Okay I am watching the Oscars which is always very tedious so you need to do something else like blogging. Right now it is sort of interesting because it seems to be taking place in Bollywood and it looks like Slumdog Millionaire is running the table.
But really I have been alive since Breakfast at Tiffany’s and this show has always been a damn chore. It always amazed me that an entire industry based on entertainment – the movies – could fail so miserably as television. We don’t even critique the Oscars based on any objective criteria – we only critique them based on their failure or success compared to other Oscar shows: who was a better host, what was the best way to present the damn songs, who wore what, who thanked whom and who ran on too long and had to be drowned out by the orchestra. The fact that the awards are being announced live is the only real attraction. Heck, even a bad Super Bowl has good commercials.
And there is this completely dated intro and exit for every segment, replete with orchestral manuevers and shots of chandeliers and lights. And then the segments themselves feature all sorts of interesting actors suddenly sounding as maudlin as James Lipton on bennies and bourbon. Okay, so this last segment was the popular death march clippy where you see all the people who died this last year, with Queen Latifah in a ball gown singing like it’s 1934.
They are doing this thing where previous winners announce each of the actor nominees, and each speech is a benediction upon an eulogy stuffed into a laudatory panegyric. I think it is the incessant swells of orchestral emoticons that get to me. Now another speech and they are all overcome with emotion and I suppose we are supposed to feel emotions because they are feeling emotions in some sort of primitive mimicking like looking at the bonobos in the zoo.
But I think I figured out the reasons behind the endless boring nature of the Oscars and why it can never change. First, cinema is the art form of the last century and it is our most popular art form. This means people will watch no matter how bad the show is. Second, moviemaking is the most labor intensive, collaborative art form. The credits for any movie list hundreds of names. This means that people who get awards have an impossibly long list of other people who made that award possible. Always. Third, that massive crowded collaboration that is the creation of cinematic art denies in many ways the idea that you can give out an award to an individual or even the two or three who we have been seeing for sound editing, etc.
Now Reese Witherspoon is giving the director award to Danny Boyle and he is speed talking through the list of all the people he has to thank, but the director is the one we assign the role of author, or perhaps architect, since it takes a whole lot of people to build a building as well. Now actress and Kate Winslet was interesting and now we are doing actor and I get this new angle of having the past winners. This ups the ante. You get to see five famous actors honor five other famous actors. Most people will see this as more value – “hey I spent three hours watching that show but I got to see 58 famous people.” I suppose it is not news that this is a big self-congratulatory blunderblessfest, a sort of mid-60s Rotary Club awards dinner that goes on forever and people get loopier and longer-winded.
Sean Penn won for Milk and put on glasses to read the credits of all the people he has to thank. And now he has made the anti-Prop 8 statement – eloquently. That is the other reason we used to watch the Oscars – for Sasheen Littlefeather and streakers and Richard Gere going all Buddha and even Sean Penn sniping back a couple years ago – we watch to see what might happen on live TV – the breakdown, the spontaneous outburst, the political statement, the break from the maudlin script, the actual emotion. Heck, I remember Paddy Chayefsky’s famous outburst 30 years ago in response to all the other outbursts. It is the original reality TV only done in a really fancy room full of fancy people in fancy outfits. Now the final winner has started off saying it was a “collaboration of hundreds of people” and he has a bunch of them on the stage and you have to understand that individual people need to see individuals honored because that is what we relate to in some primitive way even if the reality behind this reality show is that to produce a contemporary work of art is not an act of individual creativity.
Tags: Oscars 2009