And The Oscar Goes To……WTF!

oscarsThe Academy Awards are over for another year.  What a joke!   The one bright spot was Neil Patrick Harris and he’s still getting pummelled across Social Media.  Quite frankly, at 87, Oscar is showing his age.  It’s like going to visit your aunt at the Seniors’ Centre and discovering it’s Crafts Night.  Suddenly, you’re up to your ass in hideous homemade crap, and you’ve got to figure out something nice to say.  This year’s Academy Awards were as big a disappointment as they have been for the last decade, but  then Oscar has always been a bit dotty.  (Remember: Ben Affleck has gotten the statue — twice!)  Here are just a few of the Academy’s major malfunctions.

Richard Burton, Montgomery Clift, Leonardo Dicaprio and Edward Norton have never won an Oscar.
Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Sigourney Weaver and Annette Bening haven’t, either.
Peter O’Toole — who played Lawrence of Arabia, Henry II (twice) Mr. Chips and Maurice Russell — wasn’t good enough to get an Oscar, and neither is Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons and Fatal Attraction, notwithstanding.
Alan Rickman, Isabella Rossellini and Donald Sutherland have never even been nominated!

Crash beat out Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture in 2005
Sylvester Stallone’s  Rocky won over Taxi Driver in 1976
In 1955, Marty wiped the floor with East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, probably because neither of them was even nominated.
And, in what can only be called the biggest WTF moment in cinematic history, How Green Was My Valley beat Citizen Kane for Best Picture in 1941.

Stanley Kubrick never won an Oscar, and, so far, neither has Ridley Scott.

However, for my money, the thing that Oscar and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science will never live down is screwing Alfred Hitchcock over for 40 years.  Yeah, they gave him the Irving G Thalberg Memorial  in 1968 — but big deal — it isn’t actually an Oscar.  Hitchcock knew it, too.  His entire acceptance speech was “Thank you…very much indeed.” and then he walked out.  Well played, Alfred.  Well played!

What We Learn From The Movies

movieMack Sennett, one of the greatest directors ever (over 1,000 films) believed that movies were just an excuse for a chase scene, and for a hundred years, Hollywood directors lived (and died) by this credo.  Fortunately, today we live in a far more sophisticated age, and contemporary audiences are not sucked in by such tricks.  These days, movies are complex windows into the human condition.  They show us our world without cheap cinematic varnish.  With that in mind, here are a few truths we have learned from recent movies, especially the Action/Adventure features, which, btw, have always been a box office favourite.

Detectives, firemen, Special Forces personnel, Forest Rangers and Boy Scouts all have a sordid past.  This has left them jaded, sleepy, slightly constipated and somewhat saddened by that condition.  They live alone, mainly in squalor and even though they have maximum trouble relating to women (past, present and future) are not gay (at least, not overtly.)

Evil men are good looking, usually corporation rich, have impeccable taste, beautiful wives and/or girlfriends but despite being highly intelligent, always surround themselves with some of the stupidest henchmen in history.

All Assistant District Attorneys, world-renowned scientists, cryptographers, secretaries and American Vice Presidents wear push-up bras.

Dumb-ass sidekicks are always smart enough not to get caught by evil men or their stupid henchmen.

The deadliest marksmen in the world will always miss the first shot and then go nuts, spraying bullets around like they’re throwing pennies to the poor.

And speaking of which, bullets love plate glass windows.

When confronted with evil, men will have body armour, guns, knives, grenades, poison darts, a jousting lance, nunchucks, assorted landmines, two bazookas and a small tank readily available. Their female companions, however, will have a thong, high heels, that push-up bra again and a butter knife.

High speed car chases always occur in congested urban areas where normal commute times are measured in days and itmovie1 would take you or me somewhere between 20 minutes and 2 hours to make a left turn.

Men can successfully fend off five, six, ten, two hundred or more determined attackers, but when faced with a feisty female in a love-tap play fight, they will drop like somebody shot them.

When fleeing an explosion, if you run as fast as you can, you will get flung into the air and bounced on the ground like a rag doll.  However, if you just calmly walk away you will not be touched.

After having sex, women are normally naked, whereas men usually have their underwear on.

Hand guns prefer to be just out of reach.

Villains never just shoot detectives, firemen, Special Forces personnel, Forest Rangers or Boy Scouts as soon as they catch them but always take a few quality moments to reveal and outline their nefarious plans.

