The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

AND ANOTHER ROUND OF OSCARS, IF YOU PLEASE: Oscar has come and gone once again, as he is wont to do at this time of year, and as always he leaves not a rack of overpriced clothing behind. That sort of thing happens a lot when Oscar comes to town; he’s very much a schizophrenic Santa Claus that way; you lavish praise and money on him, and if he feels like it, he’ll come home with you. Even people who know Oscar isn’t coming home with them will go and make their obeisance to the little gold man. People not up for anything will spend the gross domestic product of a small Third World nation getting ready to sit in an auditorium and watch the nominees sweat like Mrs. Murphy’s prize pig and pretend that they are happy when they don’t win. The show would be much more interesting if the Academy gave the nominees bowie knives and told them that whoever made to the podium first would get the statue. Idolatry being Hollywood’s major religion, I am sure that the resultant bloodbath would be tremendous, epic, maybe even Cecil B. DeMille-like in its size, scale, intensity, and duration. It might even encourage the fashion designers to use more easily washable plastic fabrics in their creations and would also lead to more ads from cutlery manufacturers, who wouldn’t mind such an international showcase for their wares.

The show was its usually boring self, even if Ellen DeGeneres did her level best to liven things up; I liked the bit with Martin Scorcese and the screenplay—if you want to pitch a screenplay to a major player in the movie industry, it helps if you get the guy to keep still for a minute, like at the Oscars or when they are sitting on the toilet—and the vacuum cleaner was a cute bit of business, I thought, but then I am easily entertained. Mr. Scorcese finally won for Best Director and Peter O’Toole did not win again for Best Actor. Mr. O’Toole received a lifetime achievement Oscar a couple of years ago, so maybe the voters thought he could live without a Best Actor Oscar; he has, after all, managed to have an outstanding career without ever getting one, so maybe he doesn’t need one. After all, Kevin O’Connell received his nineteenth nomination in sound engineering this year, and once again, Kevin O’Connell didn’t get an Oscar, which is, I hear, the record for moviemaking futility, and Mr. O’Toole is nowhere near that number and probably doesn’t want to be, either. Melissa Etheridge won for best song and thanked her wife and their kids, which, to be kind, is legally illusional in the first place and biologically delusional in the second. She won for An Inconvenient Truth, a movie about global warming, which stars, if you can call it that, former Vice President Al Gore. Leonardo diCaprio encouraged Mr. Gore to announce his candidacy as they stood together on stage, and Mr. Gore was about to do so before the tuxedo-clad orchestra interrupted him. Mr. Gore looked surprised as the music drowned out his announcement. I can’t imagine why, though; you'd think that at this point in his life Mr. Gore would have gotten used to unseen men in black thwarting his political ambitions. Then there was Michael Mann’s rapturous and overwhelmingly patriotic paean to America, the land of the weird and the home of depraved, which was about what you would expect, given the audience, and there was much talk of diversity in the movies this year.

And yet, where was that much vaunted diversity at the Oscar show, especially in the category of Best Animated Feature? Cameron Diaz came out and, before reading the winner, told the assembled animated characters that they could not come up on stage to receive their awards. I was shocked, shocked, I tell you, at this blatant reimposition of Jim Crow, and in the very heart of Hollywood at that. It wasn’t that long ago that animated characters were completely welcome at the Oscar ceremonies. I clearly remember Chicken Little, Buzz Lightyear, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Woody the cowboy, and Kermit and Miss Piggy, who technically aren’t animated, I know, among others, giving out awards in any number of categories; I also remember the Academy’s honoring Chuck Jones for his work in animation not that many years ago, and I remember Beauty and the Beast’s nomination for Best Picture as well.

What has happened, then, that the Academy would try to impose this vile apartheid based not on the quality of a nominee’s work, but on the color of their pixels? Hasn’t the country moved beyond this sort of ugly anti-animation bigotry? Isn’t it time for the Academy to move beyond their loathsome bias and readmit animated characters to the movie industry’s mainstream? It certainly couldn’t hurt the Oscar show. By forcibly keeping the animated characters in the audience and only allowing the inanimate ones up on stage to drone on and on for their allotted portion, the Academy only makes the Oscars drag on and on and on and on and on, until the vast majority of the audience no longer cares who wins for Best Deputy Supporting Gofer and turns their televisions off, convinced, if they weren’t already, that the Oscar ceremonies, like math class and eating liver with lima beans, are proof positive that Einstein was right and time is relative. There is a small advantage to this, however; people who watch the Oscars from beginning to end are, on the average, five to ten minutes younger than those who don’t the program all the way through. They are just not as interesting.

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