February 22, 2009 § Leave a comment
The reason the Oscars recede each year in the public consciousness has nothing to with the award itself, really, or if the winning movies were hits or misses. It has to do with the way movies are marketed, and the ubiquity of our movie stars.
The Oscars are unimportant today because the formula for success has been inverted. In decades past, it was the movies that stuck around your neighborhood theater for weeks if not months at a time. The movie was your primary connection to the movie star. Now the movie is like a by-product of stardom.
As the movie itself fades, the stars themselves seem to never get off the stage. By the time the Oscars are broadcast we’ve forgotten the movies and we’re also bored to tears with everyone in the audience at the Kodak Theater. That’s a recipe for irrelevance.
My One Prediction
Without having seen the film (it simply does not interest me) I don’t think Kate Winslet will win an Academy Award tonight for “The Reader.” This is based on wholly unscientific research: there are YouTube parodies out there. I don’t think the folks in Hollywood are going to honor something that has been so stingingly and wonderfully mocked.
And, plus, the producer and director had to release a statement defending the film.
If I were Kate Winslet, I’d be heading in tonight’s ceremony with trepidation. If she loses, it might be because she pumped too hard for the Oscar for a role that people ultimately were uncomfortable rewarding. If she wins, it won’t be for one of her universally well-liked roles, but rather it will be for one that, well, people didn’t see or really care about.
Here’s one of the parodies:
Gratuitous Coen Brothers Critique
Last year I only had to laugh when the Coens were honored with the top Oscars, because I think even they must admit in their quiet moments that their movies are a put on. I don’t mean to say they are a joke that people can get. I mean to say that each year they put out a cinematic version of a pet rock or a Chia Pet, and there are enough frightened intellectuals out there who say, “How cool is that!”, and there are enough people too unhip not to want to be in on this so-called joke, so they also say, “How cool is that!” The Coens, meanwhile, must laugh everytime someone writes them a check.
I imagine them writing the screenplay for “Miller’s Crossing” and cackling hysterically every time they wrote the phrase, “And you gave me the high hat!” while at the same marvelling they were being paid to write, “high hat!”
Jerry Lewis will be the recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award this evening. I looked Lewis up on Imdb.com and was surprised to learn that he had never even been nominated for an Oscar. I say I was surprised because it did not seem unreasonable that Lewis would have been nominated for something, at some time. But no.
He did legitimately lose out once: He deserved to be nominated, and to win, for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “The King of Comedy”, Martin Scorcese’s great movie from 1982. Lewis played a pompous talk show host named Jerry Langford, who is later kidnapped by Rupert Pupkin (Robert DeNiro) and the whacked Masha, played by Sandra Bernhard.
The scene where Pupkin and his would-be girlfriend (Diahanne Abbott) show up at Langford’s house is one of the classic cringe-inducing scenes of all-time, and Lewis makes it work. This was a great performance undeservedly overlooked.
Here’s that scene: