friends and family when they say the won’t watch a doc with me. Seinfeld nailed it.

  11. in all fairness intelligentright if you are referring to the in memorium montage campea has always said the in memorium montage is great and should always be there…he just doesn’t like the endless stream of montages for no real purpose other than to have a montage.l..

    i don’t mind them myself…i would rather see clips from filsm then hear a speech from a guy who directed alive action short that I am never going to see ever…..

    again seinfelds statement about the noms being depressing fit right in with how his humour is often described anyway – its funny because its true!

  12. Can I hear an AMEN for Alfies last post!?!

    The fact is the awards are skewed towards depressing movies, and that’s especially true of documentaries.

    Maybe I’m pulling opinions out of a body cavity, or maybe I noticed something during my undergraduate years studying film at UCSC. Whichever it is, I decided back then that documentary film makers tended to be sanctimonious and obsessed with the negative. They were certainly not the kind of people who could laugh at themselves.

    I say BRAVO for Jerry Seinfeld. He wasn’t just getting a laugh, he was helping them grow emotionally. John Sinno just needs to grow a little more than the rest.

  13. I must say, for you to announce: [spelling error left uncorrected]

    “…have to admit that the way he said “Depressing films” showed a lot of disrespect to people and films who have waitied their whole lives for that moment.”

    And yet, turn around and say call the collection of clips shown at the Oscars in honor of those who dedicated their ENTIRE LIVES to the craft of making film a “Pointless montage”, you’re quite the hypocrite.

  14. it wasn’t a joke though…it was a fact.

    all of those films ARE depressing……it would have been a joke had he have been giving out the award for best “happy feel good film of the year” if that was a category and he said they were depressing that would have been a joke because youwould assume nominees in that category are not depressing…….not a very good joke I know but what I am getting at is that the nominees were depressinhg… i don’t know how many of you have seen all the doco from this year but I have I and they are all fucking bummers…so it wasn’t really a joke at all…it was the truth…..

    the father of the groom analogy isn’t really right either…he didn’t say “and the five boring shitty nominees are….”

    he said they were depressing….and they fucking are.

  15. Fucking right campea. That’s why I love this site. You aren’t affraid to say it as it is now matter if it’s the popular opinion or not. Screw Seinfeld. He hasn’t been funny since I’m telling you for the last time.

  16. At first I thought yeah, that is pretty offensive, but then you look at the films nominated, and of the ones I’ve seen, you know what, they are pretty fucking depressing. So maybe if you look at the comment as a observation of the state of the world rather than the state of documentary film making its not quite so offensive.

    You know what, the last thing I fucking want anybody to do is fucking tell the guy he can’t speak his mind, fuck that, we have way to much of that already.

  17. One of the major componets of humor is timing. At that moment
    a comedian hired to present that category and to be funny, watched 5 depressing video clips, what would any comedian say at THAT moment…


    “it’s kinda like the father of the groom getting up and making a joke about the bride being a slut. Maybe it’s funny, but it’s not the time or place.”

    That moment was for the nominees, not Jerry Seinfeld. And Seinfeld made it about himself at the expense of the people that moment was for.

  19. pffft i would would say that i care….but i dont…sienfeld was kinda funny to me but not that much…just not my cup o tea….i personally think the show was good.. i just didnt like his stand up to much … and im pretty sure he didnt mean to offend any one… but fuck it what can i say or do that will change it all…and yes it is on the minds of a lot of people(soldiers) but let me remind u that all these soldiers signed up to go over there and that if u sign up for somehing and get paid the what the fuck u want me to do about it…fuck i sign up for a lot of shit that comes back to haunt me ….. oh well good luck to every one who likes to complain.

  20. This guy is way oversensitive and has no sense of humor. Simple as that. It was a joke. Ellen made similar edgy jokes herself and many other comments were said throughout the broadcast. Seinfeld isn’t going to get up there and tell knock-knock jokes for five minutes. This guy is just selfish and needs to spend less time writing overblown letters and more time finding a sense of humor. Jerry should have brought Kramer on stage.

  21. He should be lucky the academy even acknowledges documentaries. There are so many facets of movie making that are not honoured during these awards, even the tech guys are forced to do it on a separate night.

    Just be thankful for what you have, a mega star is standing on stage before millions of people handing out an award for acomplishments in your field, be happy!!!

    And its been said, but come the fuck on, all of the docs were fucking depressing!! if not for Seinfeld would we even be talking about the documentry category right now?

    Save your grief for when its deserved, if he wanted to he could have verbally slammed you into the ground, he just lightened things up a bit, Im sure he wasnt all that excited about presenting the Doc award in the first place.

    Suck it up!


  22. OMG! He pointed out a black heckler in the audience and screamed, “LOOK THERE’S A NIGGER!!! HE’S A…oh wait, that wasn’t Seinfeld, we need to really look at what crossing the line is and stop dwelling in bullshit and whining like fucking kindergarteners, all it does is create pointless debates that go round and round and become big “focus” issues in the media, fuck that shit!

    It’s a joke in itself that this is even being disscussed. And I myself have now come off as whining and bitching about someone elses whining and bitching, just more of that round and round, snowball rolling downhill getting bigger and bigger cold bullshit. If you are ever insulted in such a low fucking degree such as this (however the hell its possibly), you need to grab onto reality and hold on tight.

