Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

Oscars 2006: Once Again, America Votes Against Gays

Posted by CinemaPsycho on March 8, 2006


That’s pretty much my reaction to Crash winning Best Picture. I think it’s a mistake, and a big one, but that’s pretty much par for the course for the Academy. This is the same group that gave the award to Shakespeare in Love and Chicago, so there you have it. A year from now, everyone will have forgotten all about it, so there’s no sense in getting all worked up about it.

But it would have been nice if a certain other film, which was considered the frontrunner, had taken the prize. It would have made a statement, and the fact that the majority of Academy members chose specifically not to make that statement pretty much says it all.

While certain critics like Roger Ebert (who’s been off his game for several years now) are gloating over Crash’s victory, and claiming it was entirely justified – come on, who are we kidding? Not even Crash’s supporters actually expected it to win. The idea that homophobia didn’t play a part in the Brokeback backlash (Brokebacklash?) is extremely naïve and foolish. You’d have to be completely out of touch with reality to think that wasn’t a factor. Can we get real for just a minute?

You want evidence? Okay, how about geezer Tony Curtis’ assertion to the New York Post that not only was he not voting for Brokeback, a significant portion of the Academy – the older, more conservative, old-Hollywood faction of the group – were not going to be voting for it either. He gave some rather bizarre statements in that interview, including one I’ll likely never forget: “Brokeback Mountain isn’t anything new or special…the only difference is that they put it on the screen”. Whatever that means! It’s a sad thing when senility kicks in, isn’t it?

Now, I’m not claiming that everyone who voted for Crash did so for this reason – but that’s probably what put it over the top. Let’s face it – Crash was the safest, most non-threatening alternative. Certain people voted for it not because it was the best film on that list, but because they knew it could possibly win against “the gay cowboy movie”. What about the other movies in that category? Capote – still too gay. Good Night, and Good Luck – too liberal. Munich – too political and controversial. What does that leave us with?

So rather than vote for the film that swept all the critics’ awards and the Golden Globes, that got three acting nominations, won for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, the Academy chose to anoint the film that caused most outsiders to wonder why it was even on the list. It’s important to remember that the entire Academy votes for Best Picture, so it’s appropriate to speak of “the Academy” in this case. That’s why the film that wins Best Director doesn’t necessarily win Best Picture. So this year the supposed “Best Picture” not only wasn’t directed by the Best Director, it didn’t feature any of the Best Performances (and only got one acting nomination, for Supporting Actor). Right. So you have to wonder, what’s so damn great about it?

Now, I haven’t even seen Crash, so I can’t claim that it’s a completely unworthy film. I do recall that when the nominations came out, many pundits thought it took the spot that Walk the Line should have had. So it’s likely that film could have won had it been nominated instead. This is all coming from someone who thought the best film of the year was A History of Violence, and in my opinion, Good Night, and Good Luck was the best film in the category. So why do I even care?

Because I guarantee you, every bigoted, homophobic redneck asshole out there is counting Brokeback’s loss as a victory for their side. And they’re right about that, as sad as it is to say. I guess the conservatives can take heart in the fact that Hollywood’s not quite as liberal as it’s made out to be. Again, it’s not that the movie should have won because it’s a gay-themed film – it’s that it lost because it’s a gay-themed film. Every indication pointed to it winning, and any other film with that much critical acclaim, that had won that many awards prior to the Oscars, would have won Best Picture. For this film to have come that far and then have the prize yanked away from them is nothing less than a slap in the face. It’s bullshit, and anyone who thinks otherwise is fucking kidding themselves.

And it’s all because society still hasn’t gotten over the fact that some guys like to fuck each other. Crimeny, man. You know, I’m not that comfortable with gay sex either, but luckily for me, I don’t have to be in the room when it happens. So why on Earth would I give a fuck what other people do in their own bedrooms (or pup tents)? I’m still trying to figure that one out. People act like Brokeback is some kind of hardcore gay porno with full-on anal penetration or something. It’s just a fucking movie. Get over it, people. And get over yourselves.

