March 5th, 2006


Hollywood loves Hollywood

Today is the official date of the 78th annual academy awards, something that you could only be unaware of if you live under a very large rock or regularly inhale tainted heroin. Every year the media tries to put some sort of spin on the Oscars. Sometimes it's a theme that the nominated films have in common. Sometimes it's a single awards consuming behemoth that demands our genuflection and worship as it sucks up little golden statues like a fat man at an all you can eat buffet. This year is the year of the queer, a year when many nominated films deal with homosexuality and its discontents as a central theme. "Gay is the new retarded!" trumpet numerous showbiz publications, surely causing much jubilation over in the tastefully appointed headquarters of GLAAD.

The thing is while many of the year's nominated films do, in fact, feature at least the implication of man on man action, the Oscars are actually going to be about what they've always been about, exclusion. They're Hollywood's way of letting the world know who's in with the in crowd and who can just crawl off into a corner somewhere and die. Even in a year like this when many of the nominations have gone to smaller (read 'costing less than one hundred BILLION dollars') productions, there's been great care taken to make sure that the glamor remains firmly contained within the insular bosom of the Hollywood community.

Take the nominees for best picture. Munich is a big expensive production by one of Hollywood's biggest directors. Good Night and Good Luck is a statement picture by one of Hollywood's most famous leading men. Capote is about a famous gay gadfly who was admittedly more New York than Hollywood but wrote his share of Screenplays in his time. Crash is a movie about Los Angeles and liberal guilt made with a hand so heavy that it exerted its own gravitational pull during production. Brokeback Mountain is a product of the Hollywood "independent film" machine, starring up and coming actors who've both been in big sprawling schlockfests. Other than a supporting actress nomination for "Junebug" and a few scraps their way in the screenplay categories the true independents got shut out like a little league team staring down Chris Carpenter.

Of course none of this is news to anyone, but the question is why do we pay so much attention to an award show that's nothing more than a group of rich people patting themselves on the back? If the New York Stock Exchange sponsored "The Carnegies," an opulent award show for the financial set featuring such awards as "Best Tax Evader" and "Most Successful Downsizer" would anyone so much bat an eye? Could it get on Public Access, let alone basically shut down TV for a night (all the other channels are running reruns or random crap. Fox is even doing a TV cut of Bad Boys II, which should be approximately 4 minutes of bleeped dialog interspersed with 116 minutes of commercials)? Does anyone actually change their opinion of a movie based on what the Academy thinks of it? Corporations give presenters $100,000 worth of gifts in the hopes that celebrity use of these products will incite consumers to purchase them. "Look, Brad Pitt got that jacket for free. I must purchase one as soon as possible."

The Oscars represent the least egalitarian aspects of our society. They are the celebration of an overclass by the overclass with the commoners invited to ooh and ahh at the ludicrous excess. Yes they are represented as a "show" with music and comedy, but that's more to add to the spectacle than for any particular value. Memorable Oscars jokes are few and far between, most of them being examples of broken decorum like when Chris Rock blasted Jude Law, and the musical performances are generally dreadful. No, most Oscars attention is focused on questions like "Who are you wearing" (I hope someone answers with something like "Jason McPhebb of Rawston Illinois. His skin makes a lovely leather, and we're using the rest of him for Canapes at the Vanity Fare party. He paid $10,000 for the privilege) and "Which rich person gets drunk and makes a fool of himself in the most spectacular manner?" When elitism masquerades as meritocracy everyone loses. When future historians look back on American civilization they will view our lavish entertainment awards as we view the ridiculous excesses of the Roman Empire. They will not wonder who dressed Scarlett Johansson.