Nothing takes the sting out of these tough economic times like watching a bunch of millionaires giving golden statues to each other.”
Billy Crystal, 2012 Oscar Awards Ceremony.
There's no business like show business. Dare I suggest a song to start my show: how 'bout "Roll over Beethoven.” Better still, how 'bout a YouTube video of "Roll over Beethoven," featuring The Beatles in Blackface, all looking like clones of Chuck Berry?
Now, speaking of the Fab 4, after the recent appearance by Paul McCartney on The Grammys, a great many young folks were a-Twitter, wondering, “Who the heck is the old fart, with the reconstructed face.” Many commentators were amazed at the ignorance of all these 'youts.’ Had these backwater young people never heard of The Beatles?
Well, dear fellow scribes and commentators, what year are you living in? The Beatles broke up about 40 years ago. Is it completely unreasonable to Grok that there may be a whole new generation of music lovers to whom Paul McCartney would appear to them like Louie Armstrong appeared to moi and my generation when he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, in the 1960s, singing "Hello Dolly"?
Get a grip. Dare I break into another song and dance routine a la Cab Calloway, and sing "the times they are a-changing.... hi-dee hi-dee hi-dee ho.” Never mind, I guess.
I'm a Boomer. In that regard, I'm moving, at the speed of Lightning Hopkins, very close to my best before date, and will soon be collecting some Harperized version of my Old Age Pension. In that regard fellow Boomers, it is time for our g-g-generation to roll over. The grass has not only started growing under our feet, it seriously waits to begin growing over our little family plot, the one crowned with gravestones.
What is disturbing is that the original "Pepsi generation,” having co-opted the present AND the future for more than 60 years, is now, desperately still trying to co-opt the present by clinging to, and usurping, the past.
Nothing represents this modern malaise among the golden moldy oldies more perhaps than Sunday night's Oscars™. Hollywood, to some degree, has always reflected the democratic, youth-oriented cultural mores of America, both to and for America as well as to those beyond its borders. Somewhat like the Statue of Liberty, the motion pictures emanating from Tinseltown have more often than not been silver-screened beacons to the world, projecting the ideals of equality and community.
Rugged individual, such Gary Cooper, as Mr. Deeds, or John Wayne, as Rooster Cogburn, championed causes of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Moreover, in a mythical sense, everyone in America is worthy; everyone can fight the government or the banks, even to the point where depression-life outlaws like Bonnie and Clyde became folk heroes in a new time, the swinging 60s.
Hollywood would send Audie Murphy or Rambo overseas. We, the audience, while stuffing our gobs with popcorn, watched the bad characters crumble as justice and democracy restored. Murphy, the most decorated US solider in World War 2, was likely more credible than Rambo.
Cast Humphrey Bogart, as Rick, the owner of a gambling joint in Casablanca. He’s a man with a shady 'revolutionary' past in Spain, a person who "sticks his neck out for no one," until it involves aiding and abetting a fighter for the free world.
Over its history, Hollywood has had its golden era, rejuvenations, and times of obscurity, but has never ever been too far away from home. While the prices have gone up, you can still escape into the big screen and be whomever you want to be, whether you're a kid from the East end of town or from a posh suburban gated community.
We grow up watching the movies. From "Snow White," "The Adventure of Robin Hood" thru to "American Graffiti,” "The Graduate,” "The Big Chill,” "American Beauty" and "The Tree of Life,” the American film industry, at least symbolically, all along the way, has reflected the dreams and some of the failures, over the life-span of the Boomer generation. What better way to celebrate as well as capture the current or currents of Hollywood than watching the grand old Academy Awards. You can have your Golden Globes™ et al but the Oscars™ are the gold standard, no pun intended.
The glitz, the glitter, the shallowness, the vacuousness, the odd bare leggie or boobie, it is here today, gone tomorrow, without any help from the Godfather or Scarface. Like those Etch-a-pads, the winners and losers last year have been completely erased and forgotten. Who cares about yesterday? Life is to be lived in the moment. Tomorrow the new season begins.
In so many ways then, the Oscars™ have been an annual rite of passage, all our lives. Alas, Roll Over Beethoven. You cannot stop time. As I have oft quoted folk-singer, Tom Paxton, regarding nostalgia, "it's okay to look back, as long as you don't stare.”
In that regard there was much too much staring, along with much too many more serious attempts at rejuvenation, going on at this year's award ceremonies? Is yet another phase of obscurity waiting?
This brings us immediately back to Billy Crystal, as host. Trying to appear youthful despite his age, how many face-lifts do you think Mr. Crystal endured, in the last 20 years? I sat a-feared the fragile Billy would live up to his last name and crash to the floor like Humpty Dumpty, never to be put back together again
How 'bout old Billy doing his Sammy Davis Jr., in black face impression? How stale, unfunny and disturbing was that. To have Justin Bieber, in the Midnight in Paris, skit was a not so veiled attempt to cater to those younger audience members who were again likely wondering about the old fool in the back seat was with their teen sensation idol.
We're still hip baby. Pshaw. More problematic for me was Crystal's joke about having seen "The Help" and wanting to rush out and hug the first black person he met until realizing that would take a 45-minute drive from Beverly Hills. C’mon, man. Maybe Flip Wilson could have used that one in the 60s. Maybe you could grab and embrace an illegal Mexican, i.e. those that are the current servants to the assembled millionaires before you.
That brings us to the actual awards themselves. A majority of awards went to a black and white film, The Artist. A French film, it was filmed in Los Angeles. The pitch has a fading swashbuckler forced to face a new reality. He must adapt to a new era. Awards also went to another retro-movie, Midnight in Paris, which flashes back to the late 1920s as a tribute to the early days of movie making. How very retro, despite the obvious appeal of, and craft shown by, both flicks.
In addition, again well deserved, the Best Supporting Actor went to an 82 year old. Help. Best Supporting Actress went to a woman playing a Black house cleaner in the 1960s. "Gone with The Wind" redux; ah nostalgia, it ain't what it used to be.
Best Actor, Jean Dujardin, in "The Artist,” won for saying nothing in a time when the world is awash with too much technology for talking. Although America, post Bush years, may be okay again with embracing the French, maybe letting them speak is still too dangerous. Alas, notwithstanding all that, Dujardin portrays a man, not unlike Billy Crystal, who finds his feet in a new world and dances into the future, vigorously renewed, with a new lease on life, albeit without a facial make-over, unless you count the moustache.
"The Artist" also claimed Best Picture of the Year. You can bet the old guard in Hollywood was cheering through their extra thick 3D glasses. Finally, a movie where they didn't need to tweak their hearing aids and whereby they could fall asleep reminiscing about the Thin Man's dog and Douglas Fairbanks Sr.
Then there was that old "not her again" Oscar favourite Meryl Streep who won Best Actress for her portrayal of "The Iron Lady," Maggie Thatcher. Now, talk about a make-up job. Well, not to be disrespectful at all, kudos to Meryl. As my friend Eva said, she is one of the few actor who has never been plagued by dirt in the tabloids. Her acknowledgement to her hubby off the get-go was truly genuine. Despite what she opined, my guess is that we haven't seen the last of Meryl on the Oscar podium. Alas, from "The Queen" to "The King's Speech," despite being excellent films, it does seem the Brits are lost in a time warp lately in continually paying homage to their sordid aristocracy.
I hear there's a rumour going around that there is a new Brit movie in the works, a musical - about last year's riots, starring Omar Sharif. Also distressing, is the aging Second City group, plus Chris Guest, Bob Balaban and Fred Willard, doing the audience test viewing for "The Wizard of Oz" skit. They dissed one of the greatest movies of all time. WTF? That routine fell completely flat.
Thank the gawd for Cirque du Soleil. Well, perhaps a fitting act for this year's circus. Even Woody Allen, who won best original script, took a little trip down old memory lane, back into the 1920s Paris, a time even older and further back than Hugo, directed by Marty Scorsese.
Who wouldn't want to live in Hollywood during the silent era among the flappers and feet tappers, or have lunch with Hemingway and meet Pablo Picasso? Alas, and rightly, though not as deeply as one might like, Woody showed all of us the shortcomings of such journeys into the time machine.
What, and where, indeed is the golden era, where are the golden days of youth? Woody suggests that the golden era could be, for those still willing to dream, right now, and tomorrow, and the day after that. As my old friend, Ted, so-loved to say, "these are the good times and we're having them.” Amen.
