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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Oscar® the grouch

Last time, I closed my comments in this space by promising to discuss what Star Trek tells us about the current world situation. Now, you might have thought that this was merely a humorous and flippant way to end a column. But I was dead serious about dissecting Star Trek and its relation to contemporary events. I just wasn’t very serious about doing it this week. After two previous weeks of pondering Iraq and an apparently imminent war, I have decided to follow the lead of France and Germany and give the inspectors another week or so to continue their work before I delve into that topic again. Instead, this week I will focus on something that is much more relevant and important to ordinary people’s everyday lives. I’m going to talk about the Oscars.

On Tuesday I did something I had never done before. I actually dragged myself out of bed and over to the television to watch the official announcement of the Academy Award nominations in real time. People in America will appreciate what a feat this is, particularly on the west coast. The announcement is always timed so that people on the eastern seaboard (read the media) can watch it while they are having their breakfast before going to work. This means that it is broadcast on the west coast before six in the morning. I was able to manage to watch it because of a convergence of two conditions in my life that had never existed before: 1) I am living in the Greenwich Mean Time zone and 2) I have a satellite dish.

So, when I dragged myself out of bed on Tuesday, it was 1:00 in the afternoon. It was a sacrifice, but someone has to see these things for the good of others. Thanks to Sky Digital, I was able to watch the coverage on E!, a channel that is uniquely qualified to present this momentous ceremony because it has an entire crew ready to comment on every aspect of the occasion, including its very own “awards show specialist.” (How come my career counselor never told me about that job when I was choosing a major in college?) Very early in the morning turns out to be a great time to watch E!, if for no other reason than that Joan Rivers and her daughter aren’t up and around yet. So, in order to be among the first to hear the names of the Oscar nominees, I had to sit through 40 minutes of coverage and commentator chitchat, 15 minutes of commercial breaks and 5 minutes of official announcement. But it was worth it. I got the word on the nominations without any biased filtering by the conglomerates that control the mass media.

In the end, of course, I realized that I actually need filtering by the mass media to make sense of the Oscar nominations. [See my annual take on the nominations.] For instance, in my innocence I thought the significance of the nominations was that a lot of people who worked very hard on several movies were getting some well-deserved recognition. But the media, starting with E!, set me straight. It was really about all the people who did not get nominated. People like Richard Gere, who won a Golden Globe for his role in Chicago but didn’t even get nominated for the Oscar. Or Meryl Streep, who got a Best Supporting Actress for Adaptation but didn’t get Best Actress nomination for her role in The Hours.

An omission closer to my heart was in the Best Director category. Even though The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was nominated for Best Picture, its director, Peter Jackson, didn’t get nominated. This was part of the snub that I predicted in the wake of the Golden Globes. The first Lord of the Rings movie got 13 (well deserved) nominations. This year it got six, only one of which was in a “major” category. The analysts’ explanation for this is typical of the Hollywood mindset: since The Two Towers is technically a sequel, it’s not really a “new” movie. In other words, it’s so last year. Been there, done that. Where’s the new thing? Not unlike the mindset portrayed in Chicago, where the attention span of the media and the public can only keep track of one jazz murderess at a time.

Now I could do something really boring here, like ranting and raving about how unfair this is and how The Two Towers deserved more recognition than it got. But you know what? Given all that, I think the fact that it still got a Best Picture nomination is pretty cool. Of course, it hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of actually winning the award, but as we all know, winning isn’t everything, right?

The really burning questions will have to wait until Oscar night. Like, what actress will be wearing the most silly and ridiculous dress? Will or will not Peter O’Toole show up to get his honorary Oscar? Will Eminem perform his nominated song from 8 Mile and how will he be received? If Bono gets an award for his song from Gangs of New York, what silly incoherent things will he say in his speech? And will we be at war that night, and how many winners will take the opportunity to protest it? Or, depending on how things are going, will Hollywood have slipped back into its post-9/11 neo-patriotism? Things should get especially entertaining if Michael Moore should pick up a statuette for Bowling for Columbine in the feature documentary category.

In announcing the nominations on Tuesday, along with Marisa Tomei, Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, promised that the Oscar ceremony would be over by midnight on the eastern seaboard. Speaking of a snowball’s chance in hell…

-S.L., 13 February 2003

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