EXCESS HOLLYWOOD:  UP THE ACADEMY Image

Watching E!s countdown coverage to the 2006 Academy Awards show was a lot like watching CNN cover the Iraq invasion. There’s all kinds of speculation, useless facts and other filler. I learned how to make my breasts look bigger. I saw Bruce Vilanch, who really isn’t funny, talk about writing jokes. I got fashion tips, and saw some guy take off his shirt.

Is it any wonder most of the movie goers in America look at the Oscars as a joke?

And how do the people involved with it take themselves seriously when it’s all about the dresses and after parties?

When I was younger I thought the golden statue meant something, that it was an accurate measure of a film’s worth. Around the age of 14 or 15 I realized what a mistake I had been making. The award is the equivalent of a teacher’s gold star. It means something to the student and his or her immediate family, but absolutely zip to the outside world. Watching the coverage leading up to the seventy-eighth presentation of these awards only hammered the point home. There was talk of “Brokeback Mountain” being a shoe-in (yawn), of “Walk the Line” taking some categories (so obvious), and of “Crash” feeling some “love” (that seems pretty safe to predict). In other words, the same old same old.

“Controversial” films get noticed. Biopics about legends get noticed. Social commentary gets noticed. The only thing missing this year was Sean Penn playing a mental disabled person. It’s so damn predictable it isn’t even fun anymore. No wonder those aforementioned dresses get so much coverage.

If I was giving out awards, I’d definitely target “The Devil’s Rejects,” as I really believe it was the best film of 2005. Say what you want, but it was the only one I saw that accomplished exactly what it set out to do. Even my friends who disliked it because of its subject matter gave Zombie plenty of kudos on his directional skills. If the awards had guts, this film would be, at the very least, given a nomination or two. This is the Academy, however, and it always goes with safe.

Racism, homosexuality, social commentary and biopics are safe things to tackle in films. They irritate people who are easy to irritate, and biopics have a built-in audience. The Academy almost always focuses on these types of films. It does this so often that when an original, creative film (that isn’t foreign, short or animated) wins, it seems like a “surprise” that a “sleeper” film could come out of “left field” like that and take home an award.

Mainstream film is in a sorry state when movies like “Brokeback Mountain” get noticed simply because two guys kiss. It is 2006. We should be beyond such things. Instead, there’s controversy, and the Academy just fuels it by thinking the film is worthy of lavish praise. (In all fairness, I haven’t seen the film, so it could be the best film ever for all I know. I do read reviews, though, and know what it is about. It doesn’t sound like anything special to me, and had it not been for cowboys kissing, it would not be nominated.)

Maybe 2007’s awards show will be better. I’ve seen what’s coming, though, and I highly doubt it. The films that are soon to pollute our silver screens that may deal with subjects not in the Hollywood norm will probably be overlooked … again. Some movie will cause someone to “think,” and that will get all kinds of nominations. Its competition will be a film that tackles a “dangerous” and “controversial” subject like single moms. And the one that seems to be the underdog will be some “gritty” film about a black guy who goes from the streets to the university or some such nonsense.

If I bet on what movies would win awards, I’d make a ton of money. I can almost always call them as they are that obvious. I don’t bet on that sort of thing, though. I like to bet on healthy horses that put in an exciting race, one where the outcome is never known. I don’t bet on a nag that looks like it’s headed to the glue factory after this one last run. Safe money has never been my thing, and the Oscars are nothing but safe money.

Maybe next year. But probably not.

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