26 February 2011

They Say That in Hollywood Oscar is King, Which I Suppose Means That it's a Corrupt Monarchy

You may not like a powerful winter storm or an oppressive summer heat wave but there they are, pretty hard to ignore. The same can be said of the annual Academy Awards. There is much to dislike about them for true cinephiles and much that should be ignored. But there it is.

I've made my disdain for the Oscars quite clear on numerous occasions. For every time the Best Picture award has gone to something deserving such as No Country For Old Men (2007), All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) or Casablanca (1942) there have been three or four travesties. Cases in point: How Green Was My Valley over Citizen Kane in 1941, Ordinary People over Raging Bull in 1980, An American in Paris over A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951, Rocky over Network and Taxi Driver in 1976 and who can ever forget the odious Crash winning in 2005 against fellow nominees as Brokeback Mountain, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich and Capote – all of which were far more deserving (which admittedly didn't take a lot).

The acting wards are often not given for the best performance but out of sentiment. Hence the laughable presenting of the Oscar for best Actor to John Wayne in 1969 (True Grit) over Dustin Hoffman (Midnight Cowboy). Paul Newman had deserved the award several times (especially for The Verdict (1982)) and they finally got around to rewarding him for a rather pedestrian performance in The Color of Money (1986). This year Colin Firth will win for The King's Speech. True, his performance was worthy of recognition, but he'll get it as much for having lost by a whisker last year to Jeff Bridges and for his impressive body of work as he will for stuttering like a King.

At any rate, this year's show will be "interesting" (I use the word loosely) because of the co-hosts, Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Word is the Academy wanted to lure a younger audience. On the one hand I feel that if you kiddies can't appreciate last year's hosting duo of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin there's something seriously wrong with you. But, on the other hand, I really like both Hathaway and Franco and reckon that most folks share my fondness for them.

Both seem like people I'd want to hang out with. Franco is both popular and respected these days. He is the very antithesis of Charlie Sheen. He's acting, producing, writing and earning a Ph.D. Franco is clearly a young man with a strong social conscience but somehow seems not to avoid ticking off conservatives in the process, unlike Sean Penn.

The Oscars show is at its best when presenting their montages honoring someone or recognizing a particular type of film or genre. Their tribute to those Academy members who have died in the preceding year is also usually touching. Some of the acceptance speeches are quite nice though the majority seem to be from people we never heard of thanking still more people we have never heard of while we are left to twiddle our thumbs.

This year I fully expect The King's Speech to win the Oscar for Best Picture. It's the type of film that the academy loves. Historical drama, excellent costume design, nice sets and broad and wonderful acting performances. I found it an altogether mediocre movie. It had the story arc of the modern day sports picture. Someone struggling, gets a coach with unconventional methods, quits, comes back (didn't see that coming) overcomes handicap, big clutch victory as we cut to scenes of people in various places celebrating the triumph including the beaming coach. Ho hum. On a scale of one to ten its originality rating would be a two.

Two of the ten nominees are actually outstanding films. Winter's Bone and Black Swan. And the Coens' version of True Grit is laudable as well. A lot of people loved The Social Network. I thought it a nice enough movie and wouldn't argue a second with anyone who loves it. As a nod to 17 year old boys everywhere, Inception actually earned a nomination. Another nominee is The Kids Are All Right. This just proves that if the Academy will give the picture award to Crash, all bets are off.

So tomorrow night at around 9:30 in this time zone I know exactly what I'll be thinking: that's three hours I'll never get back. And now I'm going to watch The Searchers (1956). it didn't win the Best Picture award either.

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