Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Oscars Commeth

The Oscarettes prepare to strut their golden stuff on the red carpet...

All is quiet on this crisp bright Sunday morning, but it's the calm before the storm. Soon enough, a flock of news helicopters will take to the skies and hover over the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, recording every meaningless detail in today's annual orgy of self-congratulation known as the Oscars. The resulting mechanical din -- a nervous airborne clatter that will occasionally change pitch as the wind shifts, but never really cease -- will put an end to this otherwise nice quiet Sunday.

Every year, the temptation to pull out a deer rifle and draw a bead on these metallic dragonflies is almost overwhelming -- but That Would Be Wrong, not to mention felonious. I will not spend the rest of my life in jail for shooting down one of these choppers, even though the gawking, grinning fools inside certainly deserve a fiery death for their sins against our culture.

I haven't been shy about expressing my feelings towards award shows in the past, but if anyone remains unclear, here goes: The Grammys remain the worst -- typically lame in concept and execution -- with the Emmys finishing only slightly higher on the scale of marginal cultural relevance. The Oscars are best described (IMHO) as “a bloated exercise in narcissistic onanism.”

Yes, I’m quoting myself – and for that, I hang my head in shame...

As for the Golden Globes, I really don’t give a shit. It doesn't matter to me what the vast majority of American journalists think about movies, much less the foreign press. Why should I care what Jean Pierre Maginot, ex-intern at Cahiers du Cinema and current film critic for the Escargot Gazette (and Golden Globe Voter) thinks about "The Hurt Locker," "Crazy Heart," or “Avatar?”

There are a few critics I keep an eye on – Anthony Lane and David Denby of the New Yorker are always fun to read, some of the Salon Magazine critics are worth checking out, and Manohla Dargis – once of the LA Times, now the NY Times – can be very good when she deigns to use words I don't have to look up in the dictionary.

Dear Manohla, here's a tip from below-the-line: a giant brain and encyclopedic vocabulary aren't always a film critic's best friends...

I thoroughly enjoyed the reviews of Michael Wilmington back when he wrote for the LA Times, but he moved to the Second City Tribune well before the Internet took hold, and I lost track. Kenneth Turan of the LA Times is predictable if not particularly inspiring, but a lot more readable since he gave up using phrases like “a backroads bildungsroman” in favor of sticking to English.*

My admittedly parochial favorite remains hometown critic Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s a very smart guy who usually offers a structural analysis explaining exactly why a given movie does or doesn't work. His analytical approach to and feel for the medium of film come through loud and clear in his reviews, which are always written with intelligence, wit, and style. And when Mr. LaSalle encounters a truly unworthy cinematic effort, his dissection and subsequent evisceration of the offending movie is something to behold -- and wonderfully entertaining for anyone not involved in the production.

In last Sunday's Chron, he explained how and why the Academy picks the annual Oscar winners and losers. I have no idea if he's right about this, but he makes a compelling case – and as usual, it’s a pleasure to read.

Check it out before the show starts tonight, and what unfolds over the following four hours just might make a lot more sense.

* A sin Turan committed in his review of the move Tex back in 1982. Sorry Ken, I can forgive, but will never forget...

1 comment:

david kagen said...

here here! michael. i attended a small oscar gathering at a friend's. the company was great but i was getting physically sick from watching the phoney baloney convention. and talk about stiff performances! its funny how when many actors are without their team of magic makers they come off pretty stale and uninspiring. admittedly, whatever was scrolling up the teleprompter was beyond the pale of poor writing. on top of it all, the oscars is just so fucking boring! thanks again for your trenchant reportage. and yes, those infernal chopper gawkers will get theirs one day.