Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

On Salma, Hillary and Drew

It’s that time again. And every time it comes round, it seems to come sooner and sooner. And it probably seems that way because it’s true. Already the fans are chattering about who will be the winners and losers. And for the competitors, the time is finally coming for them to see if years of honing their acting skills, directing skills, writing skills, etc.—not to mention the cultivation of the respect of their peers—will finally pay off in the recognition and validation that every candidate craves. But enough about the 2008 presidential election.

Or maybe you thought I was talking about the Oscar nominations? Yeah, that’s going on too. And once again I am smug in the fact that I managed to drag myself out of bed in time to see the actual announcement of the nominations. Of course, that smugness is tempered a bit by the fact that 1) the announcement came at 1:37 in the afternoon in my time zone and 2) I still had to watch it on a time delay using my TiVo-like personal video recorder. 13:37 Greenwich Mean Time may seem like a strange time for such a high-profile announcement, but it was apparently chosen to coincide with the time that actor Salma Hayek would be ending her social evening (5:37 a.m. local time in Los Angeles), not even allowing the poor woman to go home and change clothes. And at that they started a full minute late. Hayek, of course, was indispensable to the ceremony because they needed some one on hand who could pronounce the name Alejandro González Iñárritu.

So, yeah, the Academy Award nominations were announced. But we shouldn’t let that distract us from the important business of the 2008 presidential election. I don’t know about you, but I have been chomping at the bit for this campaign to get started. These presidential campaigns just never go on long enough, and anything I can do to encourage them to start sooner (and end later, if that’s possible) I will do. Unfortunately, we really don’t get much useful information about the candidates. Everything is too tightly controlled by the controllers, too well handled by the handlers, too well spun by the spinners. It is really a rare moment when we get a bit of truly useful information. Such a moment happened earlier this week when Hillary Rodham Clinton (for those unfamiliar with her, she is a senator from New York) held an online meeting with voters via her website. At first, I wasn’t too hopeful that we would learn anything new or fresh from this venue. For one thing, it didn’t seem to be Clinton at all. Frankly, I thought that they had made a robot Hillary like one of those automatons who replaced the housewives in The Stepford Wives. She was just a bit too calm and relaxed and, well, non-threatening to males. But then I saw that she was getting the hard-hitting questions that the regular press is too timid to ask, and I got encouraged. Then came the zinger: what’s your favorite movie?

Yes! As regular followers of this website know well, this is the kind of question that can unlock the Rosetta stone of a public figure’s very essence and being. We saw this more than a year ago when, in an unusually lucid moment, Charles Schumer (for those not familiar with him, he is a senator from New York) inadvertently managed to ask Chief Justice nominee John Roberts this same question. We got tons of insight by analyzing Roberts’s response: Doctor Zhivago. So how did Clinton handle this hot potato? Frankly, I was quite surprised. She replied: The Wizard of Oz.

My immediate, unvarnished reaction was: okay, a 59-year-old woman, with a wealth of education and professional experiences, operating at the highest circles of power, and her favorite movie is the one about Dorothy and the Scarecrow and the rest? Okay. But then I immediately realized what a masterstroke of a response this was. Clearly, she had been prepped for this question, and she was ready for it. This was clearly a play for the gay vote. And one which ran little or no risk of a negative backlash. After all, social conservatives presumably will approve of her choice as well, since what is more friendly to family values than a time-honored film that the entire family can watch together in their own home?

But if her response was politically masterful, it also is likely not personally honest. Do any of us picture Hillary and Bill and Chelsea getting together once a month and sitting around watching The Wizard of Oz together? For one thing, they’re all too busy. So, can you imagine Hillary getting out the old well-worn family Oz DVD and watching it on her own? I don’t think so. Somehow, I’ve pictured her relaxing in front of her DVD player with flicks like Basic Instinct or Fatal Attraction, but maybe I’ve just been overly influenced by media portrayals of her. Anyway, I can’t help thinking that the favorite film of a woman of Clinton’s background and intellect would be something a bit more artistically and intellectually rigorous than The Wizard of Oz. If Chief Justice Roberts was perjuring himself to please his wife (as I suggested at the time), then I have to theorize that Clinton is spinning to satisfy her focus groups.

Before I get back to the Oscars, I’m trying to figure out a way to delicately insert Drew Barrymore’s naked body in here somewhere. I was reminded how engaging Barrymore has always been as an actor, when I got the chance to see again her second big-screen performance in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. recently. Before she was even eight years old, she was a scene stealer and, when she grew up, she turned out to be one of the best things about at least a couple of Adam Sandler comedies (The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates). So she was sort of in my mind already when I chanced upon a completely unexpected mention of her on the opinion page of The Irish Times. One of that paper’s more readable pundits, Frank McNally, began his Tuesday column this way: “The image of actress Drew Barrymore romping naked through a cornfield is of course every Irish tillage farmer’s nightmare.” (See what I mean by readable?) McNally’s concern for the sanctity of Irish cornfields stems from “Ms Barrymore’s admission to a US magazine that, on her frequent trips to Ireland, she likes to ‘rip all [her] clothes off and just run in the wheat fields.’ ” I’m just as confused as you are. Is it wheat fields or corn fields? To us guys living in rural Ireland, this sort of detail can be important. Anyway, if my writing these days has a distracted air to it, it’s probably because I’m doing a lot more glancing out the window.

So, about those Oscar nominations. Once again, in the face of all reasonable legal, personal and financial advice, I am once again offering my predictions as to how the awards will go, should go and ought to have gone. You can read them by clicking here.

-S.L., 25 January 2007

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