The Oscars Are Old!


This year, the Oscars have snuck up on me because – uh – well — for the first time in living memory, I don’t really care. This isn’t a sudden revelation: it’s been building for a few years.  Oscar and I are just not that into each other anymore.  It’s sad to lose a lifetime lover, but we’ve grown apart, Oscar and I, and I’m probably going to spend the evening playing with my new friends on Netflix.  So what happened?  Oscar got old.

I’ll grant you I’m no spring chicken, myself.  I can clearly remember the night Oliver, a piece of junk musical, beat The Lion in Winter, for Best Picture – what a shock!  But that’s what Oscar used to be – wild and unpredictable.  It was magic.  It was fun, and everybody wanted to know who won.  These days, despite its chiseled abs and perky breasts, Oscar is old enough to be my grandfather and acts the part.

Let’s face it: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have become a bunch of dithering old people, worried about what the neighbours will think.  Look at all the dicking around over Kevin Hart.  Why does this remind me of Shady Acres Care Facility?
“Okay, fine!  If Mrs. Crabtree can’t run the rummage sale, then I guess we just won’t have a host this year.  Satisfied?”
Plus, there’s the on-again/off-again Popular Picture Award and the bickering over which awards do or do not deserve television time.  God, folks!  Get over yourselves!  Nobody cares!  Ordinary people tune in to Oscar night for the Big Six and wade through the rest because of the dresses.  Here’s a newsflash: there’s only one person who remembers who won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2010 and that’s Nicolas Schmerkin – the guy who won.

The problem is, like old people everywhere, the Academy just doesn’t realize it’s old.  It’s still thinks it’s Ava Gardner-glamourous with oysters and champagne, but what the rest of the world sees is Meryl Streep, drinking low-fat Chablis and blathering on about the intestinal benefits of ancient grains.  The Oscars are too earnest, too political, too aware, and too damn grouchy to be magic anymore.  They’re not fun.  They’re scolding.

So I’m going to give them a miss for all those reasons and mostly because — ever since The Hurt Locker — Oscar has become totally predictable.

Good luck, Black Panther – you haven’t got a chance!

Shrek Killed Eddie Murphy

shrekRemember when Eddie Murphy was funny — and not just regular funny — Axel Foley funny?  Ya ever wonder what happened to Eddie Murphy?  I’ll tell ya what happened to Eddie Murphy.  Shrek happened to Eddie Murphy.  Yeah, Shrek!  Now, I’m as huge a Shrek fan as the next over-the-hill heterosexual male, but the truth is Shrek is the biggest career killer since Rebel Without A Cause bumped off James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo.

Let’s look at the facts:

In the Shrek universe there’s Shrek, Fiona and Donkey — Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy.

Mike Myers — He’s the guy from Saturday Night Live.  The guy who was Wayne Campbell from Wayne’s World and Dieter from Sprockets.  The guy who went on to become Austin Powers and Dr. Evil.  Mike Myers was born to play Shrek.  He brings that perfect balance of testosterone green and 21st century sensitive to the animated screen.  He turned a stereotypical ogre into a multi-layered personality, tough but tender, an ogre for the ages.  But what has he done since then — a 30 million dollar lawsuit and The Cat In The HatThe Cat In The Hat!  In 2003, Golden Raspberry created a special award for “The Worst Excuse For An Actual Movie” and gave it to The Cat In The Hat.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, there was a fly-by in Inglourious Basterds — but nobody cares, and these days Mike Myers is just another used-to-be funny Canadian.

Cameron Diaz — Let’s face it, Cameron Diaz is not a very good actress.  She has her moments, but I don’t see her playing Lady Macbeth anytime soon.  The thing is, at one time, her films were cute and sometimes, through no fault of her own, they even made money.  Then she did Shrek.  Since then, despite one last kick at the Charlie’s Angels cash cow, Diaz has been in so many trash movies she’s earned — earned —  a hazardous waste warning from the EPA.  In 2014, she received not one but two Worst Actress Awards (in the same year!) from The Golden Raspberry — and then … she did Annie.  Honestly, suicide bombers have brighter career expectations than Cameron Diaz.

