Thursday, March 20, 2014

An Oscar Takeaway

  It was the first Oscars I watched almost all the way through in years. And I enjoyed it. AND I took the bait, live-posting snarky and (I thought) funny barbs about what I liked and what I didn't. I got pissed at Travolta for fucking up the name of a Broadway goddess, and defended Pink's phrasing issues during "Over The Rainbow", on the grounds that it's BECAUSE she was out of her idiom that the performance was, in its way, unique and powerful (and she sang the intro, which NOBODY does). I loved that The Edge didn't shove a delay pedal into my neck, the way he does on 99% of what U2 plays. I played along and was entertained. 

     I was glad to see certain people get awarded. I also found it fitting that American Hustle was bypassed -- I thought it was just way too overrated. Good performances, but if you're gonna play in late 70's territory with the mob, the FBI, and "dese, dem, and dose" accents, just know that "Good Fellas" will fuck you up with one hand tied behind its back. Every time. I didn't see many of the movies that were nominated, but I DID see my SAG-screener of Dallas Buyers Club and thought that both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto turned in great performances. I was happy to see them win. 

     As for Matthew's speech?  Well...he's entitled to his god-speak if that's what he believes. I can definitely agree with his position on the power of gratitude. I thought he went a little batshit with his impression of his late father dancing in heaven in his underwear drinking a beer -- while not mentioning the cause of AIDS awareness and LGBT rights, as Leto did so eloquently. But my friend Peer Bazarini is right -- Matt's an actor, and like most of the successful ones, a bit of a sociopath.  Good sociopaths know how to wear the mask of compassion given the situation -- like making a speech at a charity dinner, etc. But as I saw it, it's HIS speech.  His moment. The guy won best actor and deserved it. So let him be him. 

     I think on the whole we expect too much from actors. Just because someone's absolutely brilliant at behaving truthfully in imaginary circumstances doesn't mean that they can be a great leader, orator, thinker, etc. Although many are. They're people just like any other group. Some are great artists and lousy people. Some are lousy artists and great people. A few have the whole package. We should all be so lucky. I look forward to seeing the rest of the films. 

     Mostly, watching the Oscars after so long a break merely reaffirmed why I tend to shy away from them -- it's mainly a celebration of "The Dream Machine". The reason why entertainment gets so much money, light, and airspace in this corporate plutocracy masquerading as a democracy is that at the mass level the entertainment industry performs an important institutional function: to reinforce dreams and hopes where little or none may actually exist. To show a CGI street paved with gold while our infrastructure falls apart. Entertainment and arts, at their best, are powerful, enlightening, and enjoyable. But it's their "enjoyability" that can make them be used as tools of distraction rather than tools to uplift. Having said that, I'm the first to admit that I enjoy movies and TV with abandon. Great movies CAN uplift, and they CAN change things. But a good, dedicated schoolteacher making next to nothing and staying late to help out a kid has, in my eyes, more value to society than any movie actor. One gets an Oscar, and the other gets a cookie (if they're lucky). 

     Award shows in general, in this era, seem to reflect the whole libertarian/objectivist/ ubermensch/winner-take-all, loser-go-fuck-yourself mentality trickling down from the financial and speculative industries that we all basically dance under. We get to fog up the window staring in at the "Superpeople" -- make fun of 'em without fear of reprisal -- and then go back to roads that suck and schools that suck and massive debts and drones that kill kids, and whatever. The mess of it all seemed perfectly articulated by that god-awful Cadillac commercial during the broadcast -- which was the ad equivalent of watching someone beat off while they're reading "Atlas Shrugged". As Rome was crumbling, ideas took a backseat to spectacle, and whenever I watch the Oscars it's hard not to feel like that's happening again. You may wonder why I would hold such beliefs and yet still want to be in show business? Well, three reasons. One is the Picasso principle -- that "Art is the lie that makes us see the truth." Sometimes that rare project squeaks through the dream machine and holds that mirror up to humanity, makes us face some real shit, and actually moves people to do (and BE) better -- and that's a great thing. Two? In some cases, movies can also create real, actual joy in people, and help them to connect with each other. Considering the state of the world, this is a good thing. And number three? I don't really know how to do anything else. xoxo Chris

No comments:

Post a Comment