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The 76th Academy Awards: Call Me Oscar the Grouch
March 1, 2004
by Michael Walls

Call me Oscar the Grouch, because after staying up past midnight, on a school night, to watch the Academy Awards this year, that’s how I felt the next day.

The Oscars have been getting out of hand for years now, but after this year’s show, I’m officially through with them. It has become nothing more than a gigantic PR show for Hollywood’s flavors-of-the-year, publicity for the DVD market, and shameless photo fodder for every entertainment TV show and newsstand magazine. It has nothing to do will excellence in filmmaking or acting or art in general.

Unlike past years, I actually saw 3 out of the 5 movies nominated for Best Picture. And all three deserved to be nominated. But, considering Lord of the Rings didn’t even register a best acting nominee (acting and writing being the two critical elements in any film to be considered “art” in my book), I’m not sure what criteria the “academy” used to select it as the best movie of the year. I certainly enjoyed it, but thought Seabiscuit and Master and Commander had better acting.

Putting aside the “acting” element, I understand that the technical side of filmmaking is finally (and justifiably) being recognized, and is probably the basis by which Lord of the Rings made a clean sweep of the Oscars. But, how is it that Lord of the Rings, a tremendous epic trilogy, requiring thousands of artists, professionals, general production personnel, years and years of shooting and post-production, and costing truck loads of studio money – wins the prestigious and coveted Oscar, then has to stand in the same room next to a guy named Adam Elliot who has just won a similar-looking statue for a short animated film named Harvie Krumpet?

Talk about diluting the Oscar gene pool. No offense to Mr. Elliot – I’m sure Harvie Krumpet is a delightful little stop-motion film. But, crips – what a downer for a guy like Pete Jackson. Imagine walking around at the after-party with your “Best Director” Oscar for Lord of the Rings tucked under your arm and bumping into Adam Elliot with his Oscar in hand. “Oh...hey there Elliot. Uh...congratulations on...uh...Davie Krumpet was it?”

Doesn’t seem right.

Another question. Are we rewarding art or entertainment? It doesn’t matter to me – I’m just asking. I believe art can be entertaining and entertainment can be art. I guess I’m just wondering why “comedy” (which is entertainment) is never really considered “Oscar” material. Is “comedy” not “art?”

It seems the way the Academy Awards work, comedy actors need to put out a serious dramatic role in order to be considered a nominee for an Oscar. Examples are Robin Williams and Tom Hanks, and this year’s classic comedic actor-turned-serious Oscar nominee, Bill Murray. Bill should have been nominate in 1980 for his portrayal of the shell-shocked greens keeper, Carl Spackler in Caddyshack. That performance was absolute Oscar material if there ever was one. No one could have pulled off that role but Murray. Try to imagine highly regarded and serious actors such as Redford, or Newman, or Connery, or Pacino playing the role of Spackler. Couldn’t be done. But because “comedy” isn’t considered accomplishing or artful – Bill Murray needs to jump genres to get recognized by the “Academy.”

Next, let’s talk about hypocrisy, shall we? I know a lot of actors and Hollywood people get involved in politics and social issues and feel that they can help make a difference in the world because of their high public profile and social status. And guys like Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, like to get their digs in and spout off about what people should do to make a difference. Well, going to Academy Awards for these people is like a priest hitting a strip bar on the way home from church.

Aside from the growing belief that the Oscars are becoming corrupt because of the tremendous commercial incentives (movie studios actively campaign for their movies and stars as if they were presidential candidates), the amount of money thrown around on the day of the Academy Awards is shameful. This year’s gluttonous perks included $100,000 worth of goodies for all nominees.

So Sean Penn and Tim Robbins walk off with an Oscar each, plus a bag full of useless and frivolous items (such as a vacation package to New Zealand and a diamond studded bra from Victoria’s Secret) totaling $100K. Tim likes to talk about victims of domestic violence, yet his liquidated gift bag could feed a welfare family for 5 years.

If they were serious about their “causes” they would strive to change this gaudy extravaganza.

Lastly, let's talk about the show itself. It’s too long. Come on – let’s be honest – 99% of the viewing population only care about 7 of the awards. Best actor and actress, best supporting actor and actress, best picture, best director and best screenplay. And even more honest, the simpletons don’t even care about the director and screenplay.

The rest of the awards are annoying background noise, time fillers to drag out the show, give obligatory nods to the behind-the-scenes people – that no one knows, cares to know, or will ever remember.

“…and the award for Best Sound Editing goes to…”

Uh...good time to use the bathroom – maybe swing by the fridge and pick up some ice cream.

Why do they bother? I mean, I appreciate the technical people and believe they deserve awards. I appreciate them and often respect them more then these snotty movie stars. But honestly – nobody likes to listen to a geeky sound and visual effect genius, who doesn’t get out of his dark room and mingle with the public often. I’m not watching the Oscars for them. I’m watching the Oscars to see which high-profile movie star makes a jackass out of themselves, or to get a few chuckles from Billy Crystal’s banter, or to see who wins the big seven. So, why make me wait until midnight?

Tell you what we need next year. Start off with a 45-minute, red carpet show, lots of skin, lots of borderline 7-second delay edit moments, followed by a 5-minute Billy Crystal opening, then 30 minutes of blubbering acceptance speeches from pre-selected winners (the drama of the envelope is passé), and a 5-minute Billy Crystal closing. That’s it. This way 99% of the population gets what they came to see, we can all be tucked into bed and sleeping by 10pm Eastern Time, and we can be refreshed and happy the next day around the office water cooler.

(Michael Walls is a volunteer staff writer for 2 Walls Webzine)

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