Overall though, I thought the Oscars were pretty good this year, albeit a good show with a terrible ending (as any filmmaker knows, you gotta stick the landing or people walk out disappointed, no matter how good the rest of the movie was). I don’t know why people are bagging on Jon Stewart – I thought he was a terrific host. He was classy, self-deprecating, and best of all, funny while still being respectful of the event. It’s a fine line that an Oscar host has to walk, and where Chris Rock trampled all over it, Stewart managed to strike just the right notes. He made sport of Hollywood without seeming mean-spirited or diminishing the importance of the event. Nor did he try to make the show all about him (unlike, say, Whoopi Goldberg). I don’t know what people expected – did they think it would be a non-stop barrage of Bush jokes? Was he supposed to go into his stoner routine from Half Baked? Seriously, everything you could want from an Oscar host, Stewart delivered on. Sign him up for next year, I say!

Other, more random observations about the Oscar ceremony:

I’m glad they took my advice and dumped the Baba Wawa special (actually, moved it to Wednesday night) but can we please leave all the “red carpet” nonsense to the likes of the E! channel? This is exactly why people think it’s all about “watching the celebrities” – it’s a sad perception, and one that the Oscar producers themselves play into. For Christ’s sake, for one freakin’ night can we focus on celebrating the films? If they have to do these pre-show interviews, it wouldn’t kill them to talk to the nominated directors, writers, producers, etc. You know, those people that make the movies. And not just George Clooney.

Ben Stiller needs to reconsider his career. His pathetic routine was just an example of how tired his “male humiliation” humor has become. I’d honestly like to see him tackle some dramatic roles, just to keep him from making any more damn Fockers movies.

I didn’t like any of the nominated songs this year (and why were there only three?) but that whole presentation of “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” was just an embarrassment. I believe it’s the first time in Oscar history that a number was presented with dancers representing pimps and whores. Classy! Yeah, gay sex is still taboo, but a song glorifying prostitution is perfectly fine. I guess that’s something Hollywood’s more familiar with! And really, what’s so hard about being a pimp anyway? Does counting all that money cause severe eyestrain?

Turn off the damn music during the speeches! And for Christ’s sake, let these people talk for a friggin’ minute! This is their moment in the sun, for cryin’ out loud. Instead of giving people time to give their speeches, they wasted time on that Tom Hanks sketch about people taking too long to give their speeches. Brilliant!

Seriously, did Michelle Williams look fucking hot or what? Is it just me? Maybe it’s just my thing for diminutive blondes. Heath, you don’t need an award if you’re coming home to that every night! Lucky bastard.

Why weren’t Don Knotts, Darren McGavin and Dennis Weaver on the “death list”? Surely they could have tacked them on at the end in time for the show. How hard is it to throw a couple of still frames up there? Now they’ll have to wait another year.

Isn’t Hollywood honoring Robert Altman a bit like the White House honoring Michael Moore? Not that Altman doesn’t deserve it, but given that he’s worked outside the system for most of his career, and made more “comebacks” than most of us can remember, it’s a pretty ironic thing to do. “We know we’ve ignored you and your work for close to 40 years, so here’s a statue to make up for it.” That Lily Tomlin-Meryl Streep introduction gave me a migraine. No, really.

Including Thelma & Louise in a montage of films about “serious issues” is like including Death Wish 4 on a list of serious films about the failure of the American justice system. Wrong kind of “issues”, ladies. If violence is the answer, you’re asking the wrong question.

No one over the age of 75 should ever have to present anything. Lauren Bacall was obviously having trouble reading the teleprompter, but to some viewers she looked like she was losing her grip. For that matter, while I love film noir as much as anybody, I didn’t see the point to that little tribute. It’s the equivalent of saying, “hey, remember film noir? That was pretty cool, wasn’t it?” Yeah, it was. What’s your point? Maybe they should give out honorary awards to various genres and past eras of film that were influential on succeeding filmmakers. That would be awesome, actually.

Clooney gave the best speech of the night – good enough to make me glad he won, even though I was rooting for William Hurt (who had no shot, admittedly). But I still wonder why he was nominated for Supporting Actor for Syriana. Yes, it’s an ensemble film, but he’s still essentially one of the main characters that we follow throughout the movie, along with Matt Damon and Jeffrey Wright. Who is he supporting in his scenes? Nobody. He’s the main focus of virtually every scene he’s in. He’s basically the lead in a movie with a lot of characters in it. Now, if Christopher Plummer, Chris Cooper or Amanda Peet had been nominated for that film – those are supporting roles. Of course Clooney won – he should’ve been in the Best Actor category. Then again, Jake Gyllenhaal was pretty much the co-lead in Brokeback. It’s not like his character was a minor one compared to Heath Ledger’s. Maybe the Academy needs to redefine what a Supporting Actor actually is. If the movie’s about that character, it’s not a supporting role.

