Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2017
Scott R. Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Envelope please…

It’s a sad state of affairs when a presidential election campaign that has been going on for two years, and still has almost a year to go, is more interesting than the campaign for the Academy Awards, a race that is now much briefer than it was in earlier years. Why, exactly, is that?

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I suppose it is because the stories playing out in the political campaign media coverage are, at the moment anyway, more compelling than the ones we see in the Oscar race. (It’s hardly worth the effort of clicking a mouse button, but you can see my Oscar predictions here.) Last year, I was emotionally involved in whether Peter O’Toole would finally get his statuette. (He didn’t.) This year, it would be great to see Julie Christie get an Oscar, but it wouldn’t have the same impact, since presumably she still has the one she won in 1966 for Darling. I have a rooting interest in seeing The Diving Bell and the Butterfly get major awards, since it is head and shoulders above anything else I saw from last year. But it is nominated only in four categories, only two of which can be considered major ones. So that’s not exactly the same rush I got when The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King got ten nominations—winning in all of them. Moreover, those nominations were groundbreaking because of a long history of snubbing movies in the science fiction and fantasy genres. While Diving Bell is a great film, the paltry few Academy Award nominations it did receive are hardly noteworthy for a movie in the genre of people heroically battling injuries/illnesses/handicaps. The real scandal—if you can take the Oscars seriously enough to be scandalized by them—is the lack of recognition for Mathieu Amalric’s acting feat in an extremely difficult role.

The presidential campaign, on the other hand, has many suspenseful and dramatic elements that have not been seen in many, if not any, people’s lifetimes: the first plausible candidates from the African-American, female-American and former-first-spouse communities, the first simultaneous wide-open primaries for both major parties, a compressed primary/caucus schedule and what is perhaps the biggest element of suspense and entertainment: Florida is still a state.

So, rather than fight against it, I am going to give in to election fever and forget about the Academy Awards. Instead, I am offering my own personal Oscars to various politicians:

  • Hillary Clinton: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for The Crying Game. Masterful performance. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. You found your voice, but unfortunately he went way overboard in South Carolina.

  • Barack Obama: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for Hope Floats. Between delivering your uplifting and positive message and returning the Clinton attacks on you, it might as well be Catch-22. But we can always hold out hope for a sequel to Camelot.

  • Bill Clinton: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for Raging Bull. Once you were the young Washington outsider/candidate of hope/conciliator. How times have changed. It’s sort of like All About Eve in reverse.

  • John McCain: Best Achievement in Directing for Die Hard. You even have the same name, more or less, as the Bruce Willis character, right? For a self-described fiscal conservative, you sure ran out of money fast, but even that didn’t stop you.

  • Rudy Giuliani: Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published for Great Expectations. Your strong suit was your capacity for leadership. And then you led your campaign right past all the early primaries. At least you’ll always be America’s Mayor. Your phone’s ringing, go ahead and answer it.

  • Mitt Romney: Best Achievement in Art Direction for A Man for All Seasons. You have proved to be an adept fundraiser—and I’m sure your kids will never even miss their inheritance. As the man said, those are my positions and, if you don’t like those, I have some others.

  • John Edwards: Best Achievement in Makeup for I’m Not There. Glad that your personal battle against poverty will go on. It got a great start with your own household.

  • Fred Thompson: Best Achievement in Sound for Failure to Launch. You had the most promising prospects of anybody since, well, Michael Cimino. Anyway, your acting career is safe—at least on television.

  • Mike Huckabee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects for The Incredible Shrinking Man. And I don’t just mean your amazing weight loss. The media’s love affair with you has dwindled to non-visibility as well. Have a good life and best of luck with that Fair Tax crusade.

  • Dennis Kucinich: Best Short Film, Live Action for Plan 9 from Outer Space . You proved that it was possible not to compromise your principles or your idealism and still wage a national campaign. You also proved that it won’t get you the nomination of any major political party in the U.S.

  • Ron Paul: Best Short Film, Animated for Odd Man Out. Did you even read the paper when you signed up for party membership? It would be great to see you win, even if only to make some pitiful gambling addict suddenly wealthy.

  • Joe Biden, Sam Brownback, Chris Dodd, Jim Gilmore, Duncan Hunter, Bill Richardson, Tom Tancredo and Tommy Thompson: Best Documentary, Short Subjects for The Man Who Wasn’t There. You all did great. At least I think you did. Sorry, I blinked and missed it.

  • George W. Bush: Best Foreign Language Film of the Year for From Hell to Texas. The first presidency that could have used subtitles.

    -S.L., 31 January 2008

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