Eddie Murphy — Now, there was a funny guy.  He made us laugh on Saturday Night Live.  He made us roll off the sofa and pee our pants when he did his red leather Eddie Murphy Raw shtick.  Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop (1, 2 and, slightly, 3) The Nutty Professor, Doctor Doolittle — these are all funny movies.  Then Shrek and Fiona hove up on the horizon (for the record, Donkey is Eddie Murphy’s best role — ever.)  Unfortunately, since then, his career has gone down the toilet.  Take a look!  Since 2001, Eddie Murphy has given the world Pluto Nash, I Spy, Daddy Day Care, Norbit, Imagine That and A Thousand Words (a movie Rotten Tomatoes refused to rate above 0!)  This isn’t a creative slump — it’s a tsunami of godawful.  In 2010, The Golden Raspberry named Eddie Murphy The Worst Actor of the Decade (coincidentally, he beat out Mike Myers for that honour.)  Personally, I’d invest in Kodak, Enron and Blockbuster before I’d put my money into an Eddie Murphy movie.

Obviously, you don’t have to be Jerry Bruckheimer to figure out what’s going on here.  Shrek is cursed.  Clearly, Dreamworks has disturbed the Fairy Tale gods, and now Shrek, Fiona, Donkey and their real life personas must pay the price.  That’s what happened to Eddie Murphy.  Hollywood is cruel.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (2016)

taylor and burton.jpgIt’s not very often I feel sorry for young people.  They’ve got tons of brilliant stuff going on — all the time.  They live in a wonderful age when anything is not only possible, it’s downright probable.  And they wear it well, in general.  They’re smart and way more polite than I ever was at that age, but they’re young yet.  However, for the last couple of days, I’ve felt sorry for them – oddly parental – protective, if you will.  Just as if they didn’t get that cool Christmas present, or grandma forgot their birthday, or they’re teenage sad with hungry love –the poor things.   I’m sad for them because they’re never going to sit in the dark and see Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton – the first time.  Liz and Dick are a forgotten cliché now.  They’re on television, Netflix, Yahoo and YouTube.  They’re gone.  They might just as well be Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.

There’s no way to describe Liz and Dick to the 21st century.  In a world of 24/7 celebrity, they sound trivial — even trite.  They were not.  They didn’t soar above everyone else; they lounged there.  They simply did not share top billing with anyone, and only Marilyn was ever mentioned in the same breath.  There was never any debate.  It was Liz and Dick and then everybody else.  They were celebrities without even trying; to call them Hollywood Royalty or larger than life actually diminishes their stature.  In a time before regulated celebrity gossip, they made news — right alongside Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro.

This isn’t just old man nostalgia either.  I was never a fan.  I didn’t follow them in Photoplay, for example, or tune in when they showed up on Carson or Cavett.  It didn’t matter.  Liz and Dick didn’t care because we were friends.  We, the three of us, shared their movies.  They were on the screen and I sat in the dark, watching them.  We were three consenting adults — together alone.  It just happened that the theatre was full of all those other people who were doing the same thing.

That was the magic of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  They lived in a conjured world that was real, and they let us watch.  There’s no doubt that it’s Edward who tears his soul apart for Laura in The Sandpiper, but somewhere inside there, it’s Burton and Taylor.  When you see it the first time, it’s personal.  These are people you care about.  You want them to be in love, and in the end, they have such a majestic sadness.  It’s the same in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  It might be Martha and George screaming insults at each other, but, somehow, you’re not sure it wasn’t Dick and Liz who invited Nick and Honey to watch.

But that wasn’t all they did.  They knew they were celebrities.  They didn’t deny it.  They flew to Friday night parties in Europe and flew home Sunday morning.  He bought her jewels the size of Easter eggs.  They drank and smoked and partied without any self-conscious leer at the waiting cameras.  They didn’t demand a normal life; they chose to be famous.  Remember, it was Dick and Liz who invented the paparazzi when they carried their half-hidden adultery across to Italy during the filming of Cleopatra in 1962.  It was a time before Rock Hudson was gay; when June and Ward Cleaver still slept in separate beds, every Thursday night.  And the Kennedy brothers kept their mistresses hidden behind the curtains of Camelot.  It was a time when scandals ruined people and careers — but not Dick and Liz.  They were splashed across every newspaper in the world and reviled by everybody but the public.  They didn’t care.  They did what they pleased.  And they kept doing it, brawling and beautiful, for two and a half decades.

Sometime I’m going to see their movies again, but even the biggest TV won’t do them justice.  Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor are special, beyond Hepburn and Tracy and even Bogie and Bacall.  You need to be alone with them — sitting in the dark.