When you hear subtle North African music, innocent North Americans are going to die.

Men can be hit by a train, dragged behind a speeding motorcycle, trampled by a herd of panicking wildebeests and beaten senseless by sixty blood-crazed Shaolin monks, but will only wince when a female dabs their wounds with a Kleenex.

All old buggers are grouchy, but like prostitutes and crack addicts, normally have a heart of gold.

Any criminal investigation, including parking tickets, will eventually end up at a strip club, a seedy bar or a scuzzy hotel.

So, what have we learned?

After over a hundred years of movie making, audiences are no longer fooled by cheap theatrics.  They demand more from their entertainment dollar than a series of phony chase scenes.  They want sophisticated storylines and complex characters.  But mostly they want a true reflection of the world they live in, portrayed with realism and intelligence.  Just take a look at Argo.  Last year, it won an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Entertainment is Us!

A very wise man once said, “The problem with doing nothing is you never know when you’re done.”  As we march further and further into the 21st century, our society is discovering that this is indeed true.  Idle time is infinite in its scope, and even though we are harvesting it at a furious pace, it literally goes on forever.  It is the ultimate renewable resource and perhaps the only one that can save us from devouring our planet raw and abandoning the carcass to the cosmos.

Ever since human beings figured out there was a concept called time, we’ve been trying to get away from it.  I’m certain our relentless pursuit of leisure started when Lucy and her sisters looked longingly back at the apes and thought, “Those were the good old days.”  Yet, for most of human history, leisure has been a rare commodity, traded only by the wealthy.  The vast majority of our ancestors simply worked every day until it was too dark to see anymore and eventually dropped dead of exhaustion.  It wasn’t until organized religion came along that anybody even thought of taking a day off.  However, once those floodgates were opened, people just naturally gravitated to sitting on their ass.  Soon the Lord’s Day had company when a few extra holidays got sprinkled into the year.  Then it was half a day off on Saturday, a shorter work day, long weekends, paid vacation, early retirement and the list goes on and on.

The idea, of course, was that people need time away from work in order to recharge their life spirit, enjoy the arts, relax and metaphorically take a moment to smell the flowers.  I suppose at some point, in the olden days, we did do some of that stuff, but in this century it’s all about entertainment.  Somewhere back in the mid 1950s, we sat down to watch television and now– sixty years later– most of us just aren’t getting up anymore.  In fact, between video games, cell phones and Smart TVs, some people never leave the world of entertainment.  We’re rapidly approaching the point where, at any given moment, more people in our society are passively doing nothing than actively doing anything.  The best we can hope for is a game of Wii tennis, but for most people, it’s only Season 3 of Everybody Loves Friends or Level 8 of Angry Birds™.  We’re wasting so much time we could build a parallel reality with the leftovers.

However, before you jump to the natural conclusion that we’re entering some kind of a slobbering, Trans Fat, sci-fi dystopia, there is a silver lining to this soulless dark cloud.  Our wall-to-wall lust for entertainment might just be the thing that saves our dying world.  Think about it!  The human species, who have been digging, chopping, burning, bullying and paving our planet for over 5,000 years, are now fully contained by all nine seasons of The Beverly Hillbillies – delivered directly to their homes or mobile devices.  All they have to do is keep their eyes open.  Likewise, the reckless ambitions of millions of people are being played out every hour as billions of harmless Black Ops mouse clicks that disappear instantaneously, without a trace.  The only casualty is Carpal Tunnel.  Rhetorically speaking, what’s wrong with a guy selling a million dollars worth of The Rainbow App he developed in his parent’s basement?  (The only resources he consumed were grilled cheese and Pepsi™.)  Especially if he sells it to the inert among us who prod the unicorn to do tricks for a day or two and then move on to The Flying Witch App, thus repeating the cycle of mythological abuse.  It’s all thin air, guys!  Without substance, it does no harm.  Plus, and here’s the beauty of it, it’s economically infinite.  Resurrected sit-coms from the 80s are selling just as often as 1st run movies, and nobody is getting tired of blasting the bad guy, the beast or the undead zombie warrior.  It’s capitalism at its finest – supply and demand meshed in perfect harmony.

The reality of our times is we are now massive passive consumers of inactivity.  We can rail all we want about the Dark Side, but– as with any drug – good luck taking it away!  Karl Marx may have been right in the 19th century when he almost said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses” but here in the 21st, God takes a back seat to Netflix, Warcraft and Facebook.