A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
I love movies. When I’m finally convicted of a capital crime my last request on Earth is going to be dinner and a movie. Movies are one of humanity’s last intimate experiences. They are personal, powerful and private. That’s why people cry at the movies. So it’s with great sadness that I take this opportunity to bitch about the movies and all the claptrap that clings to them like smeary stuff on Velcro. Movie people are ruining movies.
Normally, I don’t care. I can avoid the artful dodger directors, the over-medicated actresses and Alec Baldwin. I wouldn’t know Scarlett Johannson, off camera, if she hit me over the head with a 2-by-4, and I like it that way. I don’t give a rat’s buttock for camera angles and lighting. Nobody should, unless you’re a camera angle person or a lighter-upper guy. But every year, at this time, the Academy Awards release the names of their nominees, and the pompous asses come out to pontificate like it’s cinematographic Hallowe’en. It’s as if we all died with a sin on our soul and Purgatory is Entertainment Tonight.
First of all, if God had a modicum of mercy, He would put a stop to all these “Gimme an Award” award shows. By the time the Golden Globes, The Screen Actors’ Guild, The People’s Choice etc. etc. etc. etc. get around to the Oscars, every living creature from Santa Barbara to Laguna Beach has a film award. I’m surprised that all the people accepting their awards, night after night, have any time left over to actually make movies. It must be embarrassing:
“I got a Golden Globe!”
“Yeah? So did Bingo, my hairdresser.”
I’ll betcha they’re using them as hood ornaments on their Hummers. It’s like the Student-of-the-Week certificate you got in grade school. I kept mine for a while — until I finally figured out what Mrs. Cranston was up to.
This year’s Oscar nominees are remarkably similar to last year’s nominees, and the scary part is I haven’t got a clue what this year’s nominations are all about. I take that back. I know there’s one where everybody talks with an English accent; you’d have to be living on Jupiter not to have heard about that one. (I’m betting my nickels it’s Colin Firth’s turn.) There’s one with Jeff Bridges, a remarkable actor who can actually play The Big Lebowski playing a cowboy playing John Wayne playing Rooster Cogburn. There’s one about a true life struggle or the triumph of the human spirit or something. There’s the perennial favourite They Came to Talk, a tale of heartwarming sadness, and then a whole pile of other ones. Oh, yeah! And everybody’s pissed ‘cause whatshisname didn’t get nominated, eh? That’s par for the course. A lot of people in this country are still mad at Hollywood because Men with Brooms never got anything. This all sounds oh-so-catty, but, deep in your heart, you must know that the 367th running of the Academy Awards is getting a bit predictable. And poor old Oscar is becoming woefully outgassed by all the other hardware that’s getting thrown around.
However, come February 27th, I’m going to watch — just like I do every year. Oscar is still the Big Kahuna, Gidget, and Hollywood still makes good movies, despite what the CBC will tell you. Of course, in recent history, I spend a bunch more time doing other things on Oscar night. I check out the red carpet, for example, to see which bony bimbo shows up dressed as a turnip. And I watch anxiously — all evening — to see if Johnny Depp finally achieves maximum cool and bursts into flame. I’m getting a little tired of baby bumps, though. Honestly, if Natalie Portman doesn’t want to practice Safe Sex, that’s her business. And I’ve noticed it’s getting harder and harder for Sean Penn to even walk across the stage since he got that stick shoved up his ass. Of course, that’s what’s wrong with the Oscars, isn’t it? Movie people just take themselves too damn seriously.
Movies, films or cinema — depending on how far you went in college — are about entertainment. Full stop. Shakespeare knew this, centuries before he fell in love with Gwyneth Paltrow and Judi Dench got an Oscar for a walk-on Elizabeth I (who came across as M at a costume party.) But I digress. Shakespeare and the boys invented show business, and they knew the reason people came to the Globe Theatre. It was because they wanted to put their mundane lives on Pause and hit Play on their imagination. After that, you can do what you want to. But if Hamlet’s teenage angst hadn’t captured the crowd’s imagination in the first place, we’d all be watching bear-baiting on A&E. Trust me; that’s where Shakespeare’s audience was headed when they saw the marquee.
Acting, directing and producing movies is hard work. The people who do it are serious. In the main, I like their product but not every “good” movie is a Testament to the Human Condition, and not every “good” character is a reflection of all of us. I don’t care what a director is “trying” to do, nor how many critics stick their body parts in the air, in approval. In the end it’s all make believe. It’s been that way since Grog the caveman played the mastodon in the original Quest for Fire. Come on! What are the chances that Darth Vader is Luke’s Dad? I mean, really!