  23. The docs ARE depressing. Seinfeld didn’t tell people not to see them. Lighten up.

    And then stating that the night was disappointing because they didn’t mention Iraq? Please. “though it was on the minds of many in the theatre and of millions of viewers…. Having mention of the Iraq War avoided altogether was a painful reminder for many of us that our country is living in a state of denial.” WHAT!? Iraq was about the furthest thing from my mind while watching the Oscars (even though your film specifically discusses the war). We hear and see about Iraq everyday, every hour and every minute. I think it was a good thing it wasn’t mentioned (because Michael Moore wasn’t there). It’s called escapism. Not denial you twit.

    Grow a pair and have a sense of humor.

  24. why is so bad to refer to these films as depressing?

    i have seen all of the documentaries from this year.

    they are depressing.

    i think they need to get over themselves.

  25. The way I see it, the only people who can answer the question “did Seinfeld cross the line”, are the people he insulted. None of the rest of our opinions mean squat.

  26. In retrospect I totally agree with Sinno. Yeah I laughed at the joke at first, but it’s kinda like the father of the groom getting up and making a joke about the bride being a slut. Maybe it’s funny, but it’s not the time or place. Be funny, but it wasn’t the time or place to slam the nominees.

    Can anyone think of anything more intelligent to say other than “don’t take it so seriously” or “It’s Seinfeld”?

  27. No one is arguing that Jerry wasn’t funny. It was funny. But is that the only test of it was right to do? I mean come on now. Really?

    It’s ONE night of the year. Just one night. A night to honor the hard work, dedication and ofter YEARS of labour that filmmakers put into their projects. Is a little respect too much to ask? just one frigging night?

    Are we such a culture of A.D.D. that the giggle is all that matters or has any meaning? Really?

    No one is arguing that you can’t be funny. I just didn’t think the last little jab… calling the nominees “extremly depressing” was needed to be funny. He was already funny.

    Oh well… guess I’m out voted. Then again, we’re the culture who made Norbit and Wild Hogs the #1 movies at the box office. :P

  28. I’m really shocked at how school yard a lot of the comments in here are. It is possible to be funny, to be Jerry Seinfeld, to be entertaining without disrespecting a whole category of films and the artists who made it.

    But this is the school yard, so I guess it ok as long as it’s funny. Watching the little kid getting beat up is cool too I guess, as long as it’s fun to watch.

  29. You’re right, I would much rather hear some boring, half-witted introduction to the category written by Bruce Vilanch and Carrie Fisher that I’ll ignore and forget about 5 seconds after it’s said.

    This is so ridiculous. Is this a funeral or an awards telecast? It would be nice if some of these people would stop taking themselves so seriously. Of course, maybe that’s why he directed such a snoozefest as “Iraq in Fragments.”

  30. Come on — this guy is taking himself way too seriously. Everyone should be able to laugh at themself, all this guy’s pompous letter to the Academy does is illustrate that he can’t.

    Seinfeld provided one of the highlights of the night. Remember last year when Ben Stiller dressed up in blue Spandex to poke fun at special effects? Don’t remember special effects guy getting in a sulk about that… This guy needs to lighten up.

  31. Seinfeld was hilarious! Ok to be fair I can see where this guy is coming from. It’s his big night and Seinfeld kinda dumped on his film from the stage. But you gotta admit it was one of the highlights of the evening.

  32. I thought was going to be about theater chain operators being pissed at him for saying they overcharge so much it’s okay to just throw your trash on the floor.

  33. what’s so wrong with calling those documentaries ‘depressing’ anyway? i don’t think any of the five documentaries were made to get many laughs out of the audience.

  34. It pains me to say it, but I think John/Giovanni is right on this one. If I was one of the nominees i think I’d be upset too. You can be funny without insulting a whole genre of film people. But I agree that he probably didn’t mean anything by it.

  35. Flame on. I think this might be a hot-button topic. May even break Seinfelds chances of getting asked for next year…which is a shame.

    I do not work in the film industry, and the guy is certainly allowed to express his opinion on this, but COME ON PEOPLE, the entire world bitches about the ludicrous nature of the Oscars. It’s a costume pageant that helps raise awareness of films and the industry in general by putting on a big show. A little sense of humour may be warranted.

    I think what hurts the oscars most is that it tries to be so damn solemn about the movie experience while there are hundreds of E! and Fashion pundits critiquing the dresses not 100 meters away. Doesn’t the whole thing come across as a bit ridiculous anyway.

    Makes Mr. Sinno seem more out of touch than anything else. And kinda proves Mr. Seinfelds point even if it was done a bit tongue in cheek (if you wanted to avoid SARCASM and hipster-IRONIC tone why the heck did you get SEINFELD to present the award in the first place!)

    And I wonder if Senfeld even wrote his own jokes for this piece, don’t all these big awards shows have most of the dialogue coming across a teleprompter, like when Mr. Eastwood forgot his glasses and wrecked a perfectly good tribute to master composer Ennio Morricone? Someone should be bitching about that more than the Doc intro.

    Said my peace.

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