Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscars 1: Missing the Point

The evening's BIGGEST star -- Marlon Brando William Howard Gore.

HOLLYWOOD. Even the MSM reviewers were uncharitable about the Oscar telecast. The WAPO's Tom Shales pronounced it "a bore and a horror."  Variety's Tom Lowry said, "this year's Academy Awards ultimately proved a stately if unspectacular-bordering-on-dull affair, with host Ellen DeGeneres' traditional shtick feeling a trifle small for the industry's biggest stage." The NYT's Alessandra Stanley began her review this way:

“Aim lower,” Ellen DeGeneres joked about her unexalted childhood ambitions, and last night the Oscars did.

And Hollywood gossip blogger Nikki Finke was savage:

I've had a better time watching my clothes in the laundromat dryer. This show was officially painful. I lost the will to live watching it... I say enough is enough. Who isn't sick of getting stuck sitting through an ass-killing show that runs on and on beyond reason with no entertainment within it to speak of? As a comedian friend told me: "If this goes on any longer, they're going to be reporting next weekend's Friday night box office, the obituary package is going to be out of date, and the ballots will be going out for next years' awards."

Somehow, they just didn't get it, despite the fact that collectively their reviews surfaced most of the relevant evidence about what was going on.  Finke came close to unravelling the mystery when she wrote:

As a friend emailed me, "this was like a Reagan era show." That was the low-tech level of this year's broadcast. Which makes me wonder in disbelief why the very rich Oscar telecast seriously stinted on tonight's production values. Did Bernie The Accountant abscond with the show's hefty budget? It was lacking in razzle-dazzle.

Shales was getting warm when he observed that:

Ellen DeGeneres, doing a crisp and unpretentious job in her first gig as an Oscar host, said at the outset that this would be "the most international Oscars ever," and that prediction seemed to come true. But it meant that many of the films cited were largely obscure to the national audience. Weren't the Oscars invented to honor American films? Apparently not anymore.

Stanley actually reported two key points but failed to put them together, beginning with the "aim lower" quote. The second was this:

Al Gore, whose star turn in the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” won the film an Oscar, took the stage early in the evening to announce that, for the first time, the Oscars were “green”...

There's the nub, ladies and gents. Last night's Oscars were the first step in preparing us for the brave new world of a global community turning back the clock on technological civilization. Viewed from this perspective, the production was a brilliant artistic triumph, a long, subtle intimatiion of what we have to look forward to in the inconvenient future Gore and his allies are seeking to bring about.

It's a world that's going to be slower -- much slower -- as we wean ourselves away from gas-guzzling high-performance automobiles and 600 mph jet planes. We're going to have to learn how to be patient as we wait for our dull little electric cars to recharge themselves in the garage. What we used to expect to transpire in two hours will expand to four and then six hours, just like the Oscar telecast.

Low-tech will become exciting again. That's precisely why in an age of computer graphics miracles, the Oscars offered us in their place multiple mime performances -- low-contrast silhouettes behind a white screen that beckoned us back to the days of magic lanterns and shadow boxes. We'll rediscover, in increments, the pleasure of appreciating one sense at a time, hence the retro master stroke of a "sound effects" choir recalling an era of radio entertainment remembered these days by no one but the Garrison Keillor fans of NPR's Prairy Home Companion.

We'll even learn to read again. In manageable steps. First, we'll acquire the skill of reading rather than watching movies, which is one of the reasons why so many of the Oscar nominated films were imponderable subtitled affairs from third world nations like Mexico.

Furthermore, Shales's comment about honoring American films -- "Apparently not anymore" -- is also apt. Hollywood is going to lead the way in helping us all realize that the bigger, bolder, better mindset of America has to be jettisoned in favor of the smaller, weaker, inferior mindset of the peoples outside our borders who hate us with every fiber of their beings. That's what we'll learn to aspire to, thanks to vehicles like the Oscar telecast's many collages of dull old foreign films, despairing foreign documentaries, and even depressing short foreign animations.

It's all good. In coming years, more ambitious progress (?) will be achieved. The greening of the globe will no doubt eventually reach even the wardrobes of our actresses as they start to add up the miles of carbon waste associated with flying European designers in and out of Los Angeles for dress fittings, and they'll preen on the red carpet in shirtdresses purchased by catalogue from Penney's. And it won't represent any kind of serious loss to us, either, because by then the inexorable backward-ticking of the clock will have returned the Oscar telecast to black-and-white, perhaps even on a small, fuzzy screen powered by a low-voltage picture tube. Nirvana.

The Oscars of the Future. Razzle-dazzle free.

Don't worry, though. It'll probably take a while to get there. You know how those evil conservative reactionaries are, always holding up progressregress.

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