Dear Academy, why not let go of the past. Maybe the Oscars™, like us Boomers, are a dying breed. We'll all go down together waving our canes and false teeth at the world.
I have a few suggestions to offer for next year. Since the brain cells are shrinking and can only grasp so much information at one feeding, I believe it is time to return to nominating only five movies for the best picture category. Nominating nine movies is too confusing. What's in your wallet? I can't possibly afford to go see nine movies between the time of the nomination announcements and the presentation of the awards. Add to that five foreign film nominees and actor/actresses awards for people who may not be in any of the above nominated movies and we're talking a lot of popcorn, not to mention a lot of peanut butter sandwiches for dinner the rest of the year.
In that regard, if you must insist y on keeping the status quo could you at least show more segments from the nominated movies. I figure part of the millionaire 'moneyball' marketing game, in part, is to entice me to go see, or rent, many of the nominated movies and so forth, even after the awards have been handed out.
The rapid fire collage shown of all nine nominees before the Best Picture award being presented was truly inane as well as a disservice to the producers, as well as the audience - me. I could only guess that the show's producer was suggesting that if only all these movies collapsed into one, we'd truly have best picture of the year.
One thing that the Grammys did this year was to reduce the number of categories over-all, as well as reduce the number of awards actually presented during the broadcast. While I have some problems with that - in particular its emphasis on modern rock and associated genres; it was done in an attempt to (a) appeal to a younger demo, and (b) to air more live performances, some of which took place outside the Staples Centre. Bravo.
Ergo: never mind the animation, short doc, long doc award presentations. Who cares? Unless the movie theatres start showing these wonderful creations, no one, save a scant, few have any connection to, and thus interest in, any of them.
I'd actually prefer that you show us some of the technical achievement awards presented the night before, including more showcasing of why, and how those achievements, deserve recognition. Educate us.
In that sense, with all presentations or awards, show us more and longer clips. Less chatter and tomfoolery between presenters would be good, too. That segment with Robert Downing Jr. was appalling and without merit.
A few years ago, you had fellow actors addressing directly the nominees for 'best' in those related categories: touching and nicely modified to one person, each, Colin Firth and Natalie Portman, reading from a teleprompter. It read false and the script was sheer cliché and embarrassing to both the nominees and the presenters. I would have preferred Will Farrell banging on cymbals at that point.
Unless you take certain drastic steps to get more lively and engaging, the show will continue to drift into senility, and no one watching will care which millionaire is handing the hardware out to which other millionaire.
How radical would I be? I'd completely drop the Red Carpet thing, with the commotion over dresses and jewelry.
As long as we're on the nostalgia theme, average people used to watch that shite because they still had some realistic imagined dream that kind of life could be theirs someday. Not in today's America, where the divide between the 1% and the other 99% is such that Hollywood can no longer, legitimately, pretend and provide an outlet for the hopes and dreams of its viewing audience. The accountants have taken over. Give the movies back to the directors.
Hollywood built tycoons, but by immigrant tycoons, people with vision, people who celebrated America's myths, from Lou Gehrig, in "The Pride of the Yankees," to Sylvester Stallone, in "Rocky," to Billy Beane in "Moneyball.”
You are, whatever your noble pretensions otherwise, part of the 1%, and no amount of make-up or other disguises can hide that fact. You cannot hide behind us, in a silent black and white movie.
As the curtain comes down, the curtain has come back up. Dorothy, the little girl from the "Show-Me" state, has once again discovered that the Wizard of Oz is just a feeble old white guy trying desperately to control the new world through advanced CGI technology.
What else can I say, other than to quote from one of your own movies, Shrek,
"Change is good donkey.” That’s a wrap.
Bob Stark is a musician, poet, philosopher and couch potato. He spends his days, as did Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus, pouring lattes and other adult beverages into a recycled mug, bearing a long and winding crack. He discusses, with much insight and passion, the existentialist and phenomenological ontology of the Vancouver 'Canucks,' a hockey team, "Archie" comic books and high school reunions. In other words, Bob Stark is a retired public servant living the good life on the wrong coast of Canada.
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