No one should be a presenter if they don’t even have a possible shot at actually being nominated for an Oscar in the future. Jessica Alba, this means you.

I hear the annual orgy afterwards was a blast – oh wait, no one’s supposed to know about that. Never mind.

So that about covers it. It was a pretty typical Oscars show, with the usual highs and lows. Let’s all try to put it behind us.

Now, some brief reviews of movies I’ve seen recently but haven’t had the time (or the inclination) to write full reviews for:

The Pink Panther – Call me a retard, but it made me laugh. What can I say? I thought it was a return to form for Steve Martin, a throwback to the absurdist humor of his early films (The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man With Two Brains). Not quite as good as those films, of course. I don’t see why everyone’s suddenly so precious about another actor playing Clouseau anyway. They’ve tried to revitalize the series with actors ranging from Alan Arkin to Roberto Benigni. Why not Martin? Sellers didn’t even like doing the movies anyway – he only did them for the paycheck and to keep his career going. Everyone seems to agree that Connery was the best Bond, but they keep making Bond movies with different actors and no one throws a fit. Yes, the humor is very broad and slapsticky – just like the Edwards movies. They weren’t exactly subtle either (especially the later ones). Shawn Levy may not be the best comedy director out there, but he knows how to point the camera and shoot, and that’s all this movie really needs. The cast is game (gotta love Emily Mortimer), the humor is inspired and the laughs are there. It may be formula, but it works. And if it gets younger people to check out the Sellers films, that’s cool too. Good one, indeed. ***

Firewall – not a great Harrison Ford movie, but easily the best he’s done in years. Then again, that list includes Six Days, Seven Nights and Hollywood Homicide, so maybe that’s not saying much. He’s finally back in action-thriller mode, and people are complaining? Dude, it could’ve been another comedy. Think about that. I thought it was relatively smart and suspenseful, as this kind of film goes. Mary Lynn “Chloe” Rajskub steals the whole thing, and it’s worth seeing for her alone. Now bring on Indy 4 already! ***

Match Point – finally got to see this, and it was well worth the effort. For once I can say “it’s Woody’s best film in years” and actually believe it. Getting out of New York was surprisingly good for the Woodman – it’s revitalized and energized him, and the result is a truly terrific piece of work that ranks with his best films. Maybe he needs to go on a World Tour! If all of his dramas were this good, no one would be clamoring for the “early, funny stuff”. Remarkable work from a stellar cast (again, gotta love Emily Mortimer) and Scarlett Johannson absolutely kicks ass in this film! Anyone who thinks she can’t act is out of their fucking gourd. I’ve actually liked a lot of his recent work, but here Woody’s resetting the bar for himself, and it’s a great thing to see. Had I been able to see this earlier, it would’ve been very high on my Top 10 of 2005. ****

Ultraviolet – no, it wasn’t screened for critics, and who cares (lately some critics seem to think that movies are only made to be shown to them). It’s a decent little sci-fi/action flick from Kurt Wimmer, the writer/director of the criminally underrated Equilibrium, and if you liked that flick, you know what you’re in for here. Lots of stylized futurism and non-stop action coolness, and what’s wrong with that if it’s well done? The thing people don’t get about this kind of movie is that style is substance, and action is character. It’s not deep, but that doesn’t make it stupid either. Milla’s the perfect actress for Wimmer’s sensibilities – she may never win an Oscar, but she can pose with the best of them. Where “serious actress” Charlize Theron seemed out of her depth in the similarly themed Aeon Flux, Jovovich has the “hot girl who kicks ass” thing down to a science. It’s a perfect fit, and Wimmer makes the most of it. It doesn’t reinvent the post-Matrix action wheel, but it turns that wheel with grace and agility. What more do you want, blood? ***

So that covers it all for now. I’ll be back soon with more reviews. Later!

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